Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Don’t Do Messy: BBQ

I know BBQ is a favorite cuisine for many people.  I like the taste of BBQ and I love the smell.  But I can’t get behind the mess.  My husband and I have regularly discussed our mutual agreement that foods that are messy are not high on our list.  We feel you shouldn’t have to work so hard for your food.  Crab legs fall into this category for me as well, though Jake has decided they’re worth the effort for him after he finally figured out the cracking contraption tool and how best to use it.  But BBQ tops the messy list for me.  Not only do you have to eat it with your hands, which obviously makes your hands dirty, but it’s also covered in sauce, which gets on your face, under your fingernails, maybe even in your hair if you have naturally uncontrolled hair like me.  And don’t get me started on the fact that I know my husband’s shirts will inevitably have fun little spots of sauce on them afterwards, which he will fail to tell me about prior to washing. 

A little side note about BBQ:  it’s apparently become the new fancy food treat.  I’ve been to nice restaurants in Kansas City and Cincinnati that serve famous BBQ fare in an upscale environment.  And you pay a pretty penny for it.  This bewilders me more than a little.  Mostly due to the fact that BBQ is messy, as mentioned above.  And isn’t BBQ the standard backyard, graduation party, summer cookout meal?  That means “casual” and “cheap” to me, in every sense.  But apparently I just don’t get what BBQ is all about.  Again, I like it.  And if I don’t have to hold it in my hands and get it all over me, I’m in.  Especially if I don’t have to pay up the sauce-covered nose for it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Like It, I Really Like It!

One of the memorable commercials from my childhood was for a cereal called Life.  And the title to this post is a nod to that commercial.  Mikey happened to be a picky eater, but he liked that particular cereal, which seemed to come as a surprise to his family members due to his general pickiness when it came to food.

Let it be no surprise to you, my friends, that I like – I really like – cereal.  Pretty much all cereal.  (Though Grapenuts have never really caught on for me, but I’d be willing to try them again at some point.  They do hold a strange appeal for me, but I remember being disappointed when I tried them several years back.  The palate can change over time, though.)  At the moment I’m writing this, I have a pantry full of cereals: Rice Krispies (generic, of course), Honey Nut Cheerios (NEVER generic), Lucky Charms (sometimes generic but not at this moment), Crispix (another generic), Reese’s Puffs (not generic now) and finally, Total Blueberry Pomegranate (a new try for me).  I think you can tell just from this list that my husband and I are partial to cereal.  I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of love for Jake a couple years ago when he looked at me as we were eating cereal for dinner one evening and said, “You know, I really do like cereal a lot.”  Bliss, people.  Sheer marital bliss.

Over the years I’ve had some favorite cereals, and Lucky Charms will probably always have a place on that list no matter how old I get.  As will Kix, for some reason unbeknownst to my bewildered husband.  And Honey Nut Cheerios.  That’s a classic, folks.  (I should note that I recently discovered that Lucky Charms has the same amount of calories and carbs & actually has LESS fat than Honey Nut Cheerios.  Crazy!)  And I can’t forget Corn Pops.  Oh, how I love Corn Pops…

Many times I have been extremely disappointed to find that a favorite cereal was no longer available.  I still remember how sad I was when I realized I could no longer buy Oatmeal Raisin Crisp with almonds.  Now you have to choose between having the raisins or having the almonds.  And it wasn’t all that long ago that my husband and I discovered the far-superior chocolate puff cereal, Nesquik, only to have it taken away.  This cereal was actually made so that the round chocolate pieces would release a layer of chocolate powder into your cereal’s milk so that after you ate the still-quite-chocolatey cereal, you had true chocolate milk leftover to entice you (to actually finish the milk!).  Far before that day, though, I remember loving to pick out the little blue marshmallows that came in the Booberry cereal my mother RARELY bought us.  They were just tiny pill-shaped marshmallows at that time, and I loved to pick them out and put them in an old film case and pretend they were pills; I would pretend I was a patient that had been prescribed this serious medicine and wouldn’t hesitate to ingest my cure.  Now, they still carry Booberry cereal, but the marshmallows are no longer in that same shape or size.  They are now in ghost shapes, I believe.  Which is okay, but not the nostalgic favorite of mine.

Let me end with this: many of you will recall that I have described myself as a “foodie” and at times I’ve noted my love of “gourmet” food.  And some would suggest that the idea of loving cereal as much as I obviously do and remaining a “foodie” or “gourmet” would be incompatible, but I absolutely believe that underneath every gourmet chef’s hat is a man or woman who wakes up in the morning to a good bowl of Kellogg’s best.  Or Post’s.  Or General Mills’. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Best Potato Soup

On a hot day like today, don’t you just crave a steaming bowl of potato soup!  Ha!  But I love potato soup.  I’ve never had one I didn’t like, other than out of a can.  (Sorry, Campbell’s, I just can’t get on board with the baked potato Chunky soups like I can the Chicken Corn Chowder or Split Pea with Ham.)  My mother-in-law makes a good potato soup that is entirely different from her sister’s, Jake’s Aunt Connie.  My mother made a good potato soup, sometimes out of leftover mashed potatoes.  And I love them all. 

However, we had some friends over last winter and I served them the potato soup I make.  It’s from a recipe my mom secreted from The Iowa Machine Shed restaurant years ago and published in my home church’s second cookbook.  Apparently these friends had not always had the pleasant experiences with potato soup that I’ve had.  I guess they were a bit wary, but willing to try my potato soup.  (They were too gracious to let me in on this until later, after they’d tried it.)  And unless they were lying their faces off, they liked it.  One of them even expressed that he thought it might be the best he’d ever had.  My husband readily agreed, which surprised me somewhat since I’d made it several times previously for him and he’d always liked it (it has bacon as an ingredient, which will pretty much secure a positive response from Jake) but he’d never before admitted to such a strong preference for it over others.  But I’m glad the reviews are such raves, because honestly, it’s kind of a lot of work and definitely requires many dishes to be washed after.  But I love it too.  And I’m willing to go to the work for the outcome.  Not just because others evidently like it so much too.  But because I do as well.  And I really cook mostly for me, I guess.  Though if that were entirely true, I’d cook with a lot more cheese!

Baked Potato Soup from The Iowa Machine Shed

2 ½ lbs. baby red potatoes, quartered                      
1 tsp salt*
½ lb. bacon, diced                                                      
1 tsp pepper
1 jumbo yellow onion, diced                                      
1 ½ sticks marg / butter
¼ bunch celery, diced (opt – Jake hates, so I leave out)
2 oz. chicken soup base                                             
¾ C flour
1 qt milk                                                                     
1 C whipping cream or Half & Half
¼ bunch parsley, chopped (I use parsley flakes)

Boil potatoes in 1 qt water for 10 min.  Set aside; do not drain.  In a large, heavy pot, sauté bacon, onions & celery over med-high heat until onions / celery are tender.   Drain bacon grease.  Add milk, potato water, chicken base, salt & pepper (*I hold off on the salt until the end because I think the bacon makes it plenty salty for me).  Heat over med-high heat until very hot.  DO NOT BOIL.  In a large, heavy saucepan, melt marg.  Add flour; mix well and allow to bubble, stirring for 1 min.  While stirring soup, constantly add the flour and marg mixture slowly.  (I use a nylon whisk to avoid flour mixture chunks.)  Continue stirring until soup is thick and creamy.  Stir in potatoes, parsley and cream or Half & Half.  Serve while hot.  Garnish with cheddar cheese, fried bacon bits and sliced green onions, as desired.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Go-To Food

I have ‘go-to’ food.  Meals or sides that I almost always have the stuff to make and that are pretty quick and easy and people-pleasing.  If anyone has eaten at my house, you’ve probably had my garlic herb roasted potatoes or Jake’s Aunt Marti’s corn.  I tend to make Mindi Ross’s pasta salad recipe a LOT.  And any time it’s just Jake & I and I don’t feel like really cooking, I can make salsa chicken.  It used to not be Jake’s favorite dish, but he’s come to like it all right.  Probably just from sheer over exposure.  In the summer, a good BLT with fresh garden tomatoes and precooked bacon strips that I just have to microwave are staples for us.  To be honest, the “L” is usually left out, as Jake & I don’t feel a great need for the lettuce.  And the bread MUST be toasted (that way it’s not as gross) and swiped with Miracle Whip (NOT mayo for our BLTs).  And fresh tomatoes with chicken salad works great as a regular meal for us too.  I love Italian marinated chicken on the grill, so thanks to my good friend Emily Cooper who introduced me to the most flavorful & easy way to make that happen (goes great with either the aforementioned garlic herb roasted potatoes & Aunt Marti’s corn or the pasta salad, too).  As for desserts, chocolate chip granola bars, Funfetti cookies, devil’s food cake w/ Penuche frosting and Rice Krispie treats are definitely ‘go-tos’ for me.  Recently, I’ve added oven s’mores to that list as well.  (They are a revelation!)

Do you have ‘go-to’ food?   Please share!

Here are the recipes for my ‘go-tos’ listed above.

Garlic Herb Roasted Potatoes

1 envelope Lipton Savory Herb & Garlic Soup Mix   
¼ C olive or vegetable oil
2 lbs potatoes, washed & cubed (red potatoes work the best)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a large bowl, add all ingredients and toss until potatoes are evenly coated.  Spread potatoes in a shallow baking pan.  Bake 40 minutes or until tender and golden brown, stirring once midway through.  Serves approx. 8 as a side dish.

Aunt Marti’s Corn

1 large bag frozen corn                                             
½ stick butter / marg.
1 T sugar                                                                    
1 tsp thyme

Heat butter and corn in pan; sprinkle with sugar and time and heat through, stirring occasionally. 

Pasta Salad

1/3 C oil                                                                     
1/3 C vinegar
little less than 1/3 C sugar                                         
pepperoni, cut into bite-size pieces
baby carrots, sliced                                                    
onion flakes, to taste
pepper, garlic pwdr, onion pwder, salt, to taste       
cooked pasta (I prefer Gemelli)

Mix oil, vinegar, sugar and spices.  Add pepperoni, carrots, onion flakes; mix well.  (You can add anything else you normally like in a pasta salad such as broccoli, olives, tomatoes, etc.)  Drain pasta and toss with dressing.  Chill until serving.  Be sure to mix again before serving, as dressing can settle on bottom.

Salsa Chicken

2-4 chicken breasts, cubed                                        
12 – 16 oz jar salsa
2-4 T sour cream                                                       
hot cooked rice

Spray skillet with cooking spray.  Cook chicken over medium heat until no longer pink.  Add salsa; heat through.  Add sour cream.  Serve over rice.  Serves 2-4.

Chicken Salad with Tomatoes

1 large can chicken breast meat, flaked                   
Mayonnaise, as desired
1 can sliced water chestnuts, chopped or jicama, peeled & chopped
Tastefully Simple’s Bacon Bacon or bacon bits, garlic powder, salt, as desired

Mix all ingredients.  Quarter fresh tomatoes and serve chicken salad in center of tomato pieces.

Italian Marinated Chicken

1 bottle of Italian dressing, preferably not fat free (higher fat content increases marinade absorption into chicken)           
2-6 frozen chicken breasts

Put chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag.  Add entire bottle of Italian dressing.  Place in refrigerator for at least 2 days, turning occasionally.  When ready to fix, drain off marinade.  Grill, broil or bake chicken breasts as desired. 

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

1 C brown sugar                                                         
¼ C honey
¾ C butter / marg                                                      
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 C oatmeal (quick oats work the best in my experience)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter/marg in microwave, then stir in brown sugar.  Add remaining ingredients, chocolate chips last to prevent melting.  Stir well until evenly coated.  Press firmly in an even layer in 9x13 or slightly smaller bar pan.  Bake for 25-30 min. until golden brown.  Cool for 30 min. and cut into bars.  Makes 24 bars. 

Funfetti Cookies

1 box Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix                               
1/3 C oil
2 eggs                                                                         
1 can Pillsbury Funfetti frosting

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine cake mix, oil & eggs.  Stir until thoroughly moistened.  Using cooking scoop, place cookie dough on ungreased cookie sheet.  With flat bottom of glass dipped in sugar, flatten dough to ¼ inch thickness.  Bake for 6-8 min.  Cool 1 minute before removing cookie from baking sheet to cooling rack.  Frost cookies and enjoy.  (This recipe works with any cake mix, but Funfetti is my fave.)

Devil’s Food Cake with Penuche (caramel) Frosting

Make devil’s food cake from cake mix as directed in a 9x13 pan.  Let cool.  Make frosting as directed below and frost cake.  I usually make the night before to let set.
6 T butter / marg.
¾ C brown sugar
1/8 C plus 1 T milk
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp vanilla
1 ½ - 2 C powdered sugar

Melt butter in small saucepan.  Add brown sugar and bring mixture to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat & simmer for 2 min, stirring constantly.  Add milk & bring to boil again, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat & pour into a mixing bowl.  Let cool.  (This takes awhile, so sometimes I put it in the freezer to speed the process but you have to watch it – I’ve ruined it by letting it get too cold before.) Add salt & vanilla; gradually beat in powdered sugar (I use a hand whisk but you can use a mixer).  Beat until the frosting is creamy & the right consistency for spreading. (This frosting can get thick awfully fast, so if that happens, just use a knife dipped in warm water to easy in spreading.)  **This recipe works for a 9x13 cake; double the recipe for a layered cake.

Rice Krispie Treats

10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows                           
3 T butter / marg
6 C Rice Krispies cereal

Melt margarine / butter & marshmallows in a large pan on the stove, stirring occasionally.  When melted & smooth, remove from heat & stir in cereal until well coated.  Spread into a greased 9x13 pan; use greased hands to press into place.  Let cool & cut into bars.  Makes 24 bars.  (Optional: for thicker treats, use a 9x9 pan.)

Oven S’mores

large marshmallows                                                  
graham crackers
large, thick chocolate bar(s), chilled in fridge

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place graham crackers in pan.  Top with desired amount of chocolate and one large marshmallow.  Set oven to broil.  Place baking sheet in oven for short amount of time, just long enough to start turning the tops of the marshmallows brown (less than 2 min usually).  Remove baking sheet and place another graham cracker on top of each s’more.  Serve with plenty of napkins and enjoy the gooey, drippy treats.  **Note: I did not know this until recently but you do not have to let your oven “heat up” to a broiling temp.  It will reach it almost immediately (somehow).  That makes this easy treat even faster!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nothing Fancy

As you’ve seen from some of my previous posts, I’m into some gourmet foods.  But as you’ve also probably noticed, I’m all about the traditional comfort foods as well.  Nothing hits the spot for me better than Rice Krispie treats and grape Kool-Aid.  And yes, I’m serious.  I can eat Rice Krispie treats two-fisted and have the pan gone in a matter of minutes.  They’re deceptively bad for you – they taste like sugar-spun air goodness!  (That phrase makes me think of cotton candy, another fantastic classic treat for me.)  And some of you know my addiction to grape Kool-Aid.  I don’t use the word “addiction” lightly.  But it most accurately describes my relationship to that beverage.  No other flavor has quite the impact for me.  I’ve been known, as my husband will attest, to get excited about coming home just because I know I have grape Kool-Aid waiting in the fridge for me.  And I’ve been known to drink the entire pitcher in one evening flat.  Just glass, after glass, after glass.  Mmm…I think my mouth is watering just thinking about it…yep, it is. 

I still remember my previous boss, Dave, who is also a bit of a foodie, asking me what my favorite foods were as we were on our way to a catering convention.  Must have been one of those days, because all I could think of to say was, “Rice Krispie treats and grape Kool-Aid”.  I’m sure he was truly impressed with my mature palate.  But I think the most honest answers sometimes come in those moments when we just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. 

Here’s my foolproof recipe for fantastic Rice Krispie treats. (I’ve even burned the marshmallows a time or two by not paying full attention & they still turn out good!)

Rice Krispie Treats

10.5 oz mini marshmallows                                       
3 T butter / marg.
6 C Rice Krispies cereal

Melt margarine / butter & marshmallows in a large pan on the stove, stirring occasionally.  When melted & smooth, remove from heat & stir in cereal until well coated.  Spread into a greased 9x13 pan; use greased hands to press into place.  Let cool & cut into bars.  Makes 24 bars.  (Optional: for thicker treats, use a 9x9 pan.)

Note to reader:  Consuming large amounts of grape Kool-Aid repeatedly will result in gastro-intestinal issues.  I know this from experience!  Yet, somehow I still go back to it, just like a crack addict to a pipe…

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Seafood – Bonefish Grill, “A Fitting End”

Last time…Seafood is a delicacy that my husband and I revel in.  Just recently, probably within the last year, we’ve discovered that more than any other kind, we love to choose seafood restaurants when we eat out for a nice meal.  I’ve loved seafood ever since shrimp beat out corn as my favorite food when I was around 8 years old.  And my husband has far outdone me in the adventurous seafood eater department lately.  On our trip to Mexico last year, Jake ate some of the nastiest looking seafood I’ve ever seen:  whole baby octopi in a seafood soup!  Not to mention his love of the big raw mackerel pieces of sushi.  I’m more of a cooked seafood kind of chick. 

Here’s the last of our favorite seafood restaurant experiences so far:

Last year we went to the Bonefish Grill for my birthday.  It came highly recommended by several people and I’ve heard the same since as well.  It was a bit pricey, but it was AMAZING.  We both loved our food and my leftovers even reheated well, just like the servers said it would. (I thought it seemed like a sketchy idea, reheating fish.)  As previously stated, my husband does not like cheese.  So when he asked the server if a particular dish came with cheese, the server not only went out of his way to make sure that dish didn’t, but without being asked, he even made sure Jake’s side dish didn’t have the grated cheese on top that it comes with normally.  (We know because mine did – hurray!) 

I ordered a cup of their Corn Chowder with Lump Crab Meat and shared a couple bites with Jake.  So yummy!  I thought at the time that I would try to make it back there for lunch sometime just to get the soup, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Anyone interested?!  For the main course, I had the Imperial Longfin tilapia.  I believe it’s a Bonefish favorite, and it’s definitely one of mine!  Pretty rich and flavorful.  The side dishes it came with were truly tasty, too.  Jake had a daily special, which was swordfish, I believe, and he loved it.  It was hard not to go back for every special occasion since, but as I’ve stated before, we do like to try new places too.  And we still have our other favorites as well.  I sure hope we can get back there soon, though. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Seafood #2 - Shucks

Continued…Seafood is a delicacy that my husband and I revel in.  Just recently, probably within the last year, we’ve discovered that more than any other kind, we love to choose seafood restaurants when we eat out for a nice meal.  I’ve loved seafood ever since shrimp beat out corn as my favorite food when I was around 8 years old.  And my husband has far outdone me in the adventurous seafood eater department lately.  On our trip to Mexico last year, Jake ate some of the nastiest looking seafood I’ve ever seen:  whole baby octopi in a seafood soup!  Not to mention his love of the big raw mackerel pieces of sushi.  I’m more of a cooked seafood kind of chick. 

Here’s the second of our favorite seafood restaurant experiences so far (look for one further installment of this series):

Shucks is fantastically priced and delicious.  It’s an oyster bar and seafood restaurant with a couple locations, but we’ve only been to the one at 168th & Center, Shoppes at Legacy.  It’s great!  For our anniversary we shared an appetizer of fried soft-shell crab for about $6.99.  Jake was amazed that it was in the shape of a crab, which was very amusing to me.   I had to clarify that it was indeed a whole crab, dipped in the lightest, yummiest batter, and fried to perfection.  He was nervous about eating the whole thing, but that’s what you do with ‘soft shell’ crab.  And it was a success!  Then we each had a fish entrée.  Mine was almond crusted rainbow trout and was very tender and moist.  Jake had an ahi tuna steak, sautéed on each side, but rare (meaning raw) in the middle.  It was actually so tasty!!  We’ve been back and I wouldn’t really suggest the lobster bisque to anyone (really creamy and a bit too rich with hardly any lobster).  But Shucks is  still top on our list.  Oh, and Jake tried one oyster in the half-shell for $1.00 and said it was okay, but wasn’t too thrilled.  I declined to try it.  Too slimy!  But I did try the horseradish that came with it, not knowing it was straight horseradish!  I forget what we thought it might be, but it definitely was NOT whatever we thought it was.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Seafood #1 - Sushi

Seafood is a delicacy that my husband and I revel in.  Just recently, probably within the last year, we’ve discovered that more than any other kind, we love to choose seafood restaurants when we eat out for a nice meal.  I’ve loved seafood ever since shrimp beat out corn as my favorite food when I was around 8 years old.  And my husband has far outdone me in the adventurous seafood eater department lately.  On our trip to Mexico last year, Jake ate some of the nastiest looking seafood I’ve ever seen:  whole baby octopi in a seafood soup!  Not to mention his love of the big raw mackerel pieces of sushi.  I’m more of a cooked seafood kind of chick. 

Here’s the first of our favorite seafood restaurant experiences so far (look for two more installments of this theme!):

We absolutely love Hiro, our sushi joint.  We should own stock in it.  You can get half price sushi on Friday and Saturday nights from 10:00pm til midnight.  You can even call ahead, pick it up to go and eat it in the comfort of your own home!   They also have a happy hour Monday through Thursday from 4:00 – 6:00pm where they have 4 kinds of rolls for half price.  Love, love, love it!   And for those that haven’t tried sushi, I’m a big proponent of at least trying it once.  I was very hesitant to do so myself, and my husband can be a pretty picky eater (no cheese!) but we both adore it.  Thanks to our friends Dave & Stef for introducing us to this lifetime love!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

It Melts Around The Cracks

Some of you who know me really, really well may already know what deliciousness I’m referencing in the title.  Those of you who don’t are about to be enlightened:  ice cream.  (The title is a quote I used to love to dish out after a good work lunch at CCU.)  It’s just amazing, my friends.  I could eat it all day, every day.  A few years ago, my husband and I discovered that I’ve even built up a resistance to “brain freeze”, probably just from the sheer amount of time I’ve spent indulging this pleasure.  I can seriously eat my ice cream so blazing fast and still not experience that debilitating side effect.  Sometimes in doing so, my tongue does become a bit numb, though, so that’s not always easy to deal with.  Especially if you’re also trying to carry on a conversation, or at the very least, just interject now and then. 

Some of my favorite ice creams:

1.  Homemade Vanilla.  Nothing will ever, ever beat this.  Hands down.  And don’t mess with it & put toppings or other flavorings in it when you’re making it.  (This means you & your short-lived eggnog ice cream adventure, Dad!)

 2.  Graeter’s, Cincinnati, Ohio.  They have a unique French Pot process.  I’ve tried many flavors.  Tops for me are the signature black raspberry chip, the peppermint stick (which, sadly, is only seasonal now but used to be a constant once upon a time), and the chocolate coconut almond fudge chip.  Graeter’s was featured on Oprah for her “favorite things” show one year, and for a reason.  They will ship just about anywhere, for a price.  Additionally, I just found that I can purchase small pints of it at our local Baker’s (aka Kroger in Nebraska) for a small fortune (but worth it every now & then!).
3.  Maggie Moo’s, just about everywhere.  I used to love their cheesecake ice cream mixed with strawberries, but this was when they used fresh strawberries that were cut up and then frozen.  Now they mostly use mushy strawberries, which gross me out.  So then I found their creamy coconut ice cream, which I love to mix with coconut (shocker!) and crushed pineapple.  But they are often out of pineapple.  (I think you’re beginning to see a pattern of frustration for me with dear Maggie.)  I do think it’s worth noting that Jake & I feel almost entirely solely responsible for closing our local Maggie Moo’s when we lived in Cincinnati.  Because we gave up ice cream for Lent one year.  We celebrated Easter with a       couple pints of our favorite blends.  But then about a week later our branch closed.  I think you can see the direct correlation for yourselves. (For those that can’t see it:  Lent is usually about 40 days long.  Figure it out.)
4.  Baskin Robbins, increasingly hard to find.  Luckily, we have one a couple hours away, in the city that we pass through to visit family, so it’s still pretty handy for me.  The classic peanut butter and chocolate tops my B&R list.  I’ve also always loved the daiquiri ice, for some reason.  Tangy!  And I share a love of pralines and cream with my dad.  I have to say that the combo in some areas of Baskin Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts stores is a sweet, sweet dream to me (literally).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls at Bliss Old Market Bakery

A friend of mine recently bought a bakery in downtown Omaha, in the area referred to as The Old Market.  She also happens to be my boss’s daughter, so I get to hear about the bakery’s happenings on a lot of fronts.  (Did I mention her husband works with my husband at StoneBridge Christian Church too?!) 

This bakery has a lot of fun items, from frosting shots served with graham cracker sticks, a variety of cupcakes and bars, to Caketinis, which are little bon-bon size bites of cake that have been mixed with frosting, then chilled and dipped in chocolate coatings.  Amazing! 

But the treats that stick out predominantly in my mind are her cinnamon rolls.  Their enormous size alone is a major factor.  And the amount of frosting she lathers on the rolls is just my kind of indulgence.  But make no mistake – the roll itself is what astounds me most.  I am NOT a roll lover.  It falls in the same category as bread, my friends, and on that I’ve been pretty clear.  NOT a fan of bread!  Even sweet rolls like cinnamon rolls can sometimes be too “bready” – I usually need that extra dose of frosting just to choke the roll down.  Especially because the roll can sometimes be kind of hard and tough.  But not these rolls.  These rolls are soft.  Just what I’ve always wanted a cinnamon roll to be!  And they have a kind of sourdough taste to them – a bit sweet but not overly so.  They somewhat remind me of the rolls at Texas Roadhouse and O’Charley’s*.  (The only difference in the rolls at these two places in my mind is the cinnamon butter that Texas Roadhouse serves with theirs; otherwise, they’re indistinguishable to me & probably they get their frozen roll dough from the same distributor!).  I urge you to go to Bliss!

*O’Charley’s is a restaurant similar to Applebee’s, for those that are unfamiliar with it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie (as promised)

What’s better comfort food than chicken pot pie? It’s not fancy, it’s not gourmet. (Though it can be, I’m sure.) But it’s entirely satisfying. And when I make it, it couldn’t be easier. (See recipe below.)

I’m picky about my chicken pot pie, especially the crust on top. Because of my bread issue, I don’t love Bisquick. And so many people make a Bisquick crust for their pot pie. A pie crust is okay, though even that can sometimes be too “bready” for me. (I’ve been known to eat the filling out of pies with a regular pie crust and leave the crust. I’m supremely partial to a pie with a graham crack crust!) My sister-in-law was the first to introduce me to a cornbread topping for the crust on a pot pie, which I’m forever grateful for. Cornbread does not fall under the category of “bread” for me, as it is entirely different in taste & texture. And as far as cornbreads go, I love the sweet kind, like Famous Dave’s corn muffins. Yum.

My chicken pot pie, however, has a ‘flaky layers’ biscuit topping. I like these biscuits over buttermilk, which have a much more “bready” texture. I got my recipe from a friend we met in Cincinnati. (Thank you, Janice!! You don’t know how many compliments I’ve gotten and it’s all thanks to you!) It’s incredibly unhealthy but so creamy. My brother probably wouldn’t like it, since it so saucy. Almost like a chicken & biscuits rather than a chicken pot pie, but that’s what the recipe says, so I’ll keep calling it that. But almost everyone else loves it. And I will share the recipe with you, since it was so kindly shared with me! I have altered it a bit to make it my own, and I will also note that I’ve tried to use lower fat ingredient options before and the texture comes out less creamy and more grainy. (Sorry for the Weight Watchers folks!)

Cari’s Chicken Pot Pie

2-4 chicken breasts, cubed
¼ C margarine or butter
Minced onion to taste (I often use minced onion flakes, probably about 2 T)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
16 oz. sour cream
3 drops Tabasco sauce
Frozen mixed veggies (2-4 cups, depending on how many people you’re serving & how
thick you want your sauce)
1-2 tubes Pillsbury Flaky Layers biscuits (come in a 4-pack)
Parsley flakes, optional

Melt the butter/marg. in a large skillet on the stove. Add the chicken & minced onions. Stir & cook until chicken is no longer pink. Add soup, sour cream & Tabasco; mix well. Steam mixed veggies in microwave until tender (approximately 8 minutes). Stir veggies into mixture in skillet. When mixture is hot, pour into a 9x13 pan. Separate biscuits and spread on top of mixture. Sprinkle parsley flakes on top of biscuits as desired. Bake at suggested temp & time for biscuits, until the biscuits are golden brown. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fast Food Fan

I loves me some fast food! Lately, when I’m out walking my dog on beautiful Sunday evenings, I’ll catch a whiff of grilled meat. Mmm. This has led to several Sunday night trips to Burger King for $1.00 Whopper Juniors or, if I have a coupon, perhaps something a little heartier.

Awhile back I was out running errands over lunch time and since I had a coupon for a free order of Potato Ole’s, I thought it best to stop by Taco John’s to use it. I decided I could get a whole little meal for really cheap, so I bought a crispy chicken taco for $1.50 (not on the menu, but worth asking for and they never turn you down). My whole meal was very tasty and very cheap. And a bit greasy, but that was mostly just the Potato Ole’s.

Now, I do try to limit my fast food intake. I’m of the opinion that everything should be in moderation. But that usually means I get to treat myself to my fast food cravings every now and then. That said, I think the Burger King trips probably need to stop before they start calling us by name.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Budget Friendly Food

I am on a budget-friendly food kick these days. Many people have suggested shopping at Aldi to save money, but I never did until recently. Despite some minor chaos due to a brief rainstorm, reusable shopping bags that were buried in my dirty trunk and not knowing Aldi’s system of shopping carts or credit card usage, I came out pretty well. I also shopped the store ads and made out like a bandit at Hy-Vee. Due to the suggestion of many different friends, I’ve discovered several online coupon & discount suggestion sites to save money on groceries, along with many restaurants that have email clubs you can sign up for and get free or discounted items. So far, here are my fave restaurant finds:

  • free appetizer or dessert (up to $8 value) at TGI Fridays
  • buy one, get one free Blizzards at Dairy Queen
  • free Potato Ole’s at Taco John’s
  • free ice cream at Cold Stone on your birthday
  • free root beer float or freeze at A&W with purchase
  • buy one, get one free breakfast entrée at Mimi’s Café
  • buy one, get one free entrée at Cheeseburger In Paradise
  • free small spaghetti at Fazoli’s
  • buy one, get one free drink at Orange Julius
  • free bagel with cream cheese at Bruegger’s Bagels
  • free $10 game play at Dave & Buster’s (For my hubby & not really food related but still a great deal!)

I have yet to figure out what great deals I’m going to get at Red Lobster for signing up for their club, but I’m anxiously awaiting the day they tell me I get free shrimp scampi or lobster on my birthday!!