Thursday, June 18, 2015

Alma's Mac and Cheese and Maddy's Mighty Minions

Our little community here witnessed the passing of a very special little girl this week, Maddy Grayless.  She was eight years old and passed away this Tuesday after learning of her terminal bone cancer only two weeks ago.

Her last wish was, she just wanted to make a difference and started a campaign of having others do good through acts of kindness.  Here is an excerpt from today's newspaper article on Maddy.

"Help Maddy's dying wish live on forever," Taylor wrote. "It has been so touching to see all of these acts of service in her name. It gives us so much comfort to know that her wish is coming true."
The Maddy's Mighty Minions page, created by a family friend, beckons people to perform good deeds in her honor and write about what they have done. Many posts borrow imagery from the animated film "Despicable Me" and the small, yellow "do-gooder" Minion characters that feature heavily in it.
To read more about Maddy and her story, you can see it here, Maddy's Mighty Minions.

Some members of the group have handed out cards featuring the little yellow characters with information about Maddy's story printed on them.
Her story is heart breaking and as a mother, I cannot imagine the pain and sadness her parents are going through right now.  Friends and family have also started a GoFundMe Page to assist her parents in Maddy's medical expenses.  

Given all the dark events and sadness we are witnessing in our world right now, take a moment to share Maddy's inspirational story with those around you and pay it forward.  I am confident that she is shining her light down on everyone right now and helping others make a difference.

I normally would not have attached a recipe to this story, but it's Mac and Cheese and it reminds me of children and smiles.  It's homemade and kids used to love it as children and still do to this day

So tonight, hug your child, family member or friend and let them know how much you love them.

Dedicated to Maddy Grayless

Ma's Mac & Cheese
Courtesy of Alma Wahlberg

1 lb. Velveeta block cheese
1 lb. elbow macaroni
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the macaroni.  Boil to packaged directions.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat.  After it's melted, pour in the milk and whisk slowly until it thickens.  Add the cheese a few pieces at a time and whisk until they melt into the sauce.

Drain the macaroni when ready and return to the large pot.  Add the cheese sauce and stir together well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

One Year Ago: Fajita Salad

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Asian Shrimp Salad, Age Spots and Angeline Wine

Could someone out there please clarify and explain to me the meaning and purpose of age spots?!  I haven't even hit my half century milestone birthday age yet and I am starting to look like a Dalmatian with all my age spots.  Since I wake up with sore, achy muscles every morning, cannot remember what I did last week and continue my battle with "silver highlights" in my hair, I'm pretty sure that I don't need reminded of my age by those obtrusive spots arriving on my body every other week.

A few years ago I noticed a spot on my chest, since I wear a lot of v-neck style shirts.  I was concerned that it may be skin cancer so I proceeded to my dermatologist in California.  He took a three second look at it and said so matter of fact, "Oh, it's just an age spot".  WHAT???!!  Well, in my vain manner, I asked him to freeze it off...I mean really, I wasn't even 45 years old yet and that just would not do.  

So, he proceeded with my request and got a little overzealous with the dry ice and froze a little too deep of skin layers.  So, now instead of a dark spot in the middle of my chest, I now have a white spot.  See what that vanity got me - nothing!  Lesson learned...don't try to alter mother nature, you'll never win - just deal with it.

To take my mind off my spotty self, I came up with this salad from three other spinach-shrimp style salads I came across, plus added in some refrigerator items that needed used up.  It was so unbelievable, the girls inhaled the shrimp and asked for seconds.  The infused shrimp tasted like we were sitting at Benihana's grill table, they were that authentic. Yummy!!

Paired our pear accented salad (no pun intended)
with Angeline Pinot Noir wine.
Asian Shrimp and Spinach Salad
(Serves 4 as a dinner entree)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbl. red wine vinegar
2 Tbl. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbl. fresh orange juice
1 Tbl. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
1 Tbl. Dijon mustard
1 Tbl. honey
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails off
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 limes, juiced
2 tsp. honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
8 cups baby spinach
1 pear, peeled and diced
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, salted

For the shrimp, in a large bowl whisk the soy sauce, lime juice, honey, garlic, olive oil, ginger, cumin, salt and pepper.  Add the shrimp to the marinade, toss to coat, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

While the shrimp is marinating, cook and dice the bacon, wash baby spinach leaves and dice the pear (sprinkle a little lemon juice on pear to keep from turning brown).

Prepare the salad dressing by whisking all the salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the grill to high.  Remove shrimp from the marinade.  Skewer and grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until just cooked through. Remove from skewers, cover and keep warm.

Toss the spinach to coat with some of the salad dressing and place in the center of your individual serving plates.  Arrange the bacon, pears, and shrimp around spinach and spoon more of the dressing all over.  Scatter the peanuts over the salad.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Reese's Cheescakes

As school is wrapping up for most of the country this week, we also celebrated a milestone of our granddaughter who finished up Kindergarten.  It's a big deal stepping into 1st grade and I remember our twins at this time of their life like it was yesterday.

I put together a celebration package for her.  I think I had more fun shopping and assembling it, than she did opening it.  It's just so much fun sending out surprise gifts to those special people in our lives.

She loves making treats with me.  I wish I could have sent her these (so we didn't eat all of them).  I'll need to remember these for our next visit...they are so easy and a perfect little treat for those lifetime celebrations.

Reese's Bottom Cheesecakes
Adapted from First Yum

1 Box of JELLO instant NO-Bake Cheesecake Mix (Feel free to make your own no-bake Cheesecake)

12 regular size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (one per each Cheesecake)

Approx. 1 Cup of Graham Cracker Crumbs (either store bought, or you can crush your own..or use the enclosed bag of crumbs from the boxed No-Bake Cheesecake Mix)…for sprinkling on top.

12 Paper Cupcake Liners

1 regular size 12 cup muffin pan
Mix up the no-bake Cheesecake according to the box directions..or make your own fave recipe…


Drop one Peanut Butter Cup down into each paper liner and pour the Cheesecake Mix onto it…

Into the fridge to chill for at least one hour!

Sprinkle them with the Graham Cracker Crumbs and/or Chocolate Chips!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Crockpot Beef Tips, Tornadoes and Turtle-Brownie Sundaes

They say when life brings you lemons, make lemonade...I say, when life brings you tornadoes, make a big batch of brownies!

I have lived in -40 below degrees in Alaska and survived earthquakes in California, but I have never experienced anything so surreal like last night's (and our first) tornado.  Northern Colorado and a town 5 miles from us had two tornadoes touch down last night.  We could see one of them from our back patio.

The skies were so dark and quiet, yet clouds, thunder, lighting and hail were swirling all around us.  At one point I felt like Helen Hunt in Twister, standing outside in the rain, and I couldn't take my eyes off the sky, it was so mesmerizing.  However, instead of cows flying through the sky, like the movie, my dogs were running a muck, barking and barking trying to warn off the storm.

I was quite proud at how calm I remained through it, as I proceeded to make a comforting batch of brownies, which then turned in to turtle brownie sundaes with all the fixings.

Tornado Comfort Food
These Crockpot beef tips are perfect for a stormy night, as they cook all day and ready when you walk in the door... add a little side dish and salad with it and you are ready to settle for a night in.

Crockpot Beef Tips & Gravy
Courtesy of The Country Cook

1 1/2 lbs cubed beef (stew meat)
1 packet Dry Onion Soup Mix
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup (although Cream of anything will work)
1 14 oz. can beef beef broth or stock
Salt & Pepper

***If you are freezing, dump all ingredients into gallon sized freezer bag***

Add beef cubes to Crockpot, season with salt & pepper.

In bowl combine soup mix, soup & broth, stir to combine.

Dump mixed ingredients over top of beef, stir.

Cook on low 6-8 hours.

Served with shaved Parmesan cheese over garlic herb angel hair pasta.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Grilled Balsamic and Blue Steak

It is officially June, summer days and I cannot believe how fast time is going by already since school got out.  We are hitting 90 degrees today, which means no more kitchen cooking!!  It's grilling season!!  

During the summers, I "try" not to use the oven too much since it really heats up the house.  I am holding out as long as I can, being the penny pincher I am and refusing to turn on the air conditioner. That being said, it's been a lot of grilling, crock pot and salads this past week.

We made this Balsamic and Blue Cheese Steak a couple weeks ago and it truly is one of my all time favorites.  Super easy to prepare and really delicious.  I get the steak marinating before I go to work and when we come home, perfectly flavored and ready to grill.  We like to use the leftover steak (when there rarely is any) for taco Tuesday - awesome!

Grilled Balsamic and Blue Steak
Adapted from Traeger Grills

1-1/2 pounds Flat Iron Steak (or Top Round Steak)
3 Tbl. Olive Oil
6 Tbl. Balsamic Venigar
1 Tbl. Traeger Prime Rib Rub (or your favorite available brand)
1 tsp. fresh Thyme, chopped
1 tsp. fresh Rosemary, chopped
3 cloves  Garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup Blue Cheese crumbles
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 green onion (white and green parts), chopped

In a large plastic zipper bag, add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, prime rib rub, thyme, rosemary and 3 cloves of minced garlic.  Mix/whisk well in bag to combine.  Place the steak in the bag with mixture, seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.  Remove the steak from the refrigerator 45 minutes before grilling to bring it to room temperature.

Combine the butter, blue cheese, 1 clove of garlic and the chopped green onion in a small bowl.  Mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

When ready to cook, (at this point, you can heat your grill to the recommended directions for steak) or if using a Traeger Grill, start your Traeger on Smoke with lid open until the fire is established (4-5 minutes)., Set the temperature to High and preheat, lid closed (10-15 minutes).

Place the steak towards the front of the grill grate for 6 minutes on each side to give it a sear, for medium rare (place in the middle of the grill grate for a few more minutes if you prefer your steak medium or well).  Remove from the heat and rest for 10-15 minutes.

Slice the steak against the grain and add the blue cheese butter on top.  Enjoy with herb seasoned roasted baby potatoes and fresh garden salad.