Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rub With Love and Sleepless in Seattle

It is a day of Thanks today and here we are in Seattle...thankful that it is not raining this week and it is another gorgeous sunny crisp day here.

Yesterday was a determined tourist day.  We were on the move and I was on a mission with my family and in-laws, Bill and Cindy to take in as much sightseeing that we possibly could, while taking advantage of the cooperating weather.

We started at Pecos Pit Barbeque for some authentic pulled pork and brisket sandwiches with the most amazing bbq beans and cole slaw.  Their sandwhiches are so thick and delicious, you need to eat it with a fork.



We then wallked the Ballard Locks to try and burn off some of our lunch.  The afternoon was perfect for yacht watching as they were traveling through the locks and under the bridges.  I always get awestruck watching these feats happen and how they maneuver the ships and boats.

When we finished there, the sun was starting its desent, so we went to Kerry Park for some family photo opportunities....and the most breathtaking scenery you could imagine with the harbor, Seattle skyline and Space Needle in the background.


Soon after it was away to Pike Place Market we went.  I absolutely love going to the Public Market at Pike Place.  There is so much incredible energy with all the cultures and people perusing through the aisles.  Of course, Sleepless in Seattle is another one of my favorite movies, which was filmed at Pike Place.


The freshest seafood you could ever imagine and produce that just jumps out at you with all the phenomenal array of colors and textures.



By the nearing of the afternoon, we needed a little hit of sugar and stopped at the Three Girls Bakery for a Snickerdoodle and Pecan Pie Bar - delish!!



We ended our adventure with a beverage and a some items from the small plates menu at Sea Town Restaurant.  The perfect end to a really fun day.  We even had some of our Rub with Love Snack Mix from the restaurant leftovers to give us some energy through Thanksgiving morning before our family dinner.



Rub with Love Snack Mix
Purchased at Tom Douglas Sea Town Restaurant, Seattle

Roasted Peanuts
Smoked Almonds
Sesame Sticks
Dried Black Currants
Wasabi Peas









Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Juicy Apple Popovers

"In everything give thanks".....so very true, not only this time of year but we should truly cherish this notion all year long.  I have a piece of artwork hanging at our front door that reads, "Begin Each Day With A Grateful Heart".   It is a reminder to us as we head out for our day that we need to remember and be grateful for all that we have, even the simplest things that we take for granted.

Even though we don't live in a perfect world we should feel blessed that we are perfectly imperfect.
LOVE this !
Well, in all of this thanks, it just wouldn't be fall without making our Juicy Apple Popovers.  I saw these being made by Gale Gand a bazillion years ago when food tv was just getting started.  She was one of the first "food stars" and I just loved watching her show Sweet Dreams.  She is so adorable, no ego, very gracious  and makes you feel like you can bake anything!!


These are kind of like an individual fluffy apple pancake.

Juicy Apple Popovers
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand


2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons plus 6 tablespoons butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup raisins (or dried sweetened cranberries)


Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Whisk the eggs and milk together in a medium bowl. Add the flour, salt, and sugar and whisk to blend. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk it into the batter.


In each cup of regular sized muffin tins, divide cold butter, apple and raisins. Place the muffin tins in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the butter and cook the apples slightly.


Remove the tins from the oven and pour the batter into each cup filling them half way up.


 Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until puffed and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Serve hot.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Whipped Feta Crostini and The Other Woman

Christmas is here and I cannot believe it.  I got the clue that it is Christmas when my radio station switched their programming this past Friday at 5:00 pm to 24-7 holiday music - that is the true sign. The magic day is only one month away.

My girls actually tried to talk me into taking down the Thanksgiving decorations and put up all the Christmas holiday decor (minus the tree).  You have got to be kidding me, there isn't even dust on the Fall decor yet...of course we are not taking it down!!

My new holiday workout!
It is inevitable though that I succumb to the holidays, I am singing away to Mariah Carey, Kenny Loggins and Amy Grant holiday tunes in the car, I have started my trek of gift purchasing.  I have post-it lists tucked inside my purse with little reminders of who may have mentioned something that caught their eyes the past 6 months that I think would be a special gift.  I strategically placed the incognito cardboard hiding box in the garage where these little treasures will be stored.  Now, if I can just keep the snoopers out of it for the next 30 days.

 At the end of our weekend, we headed to our local Snifters Wine and Spirits.  The owners Vince and Marie (and their 2 dogs Sammy and Andy) host a wine tasting every Saturday night.  They are a darling team that have wonderful tastings every week along with Robin's Chocolates.  They seem to find the most perfect pairings with each tasting.

A peak of Robin's delectable creations.
We already had a bottle of one of our standbys at home, Immortal Zin.  So for our tasting pairing with appetizer, we found The Other Woman red blend.  When we checked out, our cashier said  to my husband without missing a beat "Would you like your other woman in a bag?".  I absolutely cracked up!!!

The Other Woman
For our evening appetizer, I found this amazing, flavorful crostini on Pinterest  that is perfect for any time of the year. Truly easy to make and the combination is absolutely delicious.


Whipped Feta Crostini 
Adapted from onelittleproject.com

Whipped Feta Spread:
6 ounces Feta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lemon, juiced

Tomato Topping:
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 pounds cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper

Crostini:
1 or 2 baguettes, sliced (each baguette will give you about 20 to 25 slices
if you cut the pieces about 1/2" thick).

Olive oil to brush baguette slices

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop the cherry tomatoes into quarters.  Combine with the onion, basil, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.  Season as desired with salt and pepper.

Combine the feta, cream cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a food processor.  Mix until creamy.

Brush both sides of baguette with olive oil and bake them on a cookie sheet just until they start to brown.

Spread the whipped feta mixture generously on top of the baguette slices. Top with the tomato mixture and serve.

Enjoy!!




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cranberry Bliss Bars and Cosmopolitans

Day 2 of Felicia's visit began with a sinful pastry and coffee at our favorite European bakery Romana Cake House where we also purchased the most heavenly Turtle Bar Chocolate Cake.  We then moved on to get the ultimate Mani-Pedi, which I was very much overdue.  There's nothing more relaxing than soaking in the jacuzzi bubble lined foot tub and having a hot stone massage on your achy legs - pure heaven!!

Looks at these new and gorgeous tootsies!!
After we pampered ourselves, off to Boulder we went for yet more eating and the first of our shopping excursions.  We walked the famous Pearl Street Mall and also hit Charming Charlie, my ultimate momma's accessory mecca.  The store is marketed towards teens and young 20's, but I absolutely love this place. It is all color coded, which caters to my color coordinated closet (don't judge).  My sister-in-law Cathy introduced me to it in California and I have been hooked ever since.  My biggest weakness used to be shoes, but since I have developed old lady plantar fasciitis, my new addiction is purses and bags. (Oh don't get me wrong, I still love to buy shoes, just can't wear them as well anymore).

The secret recipe Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars
Cut them in the perfect size triangles like Starbucks and no one will know the difference.
While we were out, Starbucks was running a promotion on their holiday drinks - buy one, get one free!  Always love a great peppermint mocha frappuccino deal....as we ordered, I peeked in their treat case and there they were - the Cranberry Bliss Bars were back!!!!  I had never had these until I was at our neighbor Toni and Dave's Christmas party in Alaska a couple years ago.  Toni's friend Donna, made a tray of these.  I ate one...then another....then another.  I'm just sure I embarrassed myself as I stayed glued to the buffet table drooling over these bars.  The good news - Donna was nice enough to give me the low down secret recipe to these and now I don't have to wait for Starbucks or the holidays to make them.  The bad news - I make these all the time...and let's just say that they are not a low-cal dessert, but oh, they are so yummy.


After a long day of shopping, our weary (but still beautiful legs and feet) needed my husband's Cosmopolitan prescription to be filled.  I made bourbon glazed salmon with a lemon-butter dill sauce for dinner, had a beautiful fire going and finished it off with our chilled martinis.  The perfect end to a fun day!

Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bar
Adapted from Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur

Cake:
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbl. minced crystallized ginger
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup chopped sweetened dried cranberries
4 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks

Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cps powdered sugar
4 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped sweetened dried cranberries

Drizzled Icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbl. milk
2 tsp. melted white chocolate
zest of lemon or orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make cake by beating the butter and brown sugar together with electric mixer, until smooth.  Add the eggs, ginger, vanilla and salt and beat well.  Gradually mix in the flour and baking powder until smooth.  Fold in the dried chopped cranberries and white chocolate chunks into the batter by hand.  Pour the batter into a buttered 9 x 13 baking pan.  Use offset spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake is lightly browned on top.  Allow the cake to cool.

Make the frosting by combining the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.  When the cake has cooled, use another offset spatula to spread the frosting over the top of the cake.  Sprinkle the remaining chopped dried cranberries over the frosted cake.

Make the drizzled icing by whisking the powdered sugar, milk and melted white chocolate and zest.  Drizzle the icing over the frosted/cranberry cake.

Cover the cake and let chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.  slice the cake lengthwise (the long way) through the middle.  Slice the cake across the width three times, making a total of eight rectangular slices.  Slice each of those rectangles diagonally, creating 16 triangular slices.









Monday, November 18, 2013

Churchill Downs Signature Barbecue Shrimp

I know it may seem a little early for the Kentucky Derby....however, we were in the throws of celebration last week.  As you know, my very dear friend Felicia, came to Colorado for the first time for business, then was sweet enough to extend her trip and spend a few days with me and my family.  All I could think was, "look out Colorado".

Jason's Deli at downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall
 You see, every time we get together, it is trouble, laughs, shopping, pampering, overeating, adult beverages and that's usually just the first day, then we do it all over again each day after that.  This trip was no different.  I picked her up in Denver and within 20 minutes we were in tears of laughing too hard at Jason's Deli.

Felicia ready for her "flight".
One of her requests was to visit our famous  Left Hand Brewery located in downtown Longmont, just down the street from us.  I had never been either, so it was the perfect first tourist stop for both of us.  She ordered up her "flight" of tastings and away the night went from there, all the while continuing our craziness and laughter.


I have previously mentioned that Felicia is a vegetarian, so I get to create seafood dishes for us during her visits.  I am a fanatic for shrimp (just ask my husband), as I tend to go a little overboard on it sometimes.

Tonight I made the famous shrimp dish from Churchill Downs that I saw being made last year.  It was a hit!!!  They usually make it over cheddar grits, but I made my Easy Corn Souffle which really mellowed out the spiciness of the shrimp's sauce and added such richness to the dish.  The souffle also makes a great side dish addition to Thanksgiving dinner.


Churchill Downs Signature Barbecue Shrimp
Adapted from Levy Restaurants Executive Chef Jo-Jo Doyle

2 pounds - jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 ounces - light olive oil
1 Tbl. - crushed garlic
1/4 pound - unsalted butter, cold and quartered
10 ounces white wine **              
4 - 6 ounces - Louisiana Hot Sauce (like Frank's Red Hot Wings Sauce)
3 ounces - Worcestershire Sauce

** Since we had enough "beverages" that evening, I substituted the white wine with chicken broth and it was equally as great.

Add oil to a large saute pan, on high heat.  Add shrimp and cook until very light pink on one side, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic to the pan and stir.  Then add white wine (or broth) and cook until liquid has reduced by half.  Stir in hot sauce and Worcestershire.  Remove cooked shrimp and pan and arrange on serving dish. Continue to reduce the sauce for about one minute longer.  Remove pan from heat and add the chunks of cold butter.  Swirl butter until the sauce develops a velvety texture.  Pour sauce over shrimp on plate and garnish.

Easy Corn Souffle

1 can of corn, drained
1 can of creamed corn
2 eggs
1 box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup melted butter
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together and bake in a greased casserole dish.

Bake 30-45 minutes, until a very light golden brown and center is soft and fluffy.








Monday, November 11, 2013

Pear Tart and Prayers

It is quite a busy week here that started this past weekend.  Raking, raking and raking leaves...getting ready for my very dear friend Felicia...competitive volleyball start-up and big high school volleyball awards dinner by Friday.


I have compiled lists everywhere in the house for what needs to be done before our special guest arrives.    We are trying to take advantage of the good weather to the yards winterized, not knowing when the first real big snowfall will happen.  I have been doing my weekly menu planning and coordinating our tourist sights for Felicia to see during her short visit with us.

All of this seems so insignificant though, as I read my friend Toni's post tonight.  Her niece was born last week and for an unknown reason is needing extra medical attention and tests to find out what is going on.  She is just the most beautiful little angel and knowing her aunt, will have a great fighting spirit to take on this mystery.

I wish I could be there to just sit, listen, pray with them and offer a hug to nurture the unknown.  If there is one thing that I have learned about babies, they are all fighters and I truly know the power of prayer.


My Favorite Pear Tart
For Leah and Her Family

1 pound pears, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Juice from half a lemon, divided
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for coating pan.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of table salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cinnamon-sugar ( 2Tbls sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon, mixed together )

Toss the pears with half the lemon juice as soon as they are sliced and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly brush a 9" springform pan with butter.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, then mix in vanillas.  Reduce to low speed and incorporate the flour mixture just until the batter comes together.  Pour batter into the springform pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula;  wrap the pan in plastic and chill at least 20 minutes or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Arrange the pears in a concentric circle on top of the dough.  Squeeze the remaining lemon juice evenly over the pears, then lightly sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Bake tart until edges are golden and center is set, 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Allow tart to cool in the pan.  Run a sharp paring knife around the edge and remove the springform.





Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pasta E Fagioli Soup

I am not one to believe in coincidences....I used to, but after many, many years of revelations, growing up and soul searching I have learned that there are no such things as coincidence.

In my effort to fight off the terrible effects of this cruel joke that by body is going through (the combination of PMS and Pre-Menopause), I have been trying to get myself back to going to the gym with my husband.  He is so good about going and looks terrific.  I on the other hand am battling the blog bulge all this "taste testing" from the creative new recipes I have been trying out on my family.

Yesterday I did not want to go to the gym.  It's darker earlier here and I just wanted to go home (cause you know know how much I love Tuesdays), get into my pj's, start Taco Tuesday prepping and watch my addictive NCIS and Person of Interest.

I got the energy though and went to the gym...met up with my husband right on time and jumped on my favorite treadmill at the end of the row.  I typically plug in my headphones, tune out the world and get caught up on the news of the day.  Today though, I just couldn't take another minute of more bad news that is happening in our world.

I quickly scanned through their 25 ceiling mounted tv screens the gym has up and strangely enough the ESPN channel caught my eye.  The program airing was called E:60 and featured a story about Jeff Agar and his son John.  They are the father and son team that have traveled the country doing marathons, triathlons and iron man races, together as a team.

Jeff and John Agar
John was born with Cerebral Palsy and typically uses a wheelchair in the races with his father.  On August 17, 2013 in Rockford, Michigan, John crossed the finish line for the first time on his own, as he said that he "wanted to give his dad a break".  As I watched the video of his heroic life and amazing parents that have stood by his side, he truly is an example of achievement and reaching for your dreams, no matter what obstacles you may encounter.  It's hard to really describe in words his story, so I invite you to watch his amazing finish.  As I am on the treadmill watching this touching story, I teared up and started sobbing.  http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2013/08/watch_johnny_agar_cross_mitche.html

So, there I am trying to keep up with wiping my tears and not fall of the treadmill at the same time with my overrun of emotion...no coincidence that I didn't give up the gym that day.  If I had not shown up, I never would have seen this incredibly inspiring young man and I feel so blessed that I had the opportunity to be touched by this motivating family. His story will warm your heart and soul....just like a good bowl of soup. 


Pasta E Fagioli
Adapted from www.thecountrycook.net

1 pound ground beef (or I used ground pork)
1 small onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (26 oz.) container beef stock
1 jar (25 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. ground black pepper
salt, to taste
1 cup ditalini pasta (or your favorite pasta shape)

Brown and crumble ground meat.  Drain excess grease.
Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker (except for pasta) and stir.
Set slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, add in the pasta and stir.

***The pasta likes to absorb a lot of the liquid so if you like your soup more brothy/soupy, be prepared to have an extra can of beef broth handy.  You can add it in towards the end.




Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cherry Cheesecake Brownies

Today is a big shout out to my husband.  He just returned from a guys weekend in Pittsburgh with one of his buddies.  They toured the state and hit part of New York state also.  In their quest for the perfect sandwich, they scouted out the famous Primanti Bros. diner in search for the ultimate pastrami sandwich - it was found there!!

Also in Pittsburgh, is Abby Lee Dance Company Studios, home to the Dance Moms television show, which I think almost every teenage girl (and some moms) are addicted to - I call it the modern day soap opera for teenagers.  Okay, yes even I have gotten sucked into a few episodes...

Bravery at its best.
Picture if you will, two 50-year old men walking into this ultimate teens dance studio that is overloaded in bling, fuschia pink and spandex.  They were on a mission to find gifts for their daughters. These dads did not dare get on a plane to come back home without tokens in tow.  I think that took great courage and love to be able to walk in there to fulfill their dad duties.

You can never go wrong with a bedazzled sports top.
They picked out the perfect gift for their active daughters sports tops and shorts.  My husband deserved a special goody for his success.   I was short on time and had to wing it, but was able to pull off his two favorite desserts in one - cherry cheesecake and brownies with chocolate chips.  He is very particular about his brownies...likes them to have a cake texture (not fudge-like). and after the batter has been poured into the baking pan, he likes a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips to be sprinkled all around the pan, before they are baked.  Please know that there are just some days I am all about being "semi-homemade".  This dessert was awesomely easy and so rich and delicious at the same time.


Cherry Cheesecake Brownies
 Dedicated to great Dads everywhere.

(1) box of your favorite Brownie mix 
(ingredients needed to make brownies; eggs, canola oil and water)
(1) box of Jello brand No-Bake Cheesecake mix 
(ingredient needed to make cheesecake mix; cold milk)
(1) can of cherry pie filling
2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
4 Tbl. butter

Mix your favorite brownie mix according to directions and pour in prepared 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle 1-1/2 cups of chocolate chips all over batter.  Bake according to instructions.  Let cool.

Prep the cheesecake mix according to directions.  (Do not prepare the included graham cracker crust - save for another day/recipe).  Spread prepared cheesecake mixture all over the cooled brownies.
Let chill in refrigerator.

While cheesecake brownies are cooling, prepare the ganache.  Microwave the other 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in bowl for about 1-2 minutes.  Add the butter and whisk until you see a glistening, glaze texture.  Drizzle over cheesecake brownies and continue to refrigerate until ready to serve.

Spoon cherry pie filling over each serving, as needed.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Linguine with Lemon, Prosciutto and Cream

It's Saturday and I am so very happy that it is.  I have been completely exhausted all week long.  I don't know if it is the change of seasons (or the change of life).  Whatever it is, I am looking forward to a little bit of sleeping in tomorrow morning.  Angus and Theo I'm sure will have a different opinion on whether I get to have some extra shut eye or not. I wish I could say that shutting my bedroom door would persuade them, but Angus has learned to "knock" on the door with his very large bear paw.  Needless to say, he always wins.

Halloween is finally over and we can get on with the Fall.  The black and orange decorations will come down this weekend and in with the harvest cornucopias, Pilgrims and fall foliage all around the house.  My favorite is the pumpkin pie and apple cinnamon candles that I love to take in.  Truthfully I like having them all year long, as they just always seem to keep the house smell so warm and cozy (especially when the dogs are overdue on their baths).
One of last spring's garage sale finds - I love beautiful bargains!!
Tonight is girls night in.  Husband is out of town for a few days, which means a "carb fest" for us girls.  He is not a big fan of pasta - probably because I like to experiment with it so much.  How can you not though - all those fun shapes, varieties of sauces, various veggies and proteins you can put with it.

The girls' favorite Thanksgiving decoration that we have had forever.
Both girls have requested their take on an Alfredo sauce.  I have The Pioneer Woman's recipe for the younger one - she loves this version of the sauce. It is so basic, easy and delicious.  Goes great with every type of pasta and especially with some grilled chicken on top.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/alfredo-sauce-recipe/index.html  

The older one has a more mature, high maintenance palette.  She loves exotic tastes and layered flavors - nothing boring or simple about this girl.


Linguine with Lemon and Cream
Cuisine At Home, October 2006 issue

8 slices prosciutto or ham, cut crosswise into strips
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tsp. lemon zest, minced 
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 lb. dry linguine

1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Saute prosciutto in melted butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add broth and cook 1 minute.

Stir in cream, lemon juice and zest.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes, then season with pepper.  Keep the sauce covered and warm while cooking the pasta.

Prepare linguine according to package directions.  Drain; transfer to the pan with the sauce and stir over medium heat to incorporate.

Off heat, stir in cheese; transfer to a serving platter.

Garnish with additional lemon zest.