Friday, October 31, 2014

Little Bear, Monster's Boo and TyKU

Happy Halloween to you and yours.  Have a safe outing tonight and as I always tell my girls, "Make good choices".

This year both girls surprised me and actually dressed up with all of their friends.  As you recall, last year they boycotted costumes.  The students at their school had the best costumes this morning...such creativity with the young minds out there.  The extra added bonus of the day is Chipotle Restaurant.  Today if you go in with your costume on, they will give you "Boorito" only for $3.00.  Love it !!  Solved the problem of starving teenagers after school this afternoon.

Little Boo from the movie Monsters Inc.

My little bear, complete with her
jar of honey (actually gold foil Kisses).
A new spooky looking drink we recently discovered is called "TY KU" Citrus Liqueur.  The bottle actually glows - coolest thing I have seen in a very long time (we obviously don't get out much).

Our bar concierge at PF Chang's turned us on to it.  He called it "Skittles in a Bottle".  He was not exaggerating a bit either.

Naughty Lemonade 

2 oz. TY KU Citrus Liqueur
4 oz. Fresh Lemonade
Splash of Pear Flavored Vodka

Pour in a martini shaker over ice.  Shake well.  Pour in a old fashion glass over ice.  Cheers!

One Year Ago: Tamale Casserole

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fall's Cobb Salad

If you have been following this blog for awhile, you know how much I "love Tuesdays"...not really. Yesterday was no exception either.  What is it about Tuesdays and the mayhem that follows me on this one particular day?
Poor Angus even had a bad day.
It started off at 5 am when my husband was frantically looking for towels and he grabbed the shop vac out of the garage.  My eyes were barely open and I knew nothing good had happened.  I wanted to crawl back under my covers and hide from whatever mess was lurking out there for us to clean up.

My Theo has been having tummy troubles (most likely eating the bad crab apples that have taken over our yard as of late.  He couldn't wait for us to let him outside and I won't describe what was at the door...such a lovely aroma before my first cup of coffee.

Fast forward to a crazy, busy day complete with a migraine headache and incorporating taking the area rug to the laundromat from the morning mess and playing twins taxi in the early evening.  I was so frazzled, I resorted to take out Chinese for dinner, which if you know me, is definitely not like me.  Good thing there weren't many dishes, because "I" get hit with a homework assignment.

My younger daughter had diligently done lengthy research and typed up her report earlier in the week, as directed (or so she thought).  She was to put it into a newspaper type format, which I thought looked great, since she didn't even have a newspaper to refer to and it was just the rough draft.  Well, for the final draft, it needed to be an exact typical newspaper layout, complete with the columns, line spacing and font line up.  I have said it once before and I will say it much controversy that comes from the internet, it really does come in handy sometimes.  Bless Google and their online templates, which saved us once again. Unfortunately, we didn't finish until midnight last night, which meant very little sleep and ask my husband, I am not the most pleasant person when it comes to sleep deprivation.

The good news of the week is my husband and I made a new friend and his name is Josh.  Josh Cellars has an incredible array of wines that are not only very affordable, but also beautiful taste.  I typically have not been a Cabernet fan in the past, but Josh has changed my outlook.  I also love Josh Cellars' philosophy of giving back and their philanthropic community support.  This Cab goes wonderfully with our new favorite Fall Cobb Salad.  I think I will be inviting my new friend for dinner tonight (if there's no more surprise homework).

Fall's Cobb Salad

2 cooked chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, and diced
4 slices cooked bacon, cut in small pieces
2 large hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
5 cups romaine lettuce, cut in bite size pieces
1 pear, peeled and diced
1/3 cup Craisins (dried sweetened cranberries)
1/2 cup smoked Gouda cheese, diced

Honey Mustard Dressing (your favorite brand) or your own homemade version

To assemble the salad, plate with a layer of the romaine lettuce at bottom of serving plate or bowl. Add remaining salad ingredients and drizzle with your favorite Honey Mustard dressing.

Can be served as a meal for 2 people, or a hearty side salad for guests with a nice butternut squash soup.

One Year Ago: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Monday, October 27, 2014

Apple Dump Cake

This weekend we had the pleasure of taking in one of our many local pumpkin patch events.  It has been years, I'm embarrassed to say since we took our girls out to an official pumpkin patch. My dad used to take them when they were just little girls, out to pick their very own pumpkins, take in a caramel apple (or two) and walk through the corn stalks.  

It brought back such wonderful memories for us as I watched the other toddlers there experiencing what my girls used to and seeing the wonders and smiles on their sweet young faces.

My two little pumpkins.
Me and my Great Pumpkin

Charlie Brown's Pumpkin Patch
Of course where there are pumpkins in the fall, there will also be apples.  I have made just about every fruit type dump cake out there, but never an apple dump cake.  This one is different because the top is made with a prepared cake mix, instead of the usual dry mix with butter cubes.

Apple Dump Cake
Courtesy of Table for Seven

1 dry box butter yellow cake mix (with ingredients listed on box)
2 (21 oz) cans apple pie filling
1 stick butter
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 9 x 12 glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Spoon apple pie filling on bottom of pan and spread around.

Make cake mix in a bowl, according to the box directions.  Pour prepared cake batter over the apples.

Melt butter with water and pour on top of cake batter.

Bake for approximately 70 minutes.

Serve with whip cream or french vanilla ice cream.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chocolate Brownie Brittle Mousse and Chocolate Moose

My sweet and lovable chocolate "moose",
soaking up the fall morning sunshine.

Are you an "outy" or an "inny"?  I am an outy, and I'm not referring to belly buttons.  I am however referring to brownies.  This can be quite a debate in any given household or relationship.  Do you like the outside of the perimeter edge of the pan that has partial brownie crispy crust with a hint of the soft side included or are you completely crustless and only go for the soft cake and fudgy (is that a word?) parts.

My world has been changed forever.  Sheila G, a famous baker in Florida invented "Brownie Brittle" and will now become a millionaire because of it.  It's the simple ideas that really make you go, "Why didn't I think of that?"

These little cookie crunch brownie bites are amazing.  Every time I open the bag, I get this wave of fresh baked chocolate that immediately takes me back to my mom's brownies.  They are very dangerous to have around the house, to say the least.

I had a spare bag (amazingly enough) and wanted to create a treat with them.  I took some already made chocolate pudding and Cool Whip we still had in the refrigerator and made a pseudo "mousse". The crushed brownie brittle served as the base for the mousse and then I topped it off with a nice full size piece for the crowning touch.

Brownie Brittle Mousse

Measurements will vary, depending on how many your are making, but here is the ratio:

2 parts, prepared chocolate pudding
1 part, Cool Whip dessert topping (or more, to your liking)
crushed "Brownie Brittle"
whole pieces of "Brownie Brittle"

Add a small amount of the crushed brownie brittle to the bottom of your glass.  (I like to freeze my dessert glasses about an hour before I prepare the dish) Stir pudding well in a medium size bowl and carefully fold in Cool Whip, until it is all evenly mixed.  Spoon the mousse into your chilled glass. Top with a piece of brownie brittle.

One Year Ago: Grannie's Lasagna

Thursday, October 23, 2014

BLT Sandwiches and Nana Tomatoes

For throwdown Thursday, I became very reminiscent of my mom's BLT sandwiches when I was growing up.  I remember vividly the aroma of bacon being fried in her stainless steel GE electric skillet (that weighed more than our dog) while toasting the white sandwich bread for the BLT dinners some nights.  I loved her sandwiches and she always served them up with a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

Fast forward in time, when I met my husband he taught me his mom's famous "Nana Tomatoes" that she made often for their family and they have become a staple at our house also.  They are so easy, versatile and have incredible flavor.

The other night we made them and I wondered how they would taste in a BLT, instead of just plain sliced tomatoes.  Oh dear Heaven!  Now maybe I was just really hungry that night, but that was the most delicious sandwich I enjoyed in a long time.  The marinated tomatoes, butter lettuce and  lightly toasted sourdough bread raised the retro sandwich to a different level.  One of my girls tried a bite of my sandwich.  Not only did she steal the other half my sandwich, she also proceeded to make another one for herself.  
If you're feeling nostalgic,
give this one a try.

Nana Tomatoes 
Inspired by Nana (Jan)

1 cup Best Foods Olive Oil Mayonnaise (or your favorite brand)
1 cup Newman's Own Family Recipe Italian Dressing (or your favorite brand)
3-4 beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

* Proportions/measurements can be adjusted based on how many people and use of tomatoes.

In a deep dish plate or glass pie pan, whisk the mayonnaise and Italian dressing, salt and pepper together until blended well.  Slice the tomatoes and submerge in the dressing mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Serve the tomatoes as a side dish with
 your favorite beef, chicken or pork meal.
Even better though...serve them as part of your BLT sandwich,
it is devine!!

One Year Ago: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chocolate Chip Shortbreads

If you want to give your teenager a heart attack, pick her up at school, have her open the rear tailgate of your vehicle to stash backpack and sports bag, to find a high chair, baby gate and pack'n play crib. Her face goes white, she freezes and asks why there are baby things in the back of my car.  "Why do you think?" I asked back.  "I don't know"...why don't you tell me!", as she says in complete panic.

After I got a really good laugh in the parking lot (I was the only one laughing of course), I had to remind her that their twin toddler niece and nephew would be here next month and needed a place to sit and eat and a crib to sleep.  "Oh yeah", she sighs in relief.

Back at home, the other teenager needed some assistance with extra credit for her history presentation.  She studied the Country of Austria and interviewed their Uncle Rudi (our brother-in-law), who immigrated to the United States from Austria when he was just three years old, with his parents.  Truly a wonderful and fascinating story that she was delighted to share with her class.

So, for that extra credit I (I mean she) decided to make shortbread cookies.  Since most Austrian shortbread recipes have nuts in them, I had to be on the lookout for other recipes, to respect anyone with food allergies...That would be just our luck - make a cookie, someone has an allergic reaction, say good-bye to the extra credit.  At any rate, we got very lucky and found a super easy, buttery, yummy shortbread that I will definitely make again.

Chocolate Chip Shortbreads
Courtesy of Woman's Day

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold, unsalted butter, diced in cubes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
(Makes 16 wedges)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Have baking sheet ready and covered with a piece of parchment paper.

Mix flour and granulated sugar in a medium bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or rub butter in with fingertips) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in mini chocolate chips.

Gently press crumbs together to form a dough (the heat from your hands will help this happen). Place on baking sheet; pat into an 8-inch disk.  With a sharp knife, score into 16 wedges, cutting about halfway through dough.  Lightly prick wedges twice with a fork.

Bake 25 minutes, or until shortbread looks dry and golden at edges.  Immediately cut through score lines.  Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

* For the purpose of our classroom assignment and needing to share with 40 students, I took the recipe measurements (x 4) and spread all the dough out over a cookie sheet.  I then scored it into diamond shapes and baked it for about 30-35 minutes, checking often to make sure the edges didn't burn. Worked perfectly if you are looking to feed a large group.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Greek Shrimp Saganaki

In my forever quest of weekly meal planning and calendar strategy of what to make for dinner, my husband saves the day.  Not only can I not remember what I did two days ago, I certainly cannot remember what I made for dinner a week or a month ago (hence the reason for the meal planning calendar).

Every now and again, my husband will say "What about the dish that....." (and he'll go into his description of how he remembers the meal).  I then have to stop, wait for it....oh yes, my ever flickering light bulb finally goes back on again...and I remember.  

Here is one of those meals that I completely forgot about and he once again reminded me of.  The great thing about this one is you can make it a date night meal for two or have it as an appetizer for a group of family, friends, neighbors, girls night in, book club, get the picture.

It looks complicated and fancy, but it truly is super easy and amazing flavors.

Shrimp Saganaki
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, November 2012
Original Recipe By Lord Byron Restaurant, Ios Island, Greece

1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 scallions, white part only, minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup drained diced canned tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
pinch of dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 medium shrimp (about 1/2 lb.), peeled, deveined and tails off
1 (4 oz.) block feta cheese
slices of country-style rustic bread, toasted

**I also add:
2 Tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted, drained, roughly chopped

Heat oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  Add scallions and garlic; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, (capers and olives) and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 4-6 minutes.  Remove from heat;  add wine, broth, 1 tsp. parsley, 1 tsp. dill and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until tomato mixture is reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium.  Season shrimp with salt and pepper.  Add shrimp to skillet, arranging around edges.  Place block of feta in center of skillet.  Cover and simmer until shrimp are cooked through and feta is warm, 4-6 minutes.

** We like eating this dish straight out of our cast iron skillet, but you can also transfer the shrimp and feta to a large shallow bowl.

Garnish with parsley.  Serve with toasted rustic bread to scoop up every flavorful bite.  Since I needed white wine for the recipe, we enjoyed the rest of the McManis Chardonnay with our meal. Perfectly paired!

Monday, October 13, 2014

German Chocolate Bundt Cake

As I have previously mentioned, I married a German and when my Mr. German gets a "bee in his bonnet", as his mom used to say..."Look Out"!!  What's worse, is when my Mr. German gets a sweet tooth and I have "PMS", which in my house means "Putting Up With Mark's ****", it always makes an interesting combination.

Add to this, we are fully into Fall here and when there is a chill in the air, all I want to do is bake!  It makes the house so warm and cozy and the wonderful aromas from the oven always make everyone happy (including my hips).  So last week's issues of having no "treats" in the house have now turned into my husband complaining that he has to go down one notch on his belt.  Really?  I just can't win around here some days.....

German Chocolate Bundt Cake

For The Cake:
1 box (16.5 oz.) Devil's Food chocolate cake mix
1 cup Best Foods Olive Oil Mayonnaise
1 cup water
3 eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 

1 Tablespoon brewed coffee (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray bundt pan with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

Beat cake mix, mayonnaise, water, eggs, cinnamon and coffee 30 seconds in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed. Beat on medium speed, scraping sides occasionally, 2 minutes. Pour batter into bundt pan.

Bake 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 30 minutes before inverting onto serving platter.

For The Frosting:
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, and butter to a boil. Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens to the likeness of pudding . Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, coconut, and pecans. Let cool and thicken a little.

Spoon frosting on top of the cake, letting it run down all the inside and outside of cake.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Spaetzle with Gruyere and Carmelized Onions

As a side dish with last week's Oktoberfest Slow Cooker Sauerbraten, I made Spaetzle with Gruyere and Carmelized Onions. These three ingredients marry so well together and were the perfect combination with the roast.

I will warn you, this recipe calls for making your own homemade Spaetzle.  At this point in my life, I have neither the time nor patience to attempt homemade Spaetzle, especially on a weeknight.  Perhaps some day I will get the courage to try it, but for now my box of Panni Spaetzle by Knorr fulfilled my "semi-homemade" need just perfectly.

Spaetzle with Gruyere and Carmelized Onions
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (5 ounces)
1 3/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons peanut oil 

**Option in lieu of homemade Spaetzle:  (2) 9 oz. boxes of Panni Spaetzle by Knorr
Make according to box directions and go on to step 3.

1.  In a small bowl, whisk the milk with the egg yolks and egg. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Using a wooden spoon, stir the egg mixture into the flour, leaving a few lumps. Cover and refrigerate the batter for at least 1 hour or overnight.

2  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Carefully hold a colander with large holes over the boiling water. Add about 1/2 cup of the batter to the colander and press it into the simmering water with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Repeat until all of the batter has been used. Cook the spaetzle for 2 minutes longer, then drain. Immediately transfer the spaetzle to the ice water, swirling the dumplings until all of the ice melts. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

3.  Preheat the oven to 400°. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread the spaetzle in the dish and dot with the butter. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the spaetzle is hot and the cheese is just melted.

4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and cook over high heat until softened, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Scatter the onion over the spaetzle and serve.
Make Ahead The spaetzle can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for up to 1 day.

One Year Ago:  Apple Dumplings

Monday, October 6, 2014

Slow Cooker Sauerbraten

The other morning, I was frantically looking for my laundry and found it in a business developer's conference room where they were working on payroll....Yes, my brain is still on overload and I am still having the most "off the wall - make no sense" dreams (when I am able to sleep, that is).

I don't know if I am going to make it through high school this second time around and I think I am putting more time, effort and brain power on the upcoming end of season volleyball dinner, more than I did my own wedding.

Once I get through the banquet the middle of next month, then two weeks later our son is coming for Thanksgiving with his family and we are meeting our twin grandbabies for the first time.  Then, two weeks after that is my husband's birthday...then two weeks later is Christmas, then our girls' sweet 16 birthday at year's end.  I can't imagine why it's so hard for me to get a decent night's sleep right now.

Well for now, I'm working on Oktoberfest fun.  I married a German and each year I try to up my German dish repertoire, even though I can barely pronounce some of the recipes.

I had never made Sauerbraten, but I figured anything I can put in a crockpot can't be all that difficult. This was awesome!!  I threw it all together before we all went off to work and school and came home to the most amazing roast dinner.

Slow Cooker Sauerbraten
Courtesy of Taste of Home

1 boneless beef chuck roast or rump roast (3 to 4 pounds)
4 cups water
1 bottle (14 ounces) ketchup
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3 bay leaves
1-1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies (about 30 cookies)

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Cut roast in half. Place in a 5-qt. slow cooker; add water. In a
large bowl, combine the ketchup, onion, brown sugar and vinegar;
pour over roast.

Place pickling spices and bay leaves on a double thickness of
cheesecloth; bring up corners of cloth and tie with string to form a
bag. Add spice bag and cookie crumbs to slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.

Remove roast and keep warm. Discard spice bag. Strain cooking juices;
transfer 4 cups to a large saucepan. Combine cornstarch and water
until smooth; stir into cooking juices. Bring to a boil; cook and
stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice roast; serve with

I also served it with the most amazing Spaetzle with Gruyere and Carmelized Onions

One Year Ago:  Weeknight Ravioli Bake

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tee Shirts, Tacos and Ice Cream Cake Treat

This past weekend we hosted the girls' volleyball team over for "Tee Shirts and Tacos".  They made their warm up shirts for the upcoming "Dig Pink" for breast cancer games in October and we served them a full taco bar for dinner.

It was a complete education in making tee shirts for me.  All I can say is thank God for Hobby Lobby and YouTube.  I am now an aficionado in tie-dye shirts!  We started with the tie-dye pink process, then iron-on transfers, then finished with bubble paint for their names and numbers.  

It was also an opportunity to serve my finale of "Dips, Dinners and Desserts".  I actually made this when Steve and Leslie were here, which he eloquently titled the dish "Big *** Ice Cream Sandwich Thing".  Unfortunately, we were all too full to dig into it, so I saved it for the girls.

This dessert is Heaven on a platter - nothing more to say.

So incredibly easy beyond belief.
You can make it as small or large as needed.

Start with a layer of ice cream sandwiches. 
Then add a second layer, stacking and laying them the other direction.

"Frost" with Cool Whip topping

Drizzle alternating lines of chocolate and caramel
ice cream sundae (squeeze bottle toppings).

Use your toothpick for streaming the lines,
into a decorative pattern.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Cool Whip Dessert Topping
Chocolate Sundae Topping (in the squeeze bottle)
Caramel Sundae Topping (in the squeeze bottle)

One Year Ago:  Quick Candy Cookies