Friday, October 29, 2010

I Don’t Do Fancy Eggs

Growing up our parents always made a hot breakfast for us before school, with few exceptions.  (And if we did not have enough time to eat it before the school bus arrived, we missed the bus.  No exceptions.)  Most of the time this hot breakfast consisted of an egg.  Sometimes they threw in a homemade hot cereal of some kind.  A favorite was Dad’s grits with butter & honey.  Sometimes Mom made a rice or bulgur cereal, which sounds kind of nasty but I always liked them.  Instant oatmeal was on hand as well.  And rarely – so rarely – we were allowed to have cereal.  But only non-sugar cereal like Rice Krispies.  The good stuff was saved for weekends, though even that was limited to Frosted Flakes & Fruit Loops, never Lucky Charms or Cocoa Puffs.  (Marshmallows and chocolate are apparently not breakfast approved, though that has drastically changed in my home.  But let’s be real – is there more sugar in those than Frosted Flakes?!  Nope.  In fact, I recently discovered that there are more calories in Honey Nut Cheerios than in Lucky Charms.  Let that sink in for a bit.)

Back to the egg bit.  I grew up on eggs.  I like eggs.  Most of the time we had a fried egg, where the yolk is broken too.  And usually the eggs were dusted with Lowry’s Seasoned Salt.  Delicious.  (But if you sprinkle too much it's quite nasty.)  My younger brother had a habit at an early age of topping his eggs with mustard.  Gross.  He’s since seen the error of those ways, but somehow passed that weird gene onto our 10-year-old nephew.  I’m confident that someday he too will denounce that food faux pas. 

Anyway, I can make decent scrambled eggs.  I always “scramble” mine with a whisk in a large bowl before adding them to the pan, usually adding a bit of milk or water (yes, water – my mom did this to make her eggs lighter & fluffier, though it sounds nasty & when my husband was diagnosed as possibly lactose intolerant I went the water route myself, to great success; no one’s ever suspected).  I don’t love when people scramble the eggs in the pan, since you end up with bits of white and bits of yolk.  (I do believe professional chefs tell you that you shouldn’t have bits of white in scrambled eggs.  But my husband professes to prefer that.)  I love to add some cottage cheese to the mix before I pour it into the pan, but of course that doesn’t suit Jake too well.  The cottage cheese melts into the eggs when you cook it, so you wouldn’t be able to see it, but you can taste an added creaminess and rich tanginess that’s just great.  A lot of times I add cut up ham into the mix as well.  And Lowry’s Seasoned Salt.  I guess it’s because I grew up on it, but it’s the perfect compliment to eggs.

I can also make a great fried egg, as described above.  However, I do NOT make sunny side up, over easy or over medium eggs.  I do not make eggs where the yolk is not broken but has to be flipped.  I have not, will not, “can not” do this.  (I probably could, but don’t want to learn how.)  Jake can, though.  This is one of the few areas where Jake is less fearful in the kitchen than me.  He is normally very unsure of himself.  (He was very nervous the other night when I asked him to cut up the chicken breasts before I got home so I’d have time to put dinner together when I got there.  He did such a good job, though, that I asked him to do it again.  He told me he shouldn’t have done such a good job.) 

It’s not that I don’t like those kinds of eggs.  I enjoy a good runny yolk as much as anyone, though I would rarely dip a piece of toast into it like a lot of people do.  I just spread it around like gravy for the rest of the egg to dip into. 

In any case, now you know who does the fancy egg cooking.  And it ain’t me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pie In My Eye

I could come up with all kinds of catchy, corny “pie” titles!  Just sitting here, I’ve come up with three in no time flat.  But enough of that.  (See the silly rhyme?!  I’m much too cool for these kind of shenanigans, I know, but sometimes I delve into the trite on accident.) 

In any case, this post is inspired by my recent trip to Village Inn.  Every so often my maternal grandmother comes to town for an eye doctor appointment due to her macular degeneration.  My uncle normally brings her and I meet them for lunch, sometimes accompanied by my lovely husband.  At first we attempted to try out several different lunch locales, but my grandma finally settled on Village Inn as the most acceptable venue.  And since grandma pays, grandma picks. 

Now, Village Inn isn’t at the top of my restaurant pick list.  However, they do a few things fairly well.  I’d say breakfast food is a strength.  But nothing – absolutely NOTHING – on their menu beats their pie.  Among pie distributers, I think Village Inn is pretty high anyway.  I don’t care for their “cream” on their coconut cream pie, but aside from that I have very few complaints when it comes to this sweet treat.  And although I loves me a good key lime or a rich pecan, I am rarely tempted away from the kingpin pie in my eye: French Silk Pie. 

French Silk is creamy chocolatey goodness.  It is topped by whipped cream delight and dusted with chocolate shavings/curls.  If I could change but one thing, it would be that this delicacy would be seated on a crust of graham cracker crumbs rather than the thick pastry shell that accompanies it.  However, I know I am mostly alone in that pursuit, as I equate pastry crust to bread most days, which would only increase it’s worthiness in some of your eyes, but definitely diminishes it in mine.

Thus, I am a big fan of Village Inn’s meal deal that lets you pick half a sandwich (from a specified list), a side salad or cup of soup and a piece of pie (no list necessary, thankfully).  And yes, I do get a sandwich, which probably blows y’all’s minds.  It is a carved turkey sandwich, though – not some pressed sandwich meat, so the scale is a bit more lenient.  But I’ll be honest – mostly I order this meal for the end result: the pie.  French Silk Pie, to be exact.  (I did, most graciously, let my husband have a bite.  One.)  If I was to get any other meal, it would be a breakfast one.  Which I’ve done.  But I normally do not get pie at the end of the breakfast meals, since they usually come with pancakes.  And not that I’m opposed to pancakes topped with pie, but I’m normally too stuffed to think that sounds all that wonderful (sadly).  And I would be hard-pressed to justify the added cost of pie (especially since Gram is paying for it!).  But the pie COMES WITH this meal!!  Delightful! 

Note: there are days (right now Wednesdays) that you can get a free slice of pie at Village Inn with some kind of other purchase.  So that’s a bonus.  But unless Gram is requesting, I’m still hard-pressed to choose Village Inn as a restaurant of choice.  Even if it comes with pie.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wedding Cake Update

So, after posting on how much I couldn't care less about most wedding cakes, I have to say that my brother's wedding cake was delish!!  Karen, their cake lady, did an excellent job.  I have to eat my words. :-)
Not only does this cake look amazing, it tasted amazing!  The frosting was truly rich buttercream (you can tell it was good because it didn't stand up for days on end - only chemical byproducts do that!).  That's not to say the frosting wasn't good & delicious & didn't stand up well.  Just that you could tell it was really real stuff.  

Each layer was a different flavor of cake: apple spice, vanilla, and then chocolate with a chocolate cream filling.  They had an additional sheetcake of red velvet, which was what I had.  It didn't have the red food coloring, so it just looked like the chocolate yumminess it was.  It was rich & dense.  I loved it!  I've never really cared much about the red velvet cakes I've had before, so that is a true compliment.  Hats off to the chef!

(Picture compliments of Abby Snyder, photographer extraordinaire.  No really, she's amazing!)

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Wine Styles

(There is a store in Omaha called WineStyles and this post is not to be confused with it. I just thought it was catchy.)

I love food.  And most food connoisseurs love wine.  And I am not most food connoisseurs.  I want to like wine.  I do like some wine, but not usually the wine I’m “supposed” to like.  Not the fancy stuff.  I like the cheap, cheap stuff that’s made with high fructose corn syrup.  You know, the stuff with the screw top cap.  Yes, I’m talking about Arbor Mist, my friends.  I prefer the Blackberry Merlot and one of the white fruit blends, but I can never remember which one it is.  It’s either the Tropical Fruits or the Island Fruits, but seriously, isn’t that about the same thing?!  Actually, no.  One is gross and the other is good, but I can never remember which one is which and I almost always end up buying the nasty one and then swearing I’ll remember for the next time and then forgetting before I end up purchasing it again. 

I also like sparkling wines.  And those are usually fairly inexpensive as well.  I really like most Riesling wines, though some are definitely better than others, and one that I like a lot still comes with a screw top cap.  (One other that has an actual cork has a German name and can only be found in one store in the city so far as I can tell.  And it’s a bit more expensive than the readily available screw top cap one.)  Some friends introduced us to the Amana Colonies fruit wines recently as well.  And, yes, they have screw top caps, as apparently all good wines should. (I know this will completely outrage you wine connoisseurs out there!)  But even some of those are too sweet for me, which is surprising.  (One bottle we recently opened of the Plum variety was NASTY.  We honestly wonder if it somehow went bad.)

I know that a good chef can pair a tasty meal with the perfect wine to complement it and bring out the right flavors.  But that will probably never be me.  (And not just because I don’t ever intend to be a chef.)  Though I’m making progress.  I actually drank a fairly dry red wine the other night and noticed some of the “hints” of flavors in there that before might have completely escaped me.  And I didn’t completely hate it.  But I’ve also never really understood the concept of “developing a taste” for something.  If you hate it, why would you want to consume so much of something you hate in order that some vague and uncertain day out there you might actually not hate it as much?!  Sounds like torture to me.  So I'll just continue to sip my Arbor Mist and be happy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wedding Cake

I truly am not a huge fan of wedding cake.  Usually it’s fairly bland cake topped with way too much too-sweet frosting.  And the whipped kind is nasty, people.  Buttercream is the only way to go (chocolate buttercream works too, since it’s still buttercream).  But I’m pretty sure some people don’t use real butter or real cream when they make it & Crisco just doesn’t taste good either. 

My brother’s wedding is coming up very, very soon.  And I’m excited for them.  I know that picking out the cake was kind of an ordeal for them, too.  And probably expensive.  Which is ridiculous to me since the ingredients for cake are probably the cheapest things around.  But I guess if you know how to make those ingredients look incredibly pretty, you get paid the big bucks for it.  And sometimes people that know how to make cakes look pretty also know how to make them taste good, but I find that’s rarely the case, sadly.  Again, note the blandness or too-sweetness that just masks the lack of any real flavor or texture.

There are cakes I like, make no mistake.  I recently did a whole post about my friend Lisa’s Darn Good Chocolate Cake.  And a bakery in Grinnell, Iowa, makes amazing Pink Champagne cakes & cupcakes and will even make it in sheetcake form, which my sister did for her wedding.  (The cake is a pink sponge cake, filled with a creamy pudding filling & topped with a light pink frosting.  Yum!)  But most cakes just don’t do it for me.  So I’m a fan of the new-ish trend of selecting something other than cake to celebrate your nuptials.  Some people have had donuts, some have had brownie ice cream sundaes, some have had cookies, some have had root beer floats.  I think this is all due to the fact that the wedding cake industry has become a bit overblown price-wise and a bit underwhelming taste-wise.  I know that cake decorating shows are all the rage now, so I should be impressed rather than depressed.  But I just can’t jump on the bandwagon, for some reason.  I have yet to taste a wedding cake that blows my mind.  Fun fillings sure help, though I’m not that big of a fan of fruit jam products, which are usually the “impressive” filling. 

That said, I am a fan of cupcakes.  For some reason, I think cake usually tastes better in cupcake-form.  Maybe because the paper cup keeps moisture in better and the frosting is more proportionate?  I don’t know, but I do know that some couples have chosen cupcakes as a substitute for wedding cake now too, and I usually applaud that as well. 

I hope my brother’s cake is everything they want it to be.  I hope they didn’t have to pay an arm & a leg for it.  (I should have appreciated my mom more for making my cake & having a lady in our church decorate it!!)  And I hope they don’t freeze the top of theirs for a year, let it sit in their fridge for a week after their first anniversary, and then throw it out without tasting it because it just sounds nasty to eat a year old frozen cake.  (I do appreciate that my mother carefully froze it for us & purchased a cake carrier for us so she could keep hers but still bring us our cake nice & neatly.  I never, ever told her we didn’t eat it.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Calling All Guest Bloggers

I recently had someone (a close friend that I trust) offer to be a guest blogger for me on this blog.  I love that idea!  I wondered if anyone else might want to take a stab at writing a few “guest spots” from time to time.  If you’re interested, please feel free to send me your work! 


Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Night Pizza Tradition

Awhile ago I posted about my favorite pizza places.  And I mentioned that some friends of ours from Cincinnati had a Sunday night Donato’s pepperoni pizza & movie tradition.  Something my husband envied and lobbied to copy but just never happened for us.  A couple weeks ago I was in the mood for pizza (something Jake never protests against) and it happened to be a Friday night.  I got to thinking that maybe we should start a Friday night pizza tradition.  But since we’ve endeavored to be better with our finances, ordering out every Friday night wouldn’t be permissible.  That didn’t stop me, though.  I decided that every Friday night that we’re home without other plans, we’ll have pizza of some variety, be that homemade, frozen or takeout.  (Not delivery, as that incurs a significant extra fee that would be silly to pay unless it’s blizzarding out.)  So far we’ve made it about a month and I’ve remembered to keep up the tradition.  I’m still excited about trying Orsi’s sometime in the near future.  I’ve even seen some commercials for them lately!  Anyway, if it’s Friday night and we’re at home, you know what’s going to be on our table.  Unless I forget.  :-)  Tonight is just such a night.  And it’s going to be homemade.  My recipe for homemade includes a Walmart brand pizza crust mix, Walmart brand pizza sauce, turkey pepperoni, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, Italian seasoning & shredded mozzarella.  I love ground beef on a homemade pizza, but it’s more work & more expense.  And Jake doesn’t love, love it so it’s just not worth it for us, I guess.  Feel free to let me know your recipe for homemade pizza!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Farmers Markets

A big ‘ole thank you to all you farmers out there who pack up your goods and haul ‘em to your local city to hock to all the urban folk who are too lazy to grow our own!  I grew up in the country, with a large garden to help tend and it was NOT my favorite summer activity.  I have some rose-colored fond memories of snapping beans into big bowls while watching movies in the basement.  But I have no such fond memories of weeding the garden or planting.  All that bending over!  This has caused me to continually postpone planting of any kind at my home.  We built a new construction house about 3 years ago and I have yet to plant any living thing except for one nice red maple tree that was donated to us as a house warming gift by a good friend from church (and to be honest, I didn’t really do the planting then either – Jake & a co-worker of his planted it, though I spread the mulch around it after).  In fact, I’ve even had a couple friends donate plants to me from their yards that I just didn’t get around to planting before they died.  I feel awful about that wastefulness!  But not awful enough to actually rectify it, I guess, since it’s happened more than once. 

In any case, I’m super grateful to the area farmers that sell me your wares at decent homegrown prices.  But I’m even more grateful to my gardening friends (that’s you, Aunt Marti!) that just give to me from the abundance of your garden bounty!!  I love it when my kitchen table produce basket is overflowing! 

Unfortunately, I only made it to our area farmers market twice this year.  But I hit the beginning & the end, so I feel fulfilled.  And this last trip produced a good-sized spaghetti squash for only $1.50, which I roasted via a recipe from that was super easy, and topped with regular store-bought spaghetti sauce (Hunt’s has become my friend due to its uber cheapness) mixed with Italian sausage.  Delicious & nutritious!  (I do cook my sausage in a Pampered Chef micro-cooker, using my Mix ‘N Chop to break it into small pieces, and then draining off all the fat through the drain holes in the lid, so it’s much less fatty, though lean ground turkey would be the healthiest way to go, probably.  Less tasty, though.  And I have to find a balance between health & tasty, so since I used the squash instead of noodles, the sausage stays.)

I was amused at my husband’s amazement with the spaghetti squash.  I grew up with such delicate cuisine, so I knew exactly what to expect.  But he was really surprised that we were substituting the squash for the noodles and then, as I was shredding up the squash, he asked where all of it was coming from.  Which made me chuckle.  It does take a bit of work to shred all the flesh of the squash with forks, and it is a bit surprising that so much squash is produced.  Oodles of “noodles” indeed!

One last note: I have a friend that used to live in Kansas City and last summer we went to the farmers market downtown there.  It. Was. Crazy. Amazing!!  It’s in an area that is surrounded by ethnic food shops, so that was an added delight.  But there were so many booths & lots of fun stuff in addition to food.  I highly recommend a visit to that area if you’re ever in town during the season.

Monday, October 11, 2010

From Bad to...Better

This is a tale of a bad lunch gone right.  Not something you encounter every day!

I recently had lunch at Famous Dave’s with my boss, his mentoring student, and my co-worker (Kim).  My boss (Jim) had a coupon for $10 off a “Feast” that fed 2-3 people.  The coupon was attached to an ad that had a picture for said “Feast”.  So he figured out that if we all went out, ordered the “Feast” & used his coupon, we could have a nice lunch for just $6 each.  Perfect plan.

When we arrived at the restaurant, sat down, ordered our drinks and proceeded to order our “Feast”, we encountered a problem.  Not a minor issue either.  The waiter informed us that the picture on the ad with the coupon was for a larger “Feast” than what the ad’s price proclaimed.  Nowhere on the ad did it specify that the “Feast” that was pictured was NOT the “Feast” that came with that price.  A small blurb under & off to the side of the picture declared that the larger “Feast” was also $10 off, but it didn’t say that the larger “Feast” was what was pictured.  This ad was very misleading and confusing.  And frustrating.  So my boss ordered the smaller “Feast” & another lunch plate of food, hoping that would be enough for all of us since the larger “Feast” that we were expecting would be double the price we had anticipated.  And then we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  This wasn’t the longest amount of time I’ve waited for food at a restaurant, but it began to feel like it.  And our waiter basically disappeared after bringing us our drinks. (On my boss’s recommendation I ordered the sweet tea.  Amazing!  Not too sweet, just right.) 

So far this wasn’t the most inspiring of lunches.  And though our waiter had not been outright rude, he hadn’t been the most helpful or sympathetic either.  But along came our food (finally!) and it appeared bigger than we had been expecting from the waiter’s previous description.  At first we feared that he’d brought us the bigger “Feast” by mistake, since that whole discussion had been confusing.  But he confirmed that it was indeed the smaller “Feast”.  So we dug in.  I began to suspect that perhaps he’d been a bit more generous with some of the portions than normal, especially with the corn muffins (which are fantastic, by the way).  I’m pretty sure the smaller feast comes with 2 and we’d been given 4, plus the one that came with the added lunch plate.  All of these muffins were a benefit to me, as I’d been thinking I might have to cough up some change to purchase an extra one since that’s my favorite part of any Famous Dave’s meal.  (And no, corn bread / muffins are not the same as regular bread in my book at all.  These corn muffins especially, since they’re sweet & moist.) 

From this point on, we all consumed generous portions of delicious food and had very stimulating conversation.  (I always enjoy lunches with Jim & Kim and Adam - the student - is a great addition as well.  Lots of laughter usually ensues.  And tales of fishing, which is an entirely foreign activity to me.)  Our waiter made numerous appearances to check on us, which was a pleasant change.  At one point, my boss even voiced our intrigue over the extra corn muffins and our waiter confessed his generosity in providing extra for us.  When it came time to leave, we were all cheery and content.  I had dropped a tube of chapstick under the table at one point during lunch, and was unable to find it.  When we were leaving, I tried glancing under the table but was still unable to locate it.  (I cannot be without chapstick!  If I have to go somewhere without my purse, I pocket my keys, my phone & my chapstick.)  Our waiter saw this and came over to actually move the benches and crawl underneath the table himself.  (It should be noted that this was after the check had been paid, too, so nothing was “in it” for him.  And their benches are quite solid and hefty.)  He was able to retrieve the lost item, something that wouldn’t have cost me more than $1 to replace, and gave us a pleasant farewell. 

It should be noted that right after we ordered, having had the coupon advertisement fiasco, there was discussion of contacting Famous Dave’s or asking for the manager and complaining about the false advertisement.  And it should also be noted that due to the quality of service during our lunch and after, no such discussion took place afterward.  (Though my boss said later that he still intended to call the company on principle about the advertisement due to the “bait & switch” sneak attack.)  This waiter did an almost impossible feat – he completely changed a negative dining experience into a most pleasant one.  Kudos, my friend!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thank Goodness For Minute Chicken & Rice

One night last week I got home from work late and only had a short amount of time before we’d have guests arriving for small group.  I had some chicken thawed in the fridge and a husband who was willing (perhaps not eagerly so, but still willing) to cut it up for me before I arrived home.  He also picked up the house a bit for me, too, so he definitely earned bonus points.  But that’s off topic.  Anyway, I came home & had to figure out if I had enough time to cook up the Honey Chicken Stir-Fry I’d planned and soon came to the conclusion that I did not have time to do so.  Before I burst into tears, I decided to try to think of something else that I did have time to make with this chicken.  And I came to the conclusion that Minute Chicken & Rice would fit the bill perfectly, which it did.  It may not be the most nutritious (Minute Rice is the high fructose corn syrup of rice, I know), but it was filling, delicious and works great in a pinch.  And if you don’t have it for dinner every night of the week (just in a pinch!) then you’re probably doing okay.  Plus, I always have the ingredients on hand.  So here’s my recipe for this lifesaver of a meal.

Minute Chicken & Rice
2 – 4 chicken breasts, trimmed & cut into cubes
2 C Minute Rice
1 C water
1 can cream soup (I prefer cream of chicken but any will do)
1 T oil or oil spray such as Pam

Spray large skillet with Pam or heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add chicken and sauté until no pink is visible.  Add soup & water; stir til mixed well & bring to a boil.  Stir in rice & cover; simmer for 5 minutes or til rice is soft. 

Add a veggie for a side and you’ve got dinner, my friends!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lisa’s Darn Good Chocolate Cake

I’m a fan of dessert.  And I’m a fan of chocolate.  I don’t think I’m over the top about chocolate the way some people are.  But I definitely don’t turn my nose up at it.  And I’m not the biggest fan of cake.  I like it fine, but there are definitely other desserts that can sway my vote away from cake.  However, there is one cake that I will eat any day of the week and twice on Tuesdays. (Tuesdays, instead of the traditional “Sundays” for that quote, because that’s the day my small group meets so that’s the day I’m most likely to get this cake since Lisa is in my small group.) 

Lisa Driver loves to bake.  She tells the tale of when she started baking a few years ago and decided to bake through a cake cookbook she received (The Cake Doctor, for those of you who are interested) and because of that her husband gained 50 pounds in just a couple months since she was so good at it.  And she is good at it!  I’ve had several of her baked goods and I can’t say I’ve had a bad one yet.  However, there is pretty much only one dessert of hers that I’m completely devoted to.  As in, undying devotion “devoted to”.   

I love to make desserts myself.  I like to be creative and see the elegant finished product.  And to have people rave over it.  I think I have a couple really good desserts up my sleeve that I can whip out from time to time.  But Lisa’s cake takes the prize.

This “Darn Good Chocolate Cake” is a chocolate bundt cake with chocolate chips mixed in (sometimes a peanut butter chip surprise or two as well but my all-time fave is just chocolate chips).  The cake is moist and delicious all by itself.  And I could maybe see myself being able to recreate the cake.  However, Lisa apparently took a whipped chocolate frosting recipe from the cake cookbook and tinkered with it until it reached a frothy state of perfection.  I used to be able to eat just frosting as a little girl, but these days I find that a little frosting goes a long way normally.  Not so with this frosting.  I could eat it with a spoon.  But it’s even better slathered onto this delicious cake. 

A big thank you to Lisa for introducing me to this delightful dessert and for making it on request whenever we all demand it (and we do demand it pretty often)!  There are few desserts I’d put in the same category as this cake.  And that goes for the restaurant variety as well.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Dairy-Free Baby Shower Menu

Yesterday I hosted (and had lots of help!) a baby shower for a friend that is severely allergic to dairy.  So in her honor, we all pitched in and came up with a dairy-free menu to serve for her.  It was fun trying to come up with good options.  And I think we found some good stuff!  Here is what we served:  (any time “butter” is called for, I used Blue Bonnet Light, which is dairy-free)

Baklava Cups
1 pkg frozen mini fillo shells (15 shells in a pkg)
2/3 C chopped mixed nuts (preferably Pistachio or Pecan Lover’s Mix)
¼ C honey
1 tsp water

Fill frozen shells with nuts.  Place on a baking sheet (with sides) and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.  Mix the honey and water.  Pour evenly into shells.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crispix Sticky Snack Mix
6 C Crispix cereal (you can use Rice Chex for gluten-free)
½ C slivered or sliced almonds
½ C butter
½ C brown sugar
2 T light corn syrup

Bring butter, brown sugar & corn syrup to a boil in a large pot.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; add cereal & nuts until well coated.  Spread mixture onto wax paper to cool. 

Lemon Tartlets
Tart Shells:
½ C butter, softened
1/3 C sugar
1 egg white
1 ¼ C flour

2 eggs
1/3 C sugar
1 T butter, melted & cooled
3 ½ T lemon juice
Powdered sugar

For shells, beat butter & sugar until light & fluffy.  Add egg white; blend well.  Add flour & mix just until well blended.  (May need more flour with dairy-free butter.)  Drop level scoops of dough into greased mini-muffin pan, using a small cookie scoop.  Press dough into cups with well-floured mini tart shaper.  For filling, lightly whisk eggs; whisk in sugar & butter.  Add lemon juice & mix well.  Pour filling evenly into tart shells.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove tartlets & cool completely on a wire rack.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.  (Makes 24 tartlets.)

Crunchy Macaroons
1 ½ C rice krispies cereal
1 ¼ C flaked coconut
2 egg whites
3 T sugar
1/8 tsp almond extract

Combine all ingredients.  With damp fingers, shape into small rounds on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. 

Skinny Taste Southwestern Black Bean Salad
1 15.5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
9 oz frozen corn, thawed
1 tomato, chopped
1 small hass avocado, diced
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1 lime, juice of
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cilantro (gross, never use it!)
salt and fresh pepper

Combine beans, corn, tomato, onion, scallion, cilantro, salt and pepper. Mix with lime juice and olive oil. Marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes. Add avocado before serving.  Serve with baked tortilla chips or eat with a spoon!  (I actually think the tortilla chips mask some of the flavors, so I prefer without.)

2 cans whole water chestnuts, drained
1 lb bacon, cut in half (I used turkey bacon, which was perfect; if using regular, you will have to cook it some first before using)
14 oz ketchup
2 small plastic containers baby food peaches
3 T brown sugar
Splash of soy sauce

Wrap bacon around water chestnuts and secure with a toothpick (use uncolored).  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Mix remaining ingredients.  Pour over water chestnuts and bake for 30 more minutes.

We also served hummus with pita chips, a black bean dip (made by my friend Jenny) with veggies, fresh fruit and cupcakes that the guest of honor brought (silly thing felt she needed to bring something – too nice!).  And another friend brought the fixins for Shirley Temples, complete with cherries on top!  It was a great time and we introduced the guest of honor to some new foods that (she said) she loved. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Best Meal

I think every cook probably has his or her “best meal”, the meal they cart out for dinner guests or special occasions and know that it will be a crowd pleaser.  I honestly can’t nail down what my best meal would be as a cook.  I think it’s probably either stuffed Cornish hens, chicken pot pie or Italian grilled chicken with garlic herb potatoes and Aunt Marti’s corn.  And the meal would probably end with either strawberry trifle or devil’s food cake with penuche frosting.  As I’ve already posted the recipes for everything else, I’ll give you my recipe for strawberry trifle.

Strawberry Trifle
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, destemmed & sliced
1 pkg vanilla pudding mix (I use sugar free, fat free) + milk to make pudding
Angel food cake, cut into chunks
8 oz Cool Whip

Mix milk & pudding mix.  Let stand for few minutes to firm up.  Fold in Cool Whip.  Add a dash of sugar to strawberries & mix.  In a nice clear bowl or trifle dish, layer cake chunks, pudding mix & strawberries.  Repeat until filled.  Cover & chill until ready to serve. 

What’s your best meal?