Monday, August 31, 2015

Surf and Turf Crostinis

"Steak?...Did someone say steak?"
Another puppy hour sighting!

Well we survived our first week of school (barely).  Friday came upon us and I wanted to do crostini night on the patio.  These were both new recipes (one I found and the other I just made up)...both were amazing and will definitely see another appearance of them soon with our upcoming guests. They went together very easy, both had incredible flavors and were the perfect end to a very long and much anticipated week.

Lemon-Rosemary Shrimp Crostini (Surf)

Lemon-Rosemary Shrimp Crostinis
Courtesy of The Nibble

Non-stick cooking spray
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 Tbl. fresh rosemary (1 Tbl optional for garnish), finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), finely chopped
1 long baguette, cut into 24 thin slices
stainless/metal skewers

Spray grill grate of either a gas grill or charcoal grill with non-stick cooking spray.  Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Place shrimp in resealable plastic bag.  In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 1 tablespoon rosemary and garlic.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour half of mixture over shrimp and gently toss to coat shrimp.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes.

Add to the remaining oil mixture, the cream cheese, 1/4 cup feta, pine nuts and tomato.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and set aside.

Spray both sides of baguette slices with non-stick cooking spray.  Place on grill for 1-2 minutes per side or until lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Drain excess liquid from shrimp and place on skewers.  Grill 1-2 minutes per side or until pink and cooked through.  To assemble, spread cheese mixture onto bread slices, then place about 2-3 shrimp on top.  Sprinkle remaining feta and rosemary on top.

Blue Cheese Beef Crostini (Turf)
Blue Cheese Beef Crostinis

1/2 pound london broil or prime rib, cooked and sliced thin
1 wedge Cambozola cheese, softened
1 pint yellow grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 avocado, sliced thin
1 baguette, cut into 24 thin slices
olive oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Place baguette slices on sheet and brush with olive oil one side that is facing up.  Bake approximately 5 minutes, until just starting to become lightly toasted.

Remove baguette slices from oven and spread Cambozola cheese over each slice.  Add a small piece of sliced beef, avocado slice, then top with 2 slices of the tomato.

Two Years Ago: Flatbread Friday

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce...School's In Session

I'm happy to report that we are back in full swing of school, sports and chaos!  School started last week and the schedules have been non-stop.  Junior year is upon us and the girls are very excited about it and making Varsity team!  I see Letterman jackets in our future very soon.

I have been so busy with them, my new business, redecorating rooms, getting ready for family guest stays and taking on a role with the Booster Club Board, that my experimental cooking and baking (and blogging) on weekends has taken a sideline.

This is what happens when I stop making weekend treats and I go to the grocery store on the way home from work, after a bad day with an empty stomach and feeling hot flashes!!

Luckily, I was able to try out this treat and conquer my very first, made from scratch, cheesecake earlier this summer.  This cheesecake was unbelievable (easy and a little time consuming, but so worth it) and I cannot wait to make it again for our upcoming guests.

Cheesecake With Fresh Strawberry Sauce
Courtesy of Trisha Yearwood


Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted


32 ounces (Four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese
2 cups sour cream
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Sauce:

1 to 1 1/4 cups halved fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 lime, zested

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray; line the bottom with a round of parchment paper; and spray the paper with cooking spray. Place the pan on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and bring the foil up around the sides to enclose the seam between the bottom and the sides of the pan (this will prevent water from leaking in).

Stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are coated. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Set aside.

For the filling: In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese together with the sour cream. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla, and beat until smooth.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Set the foil-wrapped pan inside a larger pan, and carefully pour 1/2 inch of warm water into the larger pan to create a water bath. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven, open the oven door and let the cheesecake stand in the opened oven for 1 hour. Refrigerate the cheesecake for 2 hours or overnight before removing it from the pan.

For the sauce: Process the strawberries, sugar and lime zest in a food processor or blender until smooth. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. (The sauce is best served cold from the refrigerator.)

One Year Ago:  Volleyball Cookies
Two Years Ago: Puttanesca Pasta

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Eat The Cookie...Buy The Shoes"

"Eat The Cookie...Buy The Shoes", a great summer read by Joyce Meyer that I have been enjoying.  It's a book for women about "giving yourself permission to lighten up".  It's a very spiritual and inspiring book that reminds us gals, "Fun and enjoyment are needs in our lives, and we can't be healthy without them".

I took Joyce's advice...I stumbled on these darling shoes (on sale of course).  They were the last pair in my size, so of course it was meant to be that they were waiting there for me...and I made a batch of these "oh my goodness - very naughty cookie bars".  I don't know what else to call them except naughty!  Pure bliss in one bite!

They were also the perfect dessert for my husband loves chocolate chip brownies, my oldest daughter prefers Oreos, my youngest daughter is partial to chocolate chip cookies...and let's face it, I'm addicted to all three of them and I'm not even going to try and deny it.

Naughty Cookie Bars
Inspired by Joyce Meyer
"Eat The Cookie...Buy The Shoes"

1 tub refrigerated pre-made cookie dough (or make your own)
1 package Double Stuff Oreo cookies
1 box, family size, brownie mix (plus ingredients needed to prepare)
1/2 bag mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with parchment paper.

Spread layer of cookie dough evenly over the parchment paper.

Place rows of Oreo cookies on top of the cookie dough.

Prepare the brownie mix according to package directions.
Spread the prepared brownie mix over the Oreo cookies.
Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the brownie mix.

Bake at 350 degrees approximately 30- 45 minutes.
Depending on your oven, start checking it after 30 minutes
and brownies are baked through.

Two Years Ago: Snickerdoodles

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Greek Chicken Salad and Greatest Whitewater Trip

I finally received my photo CD of our whitewater rafting trip in Blue River, Oregon with Ouzel Outfitters.  So excited to look at them again.  I don't know what is more fun, the actual rafting trip or reliving the moment through our photos, which brought smiles to all our faces again.

This salad is perfect for a light dinner after a long afternoon of sun, paddling, a lot of splash and river time.

Greek Chicken Salad

4 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
5 ounces (1/2 container), prepared Tzatziki sauce/dip
1 head bib lettuce, rough chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except lettuce in a large bowl.  Toss well.  Serve chicken salad on bed of lettuce.

Serve with toasted pita corners and Castle Rock Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

American Chop Suey and Traditions

Any family can attest that 16 hours on a road trip can be trying and exhausting.  We broke up our drive in 2 days, both ways to help our trek to and from Oregon, via Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.  There was beautiful scenery, but for teenagers there are only so many trees, mountains and lakes sometimes.

Every traveling family car must be loaded with two things:  Snacks and Games!!  I taught my girls how to play Blackjack a few years ago...any good parent should!  It teaches them fast math and how to think quickly on their feet (or while sitting in the backseat, in this case).  

A hot "Backseat Blackjack" tournament going through Wyoming.
High Stakes:  Starburst
In preparation for our visit with my Grandma, I also taught the girls how to play Gin Rummy.  My grandma taught me the card game when I was little and I have great memories of that tradition with her.  I figured the girls better be prepared to play 88 years old, she's really good!!

Playing Gin Rummy while making breakfast,
gives new meaning to "Hunger Games".
When I was growing up in the 70's, budgets were tight and meal planning needed to go far.  Another tradition I fondly remember, was my mom had a specialty dinner she called "Slumgullion", not sure on the spelling, but you get the picture.  It was simple...cooked elbow macaroni, tomato sauce and ground beef.  She cooked up a huge pot, it filled our stomachs and made great leftovers.  We always had it with a green salad and stack of white bread on a small plate.

As I was addicted to my Wahlburgers television series last year (and when I say addicted, I mean addicted), I ended up watching an episode that featured Alma's famous "American Chop Suey", a long standing family tradition.  This essentially was a tricked out version of my mom's Slumgullion...who knew a 70's dinner would be a famous restaurant favorite today!!

American Chop Suey
Courtesy of Alma Wahlberg

1 lb. bacon, diced
1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1 large bell pepper (optional), diced
3 cans (regular sized) whole tomatoes
1 lb. elbow macaroni noodles
1 Tbl. garlic powder

In a large pot cook the bacon until half-way cooked.  Add the ground beef, onion, bell pepper, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook stirring occasionally until meat is thoroughly cooked. Next, add in the canned tomatoes and crush them with potato smasher in the pot.  Let simmer on low while macaroni cooks.

Boil macaroni according to package directions.  Once macaroni has cooked, drain it well, add it to the meat mixture and stir.

**Paired this with a blue cheese wedge salad and garlic cheese toast points.
(Also a tricked out version of my mom's dinner salad and bread).

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bistro Sandwich and Best Day Ever

One of our favorite parts of road trips are the parking picnics.  This past week during our road trip to, from and around Oregon, we had a great time packing up the car with all the necessities for car picnics and road trip snacks, loaded and ready to go.

During one of our days in Oregon, we had an afternoon rafting trip with Ouzel Outfitters planned on the McKenzie River, in Blue River. Before the rafting, we stopped at Paradise Campground where we were scheduled to launch and enjoyed a beautiful, sunny picnic by the river.  Best day ever!!

The perfect picnic!!

Couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting...the McKenzie River.

Someone REALLY liked their picnic!

Our new favorite salsa made in Bend, OR.
Must find this in Colorado.
Ready for a great day of rafting.

Before our Oregon adventure, I tried out a new weekend lunch sandwich at our house.  I think it's safe to say, this is our new ultimate sandwich for our "staycation" weekends.  It is so easy to make, luscious flavor and perfect any time of year to enjoy.

I made it with my mom's potato salad recipe and a nice cold glass of Arnold Palmer (ice tea/lemonade combo.)  I see this in tomorrow's future....errands, shopping, farmer's market, laundry, bistro sandwich, big nap!!

Our new weekend Bistro lunch.
Bistro Sandwich

1 loaf, rustic baguette
8 slices (1 package) prosciutto
4 slices Swiss cheese
fig jam
olive oil

Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.  Preheat oven to broil setting.

Cut baguette (crosswise) into 4 equal pieces.  Cut those pieces into halves (so you have a top and bottom piece.

Lay bread on cookie sheet.  On bottom portion bread, spread a layer of butter, then layer of fig jam. Place 2 slices of prosciutto on each bottom.  Add 1 slice of Swiss cheese on top of prosciutto. Drizzle a little olive oil on the cut top piece of bread and a little on the cheese.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both breads.

Place cookie sheet under broil for about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes.  * Keep an eye on them, as they broil really fast.  Take out of oven and put top piece of bread on lower piece, while the cheese is still hot. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

GGMa...Our Angel and Her Cake

Our family favorite!
This past week we had the fortunate time of taking a family vacation to one of our favorite destinations...Sunriver, Oregon.  We packed up the car and traveled on our adventurous road trip for some quality, family downtime.  No school, no sports, no work and best of stress!

Near the end of our vacation, we were so blessed to have my Grandmother and Aunt Gayle come for a visit and stay the night with us.  They are both the salt of the earth, amazing ladies and I am so happy that we were able to spend time with them.

We were very spoiled when they arrived with not only their famous deviled eggs, an amazing marinated tri tip steak for dinner, and for dessert, "GGMa" delivered her awesome Angel Food Cake to share with us, complete with fresh strawberries and Cool Whip (which she knows, is a requirement to enjoy homemade angel food cake).

Grandma gave me her Angel Food Cake recipe over 20 years ago and who knows how many generations it goes back in her family.  It is one of those tried and true recipes that continues to get passed down in families, just like her famous Snickerdoodle Recipe, that we continue to make and love.

Grandma truly has been and continues to be our Angel and we love her dearly.

GGMa's Angel Food Cake
Courtesy of Grandma (aka GGMa) and Aunt Juanita

1 cup, plus 1 Tbl. sifted flour
3/4 cup sugar
*** Sift together 5 times in a bowl and set aside.

14 egg whites
1/2 tsp. salt
***Beat on medium high, until quite foamy with electric mixer.

Add 1-1/2 tsp. cream of tartar 
***Beat until nice soft peaks.

Sprinkle in 1 cup sugar while beating until unable to feel sugar grains.

Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Add 1 tsp. almond extract

Beat on low while gradually adding the sifted flour and sugar mixture.

Bake in ungreased tube pan at 375 degrees (preheated oven) for 35 minutes.

Let cool at least one hour, when cake has separated from the sides, before removing from pan.

One Year Ago: Baja Turkey Tacos
Two Years Ago: Sunrise Bars

Beautiful McKenzie River in Blue River, Oregon