25 September 2012

When It Rains It Pours....




....That adage is really applying to my life right now.  I have not been able to cook at all since I hurt my neck/back almost two weeks ago.  No prolonged standing in the kitchen for me.  I am brainstorming lots of good ideas, though, so hopefully when I get back to posting regularly it will be with a bang.

The reason for the title of this post is because, while rehabbing from horrible pain myself, now my youngest son is in the hospital.  He had surgery today and is now on the mend, so hopefully we will be back home within a couple of days.

Keep us in your thoughts and hopefully I will be able to start posting some yummy recipes soon.  If no other major craziness happens, I'm shooting for next week.  Fingers crossed....

20 September 2012

Ouch!

Sorry, folks.... I'm completely out of commission with horrible neck/backache from the car wreck I had a few days ago.  Hopefully I will be back in cooking condition again soon.  More good food coming after a few days of "nothing".  Doctor's orders.

19 September 2012

Pistachio Jello Cookies



my pistachio gelatin
Every now and then I go to one of the local Hispanic or Asian food stores for some more recipe inspiration.  This one come courtesy of one of the local Hispanic grocery stores, La Regional.  They have all sorts of yummy flavored gelatins like coconut, mango, and pistachio.  I don't know about you, but I haven't ever found these with the Jell-O.  I use flavored gelatin in all sorts of recipes, so I decided it would work equally well in cookies.  I like think that using gelatin as a flavoring tool came from a Southern kitchen somewhere -- we're all about shortcuts (especially inexpensive ones that give you lots of bang for your buck).

I'm keeping this post shorter than usual and I'm gonna add a couple more pictures.  I was in a car wreck a few days ago.  I'm pretty sore and banged up, so I can't really handle sitting at the computer for any length of time.  So, enjoy and hopefully I can give you a little more in-depth post the next time around....
these are a lovely light green color, but you could add a little color if you want them brighter colored
little one with a mouthful of cookie
big kiddo enjoying the fruits of his labor --
he helped me make the cookies

17 September 2012

Brown Butter Chai Cookies with Pumpkin Spice Hersheys Kisses


These cookies are my official plea for Mother Nature to let Fall happen. I am welcoming it with open arms -- no more sweltering heat...yea!!! I am also welcoming it with cookies. I have been crazy for all things fall flavored lately -- pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the like. These cookies have all that and then some.

I have seen a recipe a lot like this on Pinterest, but I have read and it seemed like it still needed a little something. I added brown butter. If you read my post on Brown Butter Ice Cream, then you know I am over the moon for all things brown butter. That's how I decided to one-up the recipe that's all over the place. I also needed a step to make the cookies taste like Chai, but not use 20 different spices. I love Chai tea (almost as much as brown butter) because all those spices are some warm and comforting. I would rather drink a cup of Chai than a cup of coffee just about any day. My only problem with all recipes that replicate those flavors are inevitably as long as your arm, so I never make them. Even if I have all the ingredients on hand, if a recipe is too long I just won't make it. My brown butter gave me the perfect solution to the Chai recipe problem. Once I made my brown butter, I let it cool for a couple of minutes, then I dropped in a bag of Chai tea and let it steep in the brown butter while I went out to dinner. I got all those yummy flavors right inside my brown butter. It was everything I could do not to just drink the butter straight and forget all this cookie nonsense, but I did the right thing and made cookies.

These are easy but look really pretty and relatively complicated. They taste even more complicated. There are about a gazillion layers of flavors thanks to the brown butter, chai, and Kisses (thanks to Emily for introducing me to them). If you haven't had Pumpkin Spice Hersheys Kisses. They are pretty spectacular and even more addictive. This is fair warning, but you should go and buy some anyway. You'll have some left over after you've made the cookies.

14 September 2012

Homemade Hazelnut Chocolate Syrup


Who doesn't love chocolate syrup?  Who doesn't love Nutella?  Well this homemade chocolate syrup is basically liquid Nutella.  It's a 5 minute version of the store bought stuff, but much more power packed.  And did I mention it tastes like Nutella?  You can do all sorts of yummy things with this stuff -- ice cream sundaes, milkshakes, chocolate milk, eating it straight off a spoon (you can't tell me you've never done this with Nutella....).


The best part about this is it's easy and you know where everything in the bottle came from.  It's not chock full of chemicals and whatever else they put in store bought chocolate syrup.  The hazelnut flavor comes from hazelnut syrup, just like what they use at coffee shops to flavors lattes.  You can get it at the grocery store near the coffee.

Just a warning for you, though.  This stuff is power-packed.  It's about 3 times more concentrated than the bottled stuff, so use it sparingly.  It also has a more deeper and more complex flavor than the not-homemade variety.  So, your kids may not be quite as down with this on their ice cream.  My kids love it, but they are used to dark instead of milk chocolate, so they may not be the best examples.


12 September 2012

You Have to Make This So You Can Eat the Leftovers!!!


You have to make this so you can eat the leftovers.....Seriously.  You probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen.  If you don't have all the ingredients,  go to the store.  It's that good.  The base recipe I am giving you is for a Cheeseburger Frittata.  A frittata is essentially a big omelet that you make by at least partially baking it in the oven.  I cooked mine entirely in the oven.  It was a really nice dinner.  We ate it with a side of whole wheat toast.  We all cleaned our plates.  That never happens since my five year old is a ridiculously picky eater.  If I let him, he would live on chocolate milk, Cheetos, gummy fruit snacks, and cheese dip.

my glorious frittata sandwich
As we were taking the practically-licked-clean plates into the kitchen after dinner, my husband had the brilliant idea of turning the leftovers into sandwiches.  He's a genius and it is possibly the best sandwich I have ever eaten.  The leftover frittata tastes like a cheeseburger topped with egg and bacon, but it's all wrapped up in a tidy, not overly huge package.  You can also customize the frittata to your tastes.  You could add tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, different cheeses -- the possibilities are almost endless.


Usually you would make a frittata in a skillet, so it would be cut into wedges and not all conducive to next-day sandwich making.  I made mine in a 11x7" rectangular baking dish -- the hunks of frittata fit perfectly on the square ciabatta buns I used for my sandwich.  I think I am in love.  I might make another one this weekend just so I have the best lunches in town next week.


10 September 2012

Brains...Brains...Brain Cake


I know, I know...strange name for a cake.  It was all I could think of.  This cake has all sorts of squiggly peaks and valleys.  I look at it and think about brains and, therefore, zombies.  I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead, so what else can I say.  This cake is really more like a coffee cake.  It has a nice dense crumb and isn't too sweet.  Any excuse to eat cake for breakfast is a good thing.

all my pictures come out a little
blurry this time.  oops.  sorry.
My brain cake does have one slightly difficult to come by ingredient -- crabapple jelly.  The good news is that you can substitute it with any jam or jelly that you like.  I have never seen crabapple jelly in a store, so unless you have some homemade in your pantry, chances are good that you will be substituting.  Switching flavors might be a good thing, since many other jam flavors (especially those that are not red in color) would bake this cake look less like brains.  I got my crabapple jelly from my best friend Emily.  She made it homemade with fruit from her grandmother's yard.  It's crazy good and tastes a little like cranberries or lingonberries.  So, thanks, Emily.


07 September 2012

Salty Sweet Nutella No Bake Cookies


I have had trouble coming up with a name for these cookies.  Every year I make what is often referred to as Christmas Crack.  Christmas Crack is a base of saltine crackers topped with a layer of toffee and then topped with melted chocolate.  It's insanely easy and exceedingly delicious.  I saw a variation of this recipe using butter crackers, a.k.a. Club crackers.  So, I took my recipe and kept adding everything I could think of.  I admit it -- I went a little nuts.  

At first I was not crazy about these cookies, or candy, depending on your perspective.  These definitely needed a day for the flavors to meld and mellow.  The ones my husband and I sampled right after the cookies set were almost sickeningly sweet.  The second day, however, was another story altogether.  On day two, these were their own form of crack.  The folks at work couldn't quit eating them.  So, after aging, the cookies got the thumbs up.  More people should make these.  By all means let them age for a day before you dive in.  Your dentist will thank you.  

05 September 2012

Homemade Spicy Cheese Crackers



One of the best things about writing my blog is that I finally have an excuse to make all those recipes I never got around to making pre-blog, like these cheese crackers.  My children inhale the store-bought variety like crazy, so I never took the time to make them since I figured my kids would eat them all anyway.  I decided to have a whirl tonight while my kids were at the grandparents' house and I sure am glad I finally took the time.

my lovely spicy edam
There are recipes for homemade cheese crackers all over.  I see them almost daily on Pinterest, so I wanted to try something that was similar to, but didn't exactly mimic those store bought crackers.  I went to the grocery store specifically to find some good cracker makin' cheese.  I walked out with a wedge of spicy Edam.  It was speckled with little bits of peppers, solidly moving these crackers out of kiddo territory. Edam is my husband's favorite cheese, since it's what he grew up eating with his grandfather, so that pretty much ensured that even if the kids could take the heat from the peppers, my husband would make sure that the lion's share were his.

my nifty pastry cutter -- you can use
a sharp knife if you don't have one of these
Homemade cheese crackers are SO much better than you will ever get out of a box.  They are super easy, too.  The flavor of the cheese is a little more subtle, especially since Edam is a more subtly flavored cheese than the cheddar used for the boxed varieties.  You also get a lot more depth of flavor since you can customize what you put in there.  I used the spicy Edam, salt, black pepper, and little garlic powder.  You can be adventurous and add just about any spice or herb.  Stick with a relatively firm cheese, though.  If your cheese's consistency is different from cheddar, you will need to adjust the amount of half and half accordingly.  A creamier cheese will need less liquid and vice versa.  The texture of these is also another factor that should drive you into your kitchen -- they're lighter and fluffier without that slight over-crunchiness you get out of a box.

Are you gonna try these out?  If so, I would like to know if you put your own spin on the cheese cracker.  Send me your good ideas; I would love to hear what you're cooking up.

03 September 2012

Almond Cake with Apricot Whipped Cream


It's gotten terribly hot here again in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.  Summer is giving us one last reminder of its brutality.  I haven't really felt inspired to cook anything because it's so hot.  It takes away one's appetite.  I had to make a cake last week, though.  It was Traci's birthday.  She's one of my best and oldest friends.  She just moved to Kansas, so we celebrated in her honor, rather than with her.  This cake is for Traci.  She loves just about anything I make, but I happen to know she loves lighter desserts, especially ones that have fruit in them.

Almonds and apricots are best friends.  It's because they are related to one another.  In the food world, if things are related they work terrifically together.  I didn't eat too many almonds growing up.  Since pecans and peanuts are grown locally, they are the primary nuts consumed here.  When I was a fashion designer I went to Paris.  It was in Paris that I fell in love with all things almond.  They make magical things happen with almonds in France.  I can thank the Parisians for broadening my food horizons and also for gaining eight pounds in five days.  



This cake is my little tribute to Paris.  I can guarantee it won't be my last, but I think I did them proud with my almond cake.  This cake is rich and deeply flavored with almond, but still almost unthinkably light.  The filling is a simple whipped cream with tangy, sweet apricot bits in every bite.  You can double up the whipped cream and also use it to frost the outside of the cake.  You could also make twice the whipped cream and eat the leftovers with a spoon.  It's your call.  I won't judge. 




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