Friday, November 7, 2014

Cauliflower Pizza and I'm probably coming back for yet another life...

I'm sure you've all heard about that little old thing where you have to keep being reincarnated until you get it right here on this earth.  Well I hummed along pretty smoothly for most of my years; I mean there was a little slip up here and there.  For the most part the faux pas were negligible and I figured there was that first 40-year free pass clause anyways.  Most of the details are still a blank and I haven't quite even begun to figure out exactly where things went sideways, but trust me friends this one was bad, really bad.  In the big scheme of things I shouldn't be too upset about it, because I have this sneaking suspicion that this isn't my first rodeo here on earth and what is another 90 years or so added to the sentence.

The worst plans are always hatched out of desperation, and desperate we were.  I shouldn't have gently persuaded (conned) my sister into going along with my evilly delicious plan.  It is practically not my fault that she has not yet learned that going along with my ridiculous ideas could spell trouble.  I'm not blaming her though; actually we've both decided that the blame should rest squarely on Hot Dog Dude. (Besides, he makes it way too easy.)

It started off on such a good note; I was all decked out in my vampire slayer outfit, clutching my dagger ready for any rogue vampires whom might cross my path.  Ready, willing, and able to defend innocence against the dark forces.  Seriously, do I look ready for business or what?


What happened next was so heinous I can't even tell you here.  Look I do have a reputation in the community to uphold and why in the heck wasn't someone keeping a closer eye on where that tiny little Doc McStuffins was leaving her hard earned candy loot.  I'm too embarrassed I just can't, well maybe I could if I wrote it into a fictional story and changed the names to protect peoples privacy a little, hmm.  

How about we just change the subject and focus on the important things in life, like the very important fact that Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I haven't even begun to explore what I'm making this year.  I'm going to also completely block out the fact that I signed up to run a 5K the morning of Thanksgiving and then will come home and cook for everyone.  Complete mental blockage, it's a gift; so I suppose I shall have to add that one to the gratitude column.

Quite sometime ago I ran across Cauliflower Pizza recipes and they looked quite tasty, a pizza without carbs, can't go wrong there.  It would be perfect, except I love carbs and I'm much too lazy to cook cauliflower and then arrange it into a fancy pizza shape.  So consider this recipe a gift friends.

Cauliflower Pizza (for the lazy)
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper and toss over the cauliflower and tomatoes.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment (because we've already established we are lazy and why on earth would we want extra cleanup chores).  Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the grated parmesan and return to the oven for an addition 5-10 minutes, depending on how soft you like your cauliflower.

Serve warm or cold.

Please don't tell me you thought I'd dropped of the face of the earth.  Didn't we already establish earlier, I have plenty of more years left remaining here; so I may as well entertain myself someway and torment the internet in the process.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Extreme Brownies - Peanut Butter Cup Brownies


I'm sure you all have heard that old saying, "when the cat's away, the mice will play", well for this mouse the cat just headed off for a hunting trip.  This mouse has big plans, make that super big plans, they involve non-stop yoga pant wearing, zero make-up or hair combing, eating raw cookie dough (I like to live on the wild side and add raw egg) (GASP), lots of take-out, staying up late doing crafts, some sort of Netflix bender, and possibly a pan of these Peanut Butter Cup Brownies.  If that sounds like your kind of weekend you should call me, I mean I do love me a good brownie, but even on my best day, I'd have trouble consuming more than half a pan.  Brownies are the kind of thing you need to share, share with friends, family, that skin flint in the office who tells you all you need to do to get their physique is add 3 hours a day to your total work out time (scratch that, no scratch that, give them extra brownies.)

I was asked if I would like to review "Extreme Brownies" and I reluctantly said yes.  Not because I don't love brownies, it's just I've had some real disappointing ones over the years and I'm not even going to lie here, my kids will say after many of them, "Can't you just make the ones in the box."  I made Connie's Today Show Peanut Butter Cup Brownies first and gave quite a few away and everyone seemed to really like them.  I had a few left sitting on the counter and I threw all my will power at avoiding them, yet every time I turned around I was leaving the area with a small piece in hand.  It didn't help that they were so darn thick, fudgy, and rich.  I see why Connie has done so well with these brownies, they are a bit addicting.
Connie’s Today Show Peanut Butter Cup Brownies
Makes 12 large squares or 24 smaller bars

When I’m in the kitchen, I like to listen to either the TV or radio (preferably NPR) for background fodder as I’m cooking. One day on the Today show, Hoda Kotb held up a package of brownies she’d bought at a grocery store as one of her favorite things that she likes to share with viewers. I made a mental note that my brownies looked a lot better, and one day I would send her some. About six months later I did, and I hoped I would get a reply from Hoda, maybe with an autographed picture. Instead, I had an email from the producer asking me if I would like to come on the show to do a cooking segment. I was thrilled, and in July 2012, some friends and I went to New York and had a blast with my 15 minutes of fame. One of the results of that appearance, however, is that I always have people at my booth asking for the Today show brownie, so as much as I like to change up my selection, this is one I always have to bring.

Vegetable shortening for pan
1 (12-ounce) package miniature peanut butter cups
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter
4½ ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1½ cups (9 ounces) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups (10.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1½ packed cups (12 ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups (6.8 ounces) bleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons (0.07 ounce) coarsely chopped salted peanuts
¼ cup (1 ounce) milk chocolate chips

1.     To make the brownies, adjust an oven rack to the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Prepare a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil as shown on page xvi. Lightly grease the foil in the pan.

2.     Unwrap the peanut butter cups; set aside.

3.     Cut the butter sticks into 1-inch slices. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter pieces over the lowest setting. While the butter is melting, chop the unsweetened chocolate into ¼-inch pieces and add to the melted butter along with the bittersweet chocolate chips. Use a small whisk to speed the melting process. When the chocolate is melted and completely smooth, turn off the heat but leave the saucepan on the burner while proceeding with the recipe.

4.     Using a large whisk, lightly beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Place the sugars and salt in a separate small mixing bowl, then whisk into the eggs just until incorporated. Briefly whisk the melted chocolate mixture, then gradually whisk into the egg mixture until just combined. Briefly whisk in the vanilla.

5.     Place the flour and baking powder in the small mixing bowl; whisk together to combine. Sift through a medium strainer directly onto the batter; stir in with a silicone spatula until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a small offset spatula. Push the peanut butter cups into the batter; do not place any within ½ inch of the pan sides. Use the offset spatula to cover the candy with the batter. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts over the batter, then place the milk chocolate chips evenly on the batter. Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, then refrigerate the pan for 7 to 8 hours, or overnight. See page xix for instructions on removing and cutting the slab, and for refrigerated storage (up to 3 weeks) and freezing guidelines.

From Extreme Brownies: 50 Recipes for the Most Over-the-Top Treats Ever by Connie Weis/Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014.  You can get a copy of Extreme Brownies here if you'd like.


Come on friends don't let me down, come on over and help me polish some of these off.  Besides if none of you come and help me shave some calories off my bottom line, I'm going to have to go to the gym and work some of these off and there is no way, I repeat no way I want to do that this weekend.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jam filled Almond Doughnut Muffins


I'm going to call this summer "the summer of contentment".  Banished was the run down, over-scheduled version of myself instead I opted for a deliberate, quiet, and content with the moment summer.  I took back my free moments and put them to better use.  I methodically went through a small mountain of belongings without a home, rearranged furniture, and took carefully inventory of what was necessary and what wasn't.  I have to say a clearing out of the environment is equivalent to the clearing out of the mind, or at least it is to me anyways.

I really scratch my head and wonder sometimes how I made it all these years living with HDD.  On most things I'd say we are polar opposites.  I thrive in an "everything in its place" environment devoid of attachment to belongings, whereas HDD lives in a constant state of "what if I need that", unable to part with anything because it has some sort of memory or future use.  For myself I believe the memories live upstairs and while having a memento of someone may bring them into my consciousness for a brief moment, I think of them regardless.

I think the only way we survive such differences by knowing each other's strengths and weakness.  There is always going to be struggle and strife in any relationship.  In the long scope of things, I opt for letting go of strife and just letting what is, be what is.  This summer I moved on from so many things that I felt were holding me back in invisible ways.  I even felt content to move on from this space I have shared with you for the last four years.  Yet I kind of missed everyone, maybe it's those memories living in my head, still sorting out that one.

Jam filled Almond Doughnut Muffins
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled (could substitute vegetable oil)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces whatever flavor jam you’d like

In a large bowl mix together coconut oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and almond extract and mix until combined.

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin wrappers and place about 2 tablespoons batter in each cup. Add a heaping tablespoon of jam on top of the batter in each cup and cover the jam with the remaining batter equally.

Bake in 350 degree F oven for 18-20 minutes. Let cool.

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons milk

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Combine in a small bowl powdered sugar, almond extract, salt, and milk and drizzle over the cooled muffins. Sprinkle the toasted nuts over the tops.

Serves 12.  (If you interpret that in a non-ambiguous sort of way.)

What do you all think; is it better to be content or malcontent?  After all, if one was completely content one would never go back and have a second muffin, would they now.  Hmm.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grilled Honey Peaches with Soft, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

I wish summer could last forever.  I've been sitting at my desk all morning listening to the birds chirp outside the open window, not to mention the snores coming from down at my feet.  My four legged friends are exhausted still from the long walk my daughter took them on yesterday.  I ate a whole basket of blackberries all by my lonesome yesterday without remorse.  I polished off quite a few strawberries and raspberries too, but let's just keep that under our hat.  Despite my schedule being turned upside down by all the extra bodies and activities in the house, I'm enjoying a sense of peace that seems to come over me when the sun amps up around here.

I find myself wandering across town every chance I get to see what new fruits are coming out of the local orchards.  Something about summer that makes everyday feel like a new one.  Summer just feels more hopeful, more time to realign goals, and plan for the future.  I'm hoping to see jars of fresh jam on my counter any day now, I'm hoping my daughter is ready to drive me to the farm stand every chance we get since she has her permit now and all, I'm hoping these days filled with hours and hours of daylight last a good long time, I'm hoping the flip-flop tan mark on my feet will get more and more pronounced, I'm hoping we get a chance to go on at least one adventure before the summer draws to a close.

Grilled Peach & Oatmeal Cookie

I'm hoping that I enjoy more desserts such as this one and summer goes on.

Grilled Honey Peaches and Soft, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Bake cookies and set aside.

Oatmeal Cookies:
1 stick (1/2 cup) + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup light brown sugar 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 large egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 

Add butter and sugars to a mixing bowl or the bowl of a mixer and mix until butter looks light and fluffy. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, egg, and vanilla and mix until combined. Add oatmeal and mix until combined. Place dough in fridge for 2 hours or so until cold. (Don't skip this step or your cookies will come out flat and crispy.)

Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to scoop out 1 1/2" balls of cookie dough, place the balls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Press the balls down slightly leaving them at least 1/2" thick. Bake in 350 degree F oven for 12 to 14 minutes. 

Makes about 24 cookies.

Several ripe peaches split and kernel removed
Small amount of honey
Flake sea salt

Drizzle cut side of peach halves with honey and place skin side down on medium grill for 2 minutes and turn to honey side and grill for 2-3 more minutes.  Just want to warm the peaches and soften them and caramelize them a bit.  Sprinkle the grilled peaches with a pinch of sea salt.  Serve in a bowl with cookies and a squirt of whip cream if you so desire.

I'm hoping that summer is being as good to you as this bowl of warm honey peaches with soft, chewy oatmeal cookies was to me.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lover's Coffee Cake and the horror of not being "best mom ever"

Does bringing a cake to a party negate the fact you have been absent in the hostesses life for what seems like ages?  I'm hoping it does, I really am.  I have been feeling bad that I haven't had time these days for anything extra.  I've been missing idle moments to pick up the phone and check in on a friend, or better yet stop by just because.  I've been longing for days involving sitting around in pajamas till noon, tossing something presentable on and schlepping off for a long lunch, heading home to take a nap exhausted from lunch.  Dinner is a no-brainer, ring the delivery man and say, "surprise me".  Slinking to the couch and spending the rest of my waking moments watching junk t.v.  Does anyone know what planet this life exists on, because I want to fashion a rocket ship out of used popsicle sticks and go visit said planet.

I'm still replaying the fond memories of the 50th anniversary party my 4 siblings and myself had the pleasure of hosting for our parents.  All the extra trips getting supplies, phone calls, and e-mails were worth parting with my free time.  Even the hectic pace of finishing the cake up until the 11th hour, washing dishes for the seventh time in one day, or scraping colored icing off the walls was worth it.

I feel fortunate I was able to witness such an epic milestone, I know it is a privilege and something I will always look back on lovingly.

I only had a few moments after the party to reflect and deal with the flood of emotions I was feeling about my daughter graduating from college.  I had a glorious daydream before heading up that my daughter prepared a speech in which she profusely thanked her mother for all the sacrifices made over the last few years, all the cookies sent for no reason, for wrenching her back moving her 5 times, for depositing funds to make sure she was able to have enough food that week.

I watched with tears in my eyes as they commenced by, many had personalized their caps; some even had loving messages for their parents (awe).  Wouldn't that be something if my angel paid some sort of homage to her devoted, self-sacrificing (did I mention broke from paying for college) mother, I couldn't help but think to myself.

A sea of black robes went by and out of the corner of my eye I saw her, my little girl all grown up on the way towards the rest of her life.  I held my breath looking for the "I have the best mom ever" sign to pass, but no such sight, apparently she not only received her degree with honors, but she also got a honorary doctorate in the arts of distilled spirits.  Sigh.  It only took me half a second to realize, she was just having fun and being herself, just the way I want her to be. I couldn't be prouder of my daughter and the last 4 years and all the tears (at least on my part) were totally worth it.

I received a request to review "Beach House Baking Delicious Desserts" by Lei Shishak.  I wasn't sure if I could find the time, but I read a little about Lei and liked what I saw and I thought, perhaps this would be a good book to bake with over the summer and ponder the future.  The book has lots of easy recipes, a great selection of cupcake recipes, but her fun ice cream sandwich variations are something I'm really looking forward to trying. I couldn't wait to try her Lover's Coffee Cake recipe to take advantage of the fresh cherries grown here, it did not disappoint.

Lover's Coffee Cake

1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup sour cream
1 pound sweet cherries, pitted

1)  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Liberally grease a 10-inch tube pan with non-stick spray.

2)  Make the streusel:  Combine the brown sugar, almonds, flour, cinnamon, and butter in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

3)  Make the cake:  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.  With the mixer on low, add in the eggs and extracts and mix until combined.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add in half of the dry ingredients followed by half of the sour cream.  Mix well on low speed. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and sour cream.

Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Arrange the cherries evenly over the batter.  Sprinkle with half of the streusel.  Top with the remaining batter followed by the streusel.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool completely in pan before inverting cake.  Place right-side up onto serving plate.  Garnish with powdered sugar.

*The only changes to the recipe I made were; used light brown sugar (didn't have dark on hand), creamed butter and sugar and then added rest of the ingredients at once (what can I say, except I'm lazy), and I used a bundt pan since I don't own a tube pan (I know, I'm equally ashamed of myself) which was inverted after only 10 minutes, because bundt pans are notorious for sticking.  The cake was quite popular around here and consumed in record time, so it will get baked again for sure.

Can we be friends again now?  Pretty please, with cherry streusel coffee cake on top.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A one pot meal is always a good thing in my book.

Things have been shaping up nicely around here and my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party preparations are in full swing.  I still have the cake and a few last minute things to handle, but I'm started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I really enjoyed working on all the decorations, especially the cake stand; a tire rim in honor of my dad the car guy.  I have to keep all the party talk hush-hush around my dad because he was scoffing about us not doing too much.  As if I would do such a thing, crazy talk I tell you.

Between work, trying to get in some exercise, and working on the party decorations I haven't had much time for anything else, especially cooking complicated meals.  Several nights last week I was lucky if I had a hot meal at all.  So tonight I went with a perennial favorite; the one pot meal.

This was so quick and easy to make it actually left me with a few minutes left to write the recipe down.

2 teaspoons olive or canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin (use 1/2 teaspoon if you don't like a lot of spice)
2-4 pork chops (depending on how many you want to feed)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup basmati rice
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
3 baby bok choy bunches, cut in large pieces
2 1/2 - 3 cups vegetable stock

In a large deep-sided skillet add the olive oil, onion, carrots, and celery and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until the veggies are starting to become translucent.  Add the garlic and stir for a few minutes.  Add the cumin and stir.  Push the veggies to the sides of the pan and add the pork chops. Salt and pepper the chops and add more salt and pepper to the pan.  Add the rice to the sides of the chops.  Place the tomatoes and bok choy on top of the rice and pork chops, cover the whole thing with vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to medium and cook with the lid on for 25-30 minutes, until the rice is tender.

You could easily sub out chicken or whatever protein you'd like.  I like how spicy the cumin makes the rice, if you don't like spice at all; sub in some Italian seasoning.  



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Monkey Bread - Just be sure and put out Monkey-ranha repellent

I have been making this particular monkey bread for the last few years and have to say it is my absolute favorite. I've tried many different variations over the years, including the short-cut ones that use canned biscuit dough.  All the different varieties I tried had their own merits, but sometimes you want something that tips you over the edge into gone-bananas territory.  Once you've had a huge chunk of this monkey bread warm out of the oven, glaze barely set-up; all other versions will become a distant memory.

Monkey Bread - adapted from Cook's Country

2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 cup milk, lukewarm 110 degrees F
1/3 cup water, 110 degrees F
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar

In the bowl of a mixer combine yeast, milk, water, and melted butter and let sit for 5 minutes until mixture starts to foam a little. Add flour, salt, and sugar and mix with dough hook on low-speed until combined. Knead for an additional 3-4 minutes on low-speed until the dough is looking smooth. Remove dough hook and cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise on the counter until doubled (about 1 hour).

Turn dough out onto a floured cutting board and cut the dough in half and then cut each half into about 10 equal-sized pieces.

In a small bowl combine:
1 cup packed light brown sugar 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In another small bowl:
6 tablespoons melted butter 

Dip each piece into the butter and then in the sugar mixture. Place the pieces in a greased bundt pan, cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Bake in 350 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then invert the warm bread onto a plate. (If you wait too long to remove the bread it will stick to the pan.)  

In another small bowl combine:
1 cup powdered sugar 
2 tablespoons milk

Mix the powdered sugar and milk together and spoon the glaze over the warm bread.


I brought a monkey bread with me to my brother's to help watch the kids after he had surgery on his wrist and my very adorable precocious niece asked me, "Do they call it monkey bread because monkeys really love it?"  I couldn't stop giggling over her genius.  I'm telling you that kid knows things.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how many times I've made this monkey bread and never seem to be able to capture a photograph of it.  Then it hit me, there must be some crazed creature with a voracious appetite getting to this bread before I get a chance to photograph it.  So I set out a warm monkey bread on the table, set up my camera on auto-snap, and headed back to the kitchen for some milk.  Imagine my shock and horror when I came back to find an empty plate and these photos of a monkey with a crazy piranha smile on my camera.  Apparently this creature uses sonar to locate freshly baked monkey bread and then uses its oversized grill to consume the bread in one fell swoop and leaves the scene before anyone is the wiser.

You've been warned my friends:  If you plan on bringing this bread with you to an event or even saving it for later; be sure and put out ample Monkey-ranha repellent.

I was under the weather for a few and then I had a custom order to fill for my niece's sister so she could ask a special someone "Will you go to prom with me?  The cookies worked their magic and I can't wait to see photos of the happy couple.  The talented Arty McGoo made the originals that she saw and I made them for her in the colors of her dress.  I need to get my cookies skills back up to speed since I will be making a ton of them soon for the 50th anniversary party I'm working on.

What I really need is some cookie sleeping pills and a warm glass of milk, hmm.

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