Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Night Pot Roast

Every family has their own Sunday night dinner tradition.  My friend Carole always makes pasta for her family.  When my husband was growing up, his mom always made a roasted chicken (or 2) to feed her large crowd.

My mom faithfully made her wonderful pot roast, potatoes, carrots and homemade gravy with Bisquick drop biscuits.  Sunday night family dinners were always a big deal.  This is when the new boyfriend would come to meet the family for the first time and have dinner...or it would be time for a family discussion meeting....or last minute homework would be completed at the dinner table when all the dishes were cleared.

Me and my mom many years ago.
To this day, I cannot nail down my mom's pot roast.  She would flash sear it in her G.E. electric skillet (which by the way she still has to this day), and weighs more than a small child.  Then, let it simmer for hours, which made the house smell so special and inviting.  She diligently peeled the carrots and potatoes and put them in at just the right time.  When that was all done, then came the gravy.  My mom makes the most amazing gravy...and I haven't been able to duplicate that either.  It has to be the special magic in her electric skillet.

Well fast forward to present day, my family and our traditions.  We still like to do the Sunday night pot roast every now and again.  Since I never got my mom's down, my friend Annie gave me one of her recipes from Kansas.

If you have ever been to Disneyland's Carnation Cafe, I am here to tell you the pot roast on their menu is Annie's.  This pot roast literally melts in your mouth and you can cut it with a spoon.  I love, love, love this recipe, and the best part is it couldn't be easier to make, as it simmers in it's own luscious gravy.

When you mix the ingredients together, you think that this cannot be right.  Trust it though...8 hours later your home will have the same special and inviting smell as my home growing up.  Here's the thing though, I don't recommend putting any vegetables in the crock pot - keep it for the meat only and cook the potatoes and carrots separately.

Sunday Night Pot Roast
Courtesy of Annie

(2) Packages of Brown Gravy Mix
(2) Packages of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing/Dip Mix
(2) Packages of Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix
1 Cup of Water
3-5 Pound Boneless Chuck Roast

Whisk all the packages of mixes into 1 cup of water.  Put roast into a crock pot and set heat to low.  Pour gravy mixture over the roast.  Cover and and enjoy Sunday night pot roast dinner in 8 hours.  The longer you let it simmer in that amazing gravy, the better.

Tonight, we enjoyed Rascal Pinot Noir from Oregon - great pairing!!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quick Candy Cookies = Comforts

I love Saturday mornings, for the time being anyway....the teenagers are exhausted from five straight days of volleyball and they sleep in.  The snow has not hit us yet, the golf courses are still open which means my husband is out getting in another 18 holes while he can.  Pure peacefulness on this Saturday morning.

I get to snuggle in my cozy blankets with my guard dogs, coffee and quietness.  It's a time for me to get caught up on my food shows and do absolutely nothing for a couple of hours. I then slowly ease into duties and reconciliation, laundry, getting caught up on this blog of mine that my family says, "I have become obsessed with".  They are ready to kick me out of our family dinners, since I keep photographing every meal. :)

Today's errands consisted of preparing for the upcoming high school spirit week and homecoming.  I am not a fan of spirit week.  Now don't get me wrong, I am all about school spirit.  Unfortunately, in today's schools spirit week ends up costing about $100.  For example last year the school had twin day.  Now I already have twins and you would think that my twins could just dress alike and be twins for the day, right??  No, of course twins have to reel in their friends to be each other's twins. Really???

Later in the morning my best friend Felicia called me and we were able to get caught up on the happenings of our families.  She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, bless her heart!  She told me that they already had their first real hard snow.  How could that be, it's not even October yet!!??

2 Ingredient Delights - Do you love it?

Is that heaven or what!!
Then I went to my culinary compadre friend Toni's blog, A Taste of Alaska, and read one of her recent postings and saw all the snow in Fairbanks already on her patio furniture.  I know how devastated she is that her gardening season was cut much too short this year.

I finished up my morning watching The Pioneer Woman.  Is it just me or does everyone get ravishingly hungry watching the food channels.  Today she made these unbelievable, seriously sinful treats.  She hit my lifelong addiction today.  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups - my total weakness.  Just try them on a s'more, you'll never go back to a plain chocolate bar on them again, I promise.

Quartered up for the oven.

Send in the candy for hugs, right out of the oven.
To make my arctic girlfriends feel better, I made them The Pioneer Woman's cookies I saw this morning.  Unfortunately, I cannot send them the cookies, as it sounds like they would be frozen by the time they arrived.  Hopefully they will read this though and know that I was thinking of them today.  Not to worry though, I'm sure my spirit week teenagers will have the cookies inhaled before noon, as my husband described them as "Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on steroids".  Only an athlete could come up with that he finished off eating six of them!

Quick Candy Cookies
Courtesy of The Pioneer Woman

(1) Refrigerator Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Roll
(24) Miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray mini-muffin tin with nonstick spray.  Slice the cookie dough into 1 to 1-1/2" slices..  Lay the slices on their side and cut them into quarters.  Place each quarter into the mini-muffin tin.  Peel the wrapper from as many candy as cookies you're going to make.

Bake the cookie dough for about 6-8 minutes at the most.  You'll want to take them out just when they start to turn golden.  Almost as soon as you pull the warm cookies from the oven, begin lightly pressing one piece of candy into each cookie.  the warmer the cookies, the better.  They grab onto the pieces of candy and work their magic, almost even hugging the candy with a warm wrap.

When their all done, carefully remove from muffin tins with a spoon and arrange on a platter.

Sour Cream and Chicken Enchiladas To Warm A Chill

I can honestly say that Fall is by far my favorite season of the year.  I bring out all my scrumptious candles that make the house smell so special and cozy...Apples and Cinnamon, Pumpkin Spice and every other wonderful scented piece I can find.  I start to curl up in one of my 17 throw blankets that I have collected over the or two of them, just aren't enough, don't you agree?
The days get a little shorter and the nights get a little bit more crisp, as the weeks go by.  The leaves start to make their magical changes from subtle greens, to bold and bright gold, red and orange.  As we leave for our day in the mornings now, I am noticing a tiny bit of chill on my windshield.

This past weekend was time to pick up our first load of firewood for the season.  My husband is so wonderful about having a nice, cozy fire for me almost every night when I get home from work.  He knows how much I absolutely love coming into the wonderful aroma and warmth of a fire each evening.

As we were coming back with the firewood, we also came upon the largest pumpkins I have ever seen and for the most unbelievable price - I can never pass up a great coupon or deal. We got one for each girl, so they can have a full canvas for their pumpkin carving this year.

Fall also is the time for making hearty and heart warming meals, cobblers, bread baking and hot tottie beverages.  As our community is still dealing with the aftermath of the devastating floods, our church reached out to everyone to see who could volunteer in one capacity or another.  I of course signed right up to make lunches and dinners for the clean up volunteers.  I figured if I am going to make dishes for the volunteers, I may as well double up on everything and now I have meals for the rest of the week.

It was time to bring back one of our family favorites to share with everyone.  My sister-in-law JoAnne used to make us her Sour Cream and Chicken Enchiladas when we lived in California.

 These could not be easier to make and a great meal to use up any leftover chicken, lingering cans of cream of chicken soup and that 1/2 container of sour cream looking for a home.

I am perfectly happy enjoying them on their own, but my husband has to put every kind of embellishment he can find on hand to take his plate up a notch, including but not limited to Pico Pica or Tapatio.

Sour Cream and Chicken Enchiladas
Courtesy of JoJo

2 Cups Cooked Diced Chicken
1 Dozen Flour Tortillas
2 Cans Cream of Chicken Soup
2 Cups Mexican Blend Cheddar Cheese, Grated
1 Cup Sour Cream
1 Small Can of Diced Green Chiles
1/4 Cup Chopped Green Onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix chicken, soup, cheese, sour cream, chiles and onions together in large bowl.  Spray pan on bottom and sides with nonstick spray.  Spoon a small amount of the mixture and spread on bottom of pan.  Place small amount of filling in tortilla, roll and place in pan.  Top with remaining filling, getting all sides well covered to prevent drying out.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until well heated and bubbling.

Serve with sour cream, your favorite hot sauce and sliced avocados.

We corked a wonderful, chilled white Soave Classico that paired beautifully with the enchiladas.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nutella Cookies and Neighbors

I think it certainly goes without saying, when life gives you floods, bake cookies!!

I have figured out in my wise old years, when I am happy, I bake and when I am sad, I bake.  Needless to say, this past weekend provided so many emotions, including both happiness and sadness.  I feel so blessed that our family and home were spared by the floods thanks to our guardian angels and just the right height real estate.

At the same time, I have been overwhelmed with sadness, witnessing all the devastation around us and throughout Northern Colorado.  There have been so many people displaced and I just pray that they will be able to get back to their businesses and homes in the not too distant future.

So, there I found myself Sunday morning with a whole lot of butter, flour and sugar that needed to be shown some love.  Then there was of course, trying to decide which flavor cookie to bake.  It was definitely time to clear out the pantry and refrigerator with the various odds and ends ingredients that I had collected for the fair.

The decision was made...I couldn't just make one type of cookie, or even two, so I filled out my afternoon by making three different types of cookies.

Chocolate Chip with Peanut Butter Chip
Our friend and backyard neighbor Toni in Alaska brought a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies to us the day we moved in.  I wish that I could bake a plate of cookies for each of our neighbors that have been affected by the floods.  For now though, my family, husband's office and my coworkers will have to deal with the sugar fix this week.

White Chocolate, Oatmeal and Craisins
Toni also taught me that Nutella is the cure for all ailments and I think she may actually be right.  The star of the weekend was the simplest recipe for Peanut Butter and Nutella cookies.  These are really great to have on hand or plate up for your next door neighbor.

Peanut Butter & Nutella Swirl Cookies
Adapted from Sweetest Kitchen

1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, Softened
3/4 Cup Smooth or Chunky Peanut Butter
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1-3/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg and vanilla.  Mix until well blended.

Add flour, baking soda and salt.  Drizzle Nutella on top of the dough then swirl it through the dough with a butter knife.

Chill dough 15 minutes in the refrigerator.  Roll into balls by hand.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheet.  Using a fork, press down the balls to flatten slightly.  Bake until edges are very lightly browns (about 7 to 10 minutes).

Allow to rest 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Comfort Food Morning

If you have never heard of Longmont, Colorado....I am quite certain after these past 72 hours, you have definitely heard of it by now.  The Front Range and most of Northern Colorado has witnessed immeasurable devastation by terrifying rains, floods and mud slides from Fort Collins all the way to Colorado Springs.

It all started on Wednesday morning on September 11th.  I work in Boulder and we were seeing the typical rains, but this time it felt different and it was not letting up.  The roof in my office was starting to leak and there were no signs of clear sky anywhere.

The next day at 4:30 in the morning, the school district notified everyone that school would be closed due to excessive rains and immediate flood warnings.  I went ahead on to Boulder just to make sure our offices were okay and to get our computers out before the inevitable storm.  As I came into the city limits the mud slides in neighborhoods had already begun.  After a couple hours at work, we were hearing another 7 inches would be coming down - time to head back home before it was too late.
Zweck's Farm around the corner from our house - this is how we usually see it.
As I came off the highway on to the main road that goes to our house I could see the flashing lights...not a good sign.  I saw some water on the road, but had no idea what was about to take place. I quickly took the detour to the next main road.  Again, more lights, but I was just barely able to get through before they closed that road down also.  I looked over and saw the St. Vrain "Creek", now look like whitewater rapids and at street level, ready to make the jump across the main road.
Zweck's (the same farm as above) on Thursday afternoon, September 12th.
When I returned home our cell phones and television were in constant EAS (Emergency Alert System) mode and warnings were going off every hour regarding flash flood watch.  The early afternoon dark skies and rains came around.  We started to hear the fire trucks and police sirens whirling all around us and getting louder.  They were coming from every direction and then we started seeing them drive through our neighborhood one after the other.
The quiet little "creek"  running through our neighborhood is now 10 feet in depth.
We put on our rain gear and walked down the street to see what was happening.  I had remembered about the small creek that runs through there and immediately thought perhaps someone got caught in the ever increasing water and was being rescued, you know in your heart at that point something terrible had just happened...I prayed that a child was not hurt.

When we came upon the adjoining neighborhood we had no idea what had just happened.  We walked up to the area that had been completely taken over by once  a creek, now a 1 mile wide raging river.  All the streets were covered in water up to the top of garage doors of every house.  Residents were running as fast as they could to get out with their families, pets and whatever they could immediately grab... they had no warning whatsoever. There were 3 fire engines, divers, boats, sheriff and local police department units surrounding the area.
The amazing rescue teams in our neighborhood and the flooded streets.
The sky was dark, rain was engulfing everyone and I stood there in shock of the devastation we witnessed.  We saw rescuers in boats and divers looking for people in need.  Just then the loudest horn I have ever heard went off. At that moment I see a large fire engine pulling out from a house half way engulfed in the moving water.  This engine had just rescued a woman, her children and dog.  They pulled them out in the most amazing rescue I have every seen.  In your lifetime, you see these "Hollywood rescues" on t.v. shows and in movies, but you are never prepared to see the real thing happening before your eyes.  I have all the utmost respect for these natural disaster survivors and the emergency crews that save lives everyday.

We returned home in our soaked clothes and no electricity.  By this time, our girls are starting to panic a little.  We went into emergency preparedness: candles, flashlights, pack overnight clothes, snacks, drinks, and getting the truck ready in the event we had to evacuate.  All we could do at this point was wait it out and be as best prepared as possible.  A few hours passed and power came back on in the house.  The rains never let up that night, but thank God we were high enough that the water stayed away.
My guardian Theo, looking out for more emergency units this morning.
Today is much quieter, although it is a beautifully sunny morning we have heard emergency flood alerts and the forecast is more rain tomorrow.  The city is still divided in half by the river, but it is slowly starting to recede.  Now the ever daunting task of debris clean-up begins.  This whole experience certainly puts a person's life in perspective.  Only God knows what tomorrow will bring, but for now I knew my family and I could use a comforting breakfast to calm the nerves of the past few days.

I made a coffee cake, husband cooked the bacon to perfection and my daughter made her always flawless and fluffy scrambled eggs.  We enjoyed it with our orange juice in freezer chilled glasses and just took in the beginnings of a sunny and tranquil day.  It was not a fancy breakfast or fit for the cover of a foody magazine, but for now it certainly hit the spot.

Streusel Coffee Cake
2 Cups Original Bisquick Mix
2/3 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 Tbl. Granulated Sugar
1 Egg

1/3 Cup Original Bisquick Mix
1/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
2 Tbl. Butter (room temperature)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch round pan.  Make streusel and set aside.

Stir remaining ingredients until blended.  Spread in pan.  Sprinkle with streusel.

Bake 18 - 22 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy with melted butter drizzled on top to soak in each slice.

Count your blessings each and every day....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hot Chili Mamma Salsa

Well, we are nearing the end of our gardening.

The tomatoes and peppers are truly in full bloom and a beautiful assortment of colors in the morning and evening.

When my husband goes out at sunrise he comes in with bountiful bowls of beautiful fruits and vegetables.  Just when we thought that was it, we come home and he refills the same bowls.

There was only one thing to do with the tomatoes, peppers and green onions....Salsa baby!!

Unfortunately our circa 1994 "Las Vegas Home Show Salsa Maker" (come on, I know everyone has been talked into buying one of these at one time or another)...finally had enough, so we had to resort doing a rough chop on everything and putting it in our 25 year old Cuisinart processor to finish the task.  The result was amazing!!!  Best salsa ever!!

Now mind you, my husband and daughter like a lot of heat in their salsa and somehow we were able to find a middle ground here...thank goodness.  Even with the extra added heat of the peppers though, I cannot stay out of the bowl and I just keep inhaling this with the salty chips and homemade guacamole.  Of course a nice Milagro Margarita helps cool it down.

Here's to the end of summer.....cheers!

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Flavornator (a.k.a. Bacon Explosion)

Today is Labor Day.  I most definitely have done much labor this weekend.  Yesterday involved washing, drying, folding and hanging what had to be 37 loads of laundry.  It was a hectic week after all (if you read last Friday's post, you know what I mean), which meant no laundry was done at all last week.

My husband is back to his pickling and fresh salsa as we are starting to see the end of our garden for the season.  The girls have been baking, making breakfasts and lunches before sports.  I prepared cookies, pancakes and waffles to freeze for breakfasts and lunches to make my life somewhat easier in the coming week.  This all adds up to a very busy dishwasher that has been laboring all weekend.  Just when I have the counters polished up and the cooktop spotless, someone else comes in and we start all over again.....

Our family has many fond memories of past Labor Days. When I first met my husband, his sister Cathy and husband Rudy put on quite an event for the most amazing beach party on Labor Day in Huntington Beach each summer.  She had a huge banner made, volleyball courts up, several BBQs and between her family and friends, we took over the beach.  During those years, we met  future spouses (myself included), welcomed new children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren and unfortunatley lost a few of those near to our hearts.

As the years passed, the gathering got somewhat smaller and moved to his brother Rick and wife Jodi's house in Altadena.  Volleyball turned into basketball in the pool with swimming and floating and the BBQ tradition continued.  The 6 brothers live for their BBQ time together, it is truly an enjoyment for them and fun to watch.  They take it quite seriously seeing who has the best rub, who made the best sauce and who can run a smoker better.  Oh yes, then there is the ever running debate (electric or charcoal smoker)...I think you get the picture.

Well, today in the Labor Day Party tradition, we tried something different.  I saw this recipe being made on tv this weekend that apparently has been around about 5 years and knowing how our family are carnavores, I cannot believe we didn't know about this. It is not the type of meal that you would eat every day, in fact I think once in your lifetime is probably enough,  given the fat and calorie content.

It is called the Bacon Explosion, created by 2 guys in Kansas.  If you are a BBQ addict like we are, you must try this.  After eating it, my husband calls it The Flavornator and cannot stop talking about it.   I served it topped with Stubb's Original BBQ Sauce, French's Fried Onion Rings and my blue cheese coleslaw and shoestring fries on the side.  This was not a dinner for the weak hearted and I think my butt will need to be back to the gym tomorrow!

Four ingredients: Ground Sausage, Thick Cut Bacon, BBQ Sauce and Rub Seasoning, that's it, and you are a few steps away to "Pig, Pig and More Pig".

First we weaved 10 slices of thick cut bacon (5 vertical and 5 horizontal), which turned out to be much easier to do than I thought it would.

Spread out (2) 1 lb. packages of Jimmy Dean Original Ground Sausage.  Sprinkle with your favorite BBQ rub seasoning.

Schmear (that's a culinary technical term) your favorite BBQ sauce over all the saugage. ** At this point, the original recipe adds cooked crumbled bacon onto the sauce, but we skipped that step this time**.  (Honestly I just didn't want to mess up my clean cooktop again with bacon grease splatters).

Roll it tight (like you would sushi) and put in smoker, seam side down.

Keep an eye on your smoker to make sure there is constant smoke and heat.  After approximatley 2-1/2 - 3 hours (depending on the thickness of the roll) and your meat thermometer gives the correct internal temperature for fully cooked pork.

Add some finishing flavors with the same BBQ sauce you used inside the roll to baste a light glaze on the outside.

Cut into quarter to half inch slices and enjoy your Pig Pinwheel!!!