Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blackberry Sangria, The Spice Shop and Stella's Surprise

I recently learned a new culinary craze going around....Pistachio Liqueur.  I was searching out a recipe to make Pistachio Chantilly for our anniversary dessert this past week (more on that another day).  In doing so, I found the liqueur on from Italy.  Well, that wasn't going to work, since I needed it that afternoon, of course.

So, I kept my research going and figured out I can use Pistachio Extract...also not your run of the mill pantry item I quickly learned.  Why I take on these challenging creations, I have no idea!! Fortunately I found the most amazing world renowned Spice Shop, right in our own Colorado backyard, in Boulder.  Savory*Spice*Shop !! Jackpot!!  Not only did I find my Pistachio Extract, I also stumbled on their amazing unique ingredients and recipe for a Blackberry Sangria.

While my new concoction steeped, I put together a Kindergarten "Graduation" (really more of a celebrate your summer - welcome to 1st Grade) gift basket for my niece Stella.  I have decided these fun baskets are going to be "my thing" for little graduates...nieces, nephews, friends, grand babies.  You know how every grandma, aunt, etc has their own special gift they do, well, these will be my tradition.  I did the same thing for our granddaughter last year and she loved it!!  Actually, I just love playing with the clip art and publisher programs...too much fun!!

Stella's special care package all packed up and ready to send out today.

Our new summer beverage - so refreshing!!

Blackberry Sangria
from Savory Spice Shop

1 bottle dry white wine
1/2 cup Hibiscus-Lavender Simple Syrup*
1/4 cup Cointreau (or any other orange flavored liqueur)
1 pint fresh blackberries (or frozen)
1 orange, sliced in rounds, then quartered

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher and chill for 6-8 hours.  Serve over ice.

*Hibiscus-Lavender Simple Syrup
(makes 1 cup)

1/2 cup honey powder
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. hibiscus flowers
1 Tbsp. dried lavender

Whisk honey powder and water together in a small saucepan.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to make sure honey powder dissolves and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and add hibiscus and lavender.  Cover and allow mixture to steep until room temperature, about 20 minutes.  Strain and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  Use within 2 weeks.

A toast to this year's Graduates!!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chip Coconut Scones
Two Years Ago: Seafood and Waterfalls

Monday, May 23, 2016

Grilled Cobb Salad and Crack

So, the other night my husband comes home from work with something cradled under his arm.  I couldn't quite see it because his jacket was draped over the mystery container.  He removed his jacket and there it was...CRACK!!  I said to him, "Are you kidding me!!!  Why did you bring crack into this house??!!"

It's been a couple of years since I walked into a Trader Joe's...for a very good reason.  I cannot resist their Crispy Crunch (Crack) Chocolate Chip Cookies or any of their other naughty delicacies.  I have no doubt that I could put away every single one of those cookies in one sitting, sprawled out on the couch with my favorite throw blanket, while watching Eat Pray Love, my latest movie addiction..and I'm not exaggerating here!  I told my husband he better hide them from me, or it's going to be ugly!

I'll just leave it at that....

This salad is the perfect meal if you have also been guilty in overindulging.  This is your go-to salad when you are needing to use up some "here and there" items in the refrigerator.  The traditional Cobb Salad is made with blue cheese salad dressing, but I really like a creamy Italian dressing, which (my "fancy" version) is no more than equal parts prepared Newman's Own Family Recipe Italian salad dressing and Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing, whisked together...fancy, right?!

Grilled Cobb Salad
Makes 4 Dinner Size Servings

1 head romaine lettuce, washed, and chopped
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and diced
6 slices Applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
1/2 cup prepared Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup prepared ranch salad dressing
Asiago croutons

Combine the first seven salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss with the two salad dressings.  Plate the dressed salad on four dinner plates and finish with the Asiago croutons.

If you are still hungry after this amazing salad, you can have Chocolate Chip Crack for dessert too. Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Two Years Ago: Pork Wellington

Thursday, May 19, 2016

2020 and a Time Out

Every now and again you need to take a time out and breathe...have a seat, take a sip and enjoy a special sunset.

We had a rare opportunity to go out a few weeks ago and try a place that we had not been to.  Even after moving here almost four years ago, it's amazing to think how many places we still haven't been to experience yet.

I had read about a place called 2020 Food + Wine Bar here in town.  Small venue with fun tapas plates and wine tastings.  Causal sofa seating and great patio area.  
The atmosphere was perfect for a "wine down day" and the music was awesome!

We went with the server's recommendations for their Happy Hour specials and they definitely did not disappoint.  Their authentic Italian wood-fired pizza oven on the patio made for a finale that was out of this world good!

Their perfectly paired Cabernet Savignon did not disappoint either.

We enjoyed our meal and time at 2020 so much that I wanted to re-create it a few weeks later during a staycation weekend date night.  Always fun to relive and enjoy memories in the comforts of your own home or's what I put together.  Buon Appetito!

Mortadella  * Whole Grain Mustard * Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives * Soppressata
Fig Jam * Rustic Baguette * Sea Salt Crispy Bread Sticks

Spanish Marcona Olive Oil and Sea Salt Almonds * Brie Cheese * Green Grapes
Water Crackers * Sweetened Dried Cranberries * Merlot Bellavitano Cheese

Soul Sister Pinot Noir


One Year Ago: Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
Two Years Ago: Pork Wellington

Monday, May 16, 2016

Chicken Piccata and The Prom

After much anticipation (and a month long weather delay), Prom finally arrived this past weekend.  Nails were done, hair appointments completed, shoes and dresses ready to go...the Golden Globes theme Prom was set and in full motion.

Even a little chill in the air and overcast skies didn't stop these girls from bringing their finest glamour to the evening!  My babies are all grown up...brings a tear (actually several as of late) to my eyes.

We enjoyed our own little date night with my husband's favorite Chicken Piccata.

Chicken Piccata
Courtesy of Cuisine at Home Magazine

** Recipe is so good and easy, you will want to double this!!

4 chicken cutlets
2 Tbl. canola oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbl. capers, drained
2 Tbl. butter
fresh lemon slices

Season cutlets with salt and pepper then dust with flour.  Spray saute pan with nonstick spray, add vegetable oil, and heat over medium-high.

Saute cutlets 2-3 minutes on on side.  Flip the cutlets over and saute the other side 1-2 minutes with the pan covered.  Transfer cutlets to a warm plate; pour off fat from the pan.

Deglaze pan with wine and add minced garlic.  Cook until garlic is slightly brown and liquid is nearly gone, about 2 minutes.

Add broth, lemon juice, and capers.  Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side 1 minutes.  Transfer cutlets to a warm plate.

Finish with butter and lemon slices.  Once butter melts, pour sauce over cutlets.

One Year Ago: Braised Crockpot Balsamic Steak
Two Years Ago: Loaded Hasselback Potatoes

...and speaking of chicken, I was fortunate enough to have Buffalo Wild Wings  and Texas Roadhouse donate 350 wings for the After Prom party at school.  Everyone knows how hungry teenagers are at we helped make the special delivery!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

One Pan Sour Cream Enchilada Skillet and Spring

It's a beautiful National Day of Prayer, Cinco de Mayo and Spring day here in Colorado.  Birds were chirping quite early this morning and Theo could not wait to get to his sunny patio.  We have a new German Shepard puppy "Zoe", that moved in behind us.  Theo has not decided if he likes her or not but rest assured, he keeps an eye on her every move all day long!!!

Given that Spring has finally arrived here I hope, that means the bugs and bees have all hatched and are making their way through the neighborhood...which is never good!  I know right know they are all huddled together and strategizing how they can torment me for the next five months.  Since all our snow and cold snaps we experienced this season for such a long time, we like to now keep the doors open and get a nice cross breeze going through the house.  Yesterday afternoon my daughter gave one of her horror movie screams that a wasp had entered the house...just love those screams...not!!

To solve this seasonal challenge, I hit my favorite ACE Hardware and invested my hard earned $12.66 (because I had a coupon of course) and purchased the "Magic Mesh".  I know it may seem like a little "back country decor", but I'm pretty excited about it.  It's a win-win for everyone...I get fresh air in the house, Theo can continue to spy on his new girlfriend and my daughter can now save her vocal chords from those awful screams!!

If you're wanting to also spend more time on your patio this evening and less time in the kitchen, this dish is also a win-win!!  One pan and goes together so easy with awesome flavors throughout it.  It's a little on the rich side, so you can just add some diced avocados, tomatoes and green onions, then it will be a "healthier version" I'm sure.

One Pan Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Skillet
Adapted from

3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles
1 (4 oz.) can chopped black olives
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup sour cream
12 corn tortillas, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup colby-jack cheese, grated

Optional Toppings:
hot sauce
avocado, peeled and diced
tomatoes, diced
green onions, diced

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat until melted.  Stir in flour, cook for 1 minute and whisk in chicken broth.  Continue stirring until smooth and thickened, about 2-3 minutes.

Stir chili powder, salt, oregano, green chiles and black olives into the sauce and place chicken breasts into pan.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and cook 15-30 minutes (depending on size of chicken breasts) or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken from pan, leaving the heat on low and place chicken on a plate to shred into bite-sized pieces.

Stir sour cream into the sauce and return chicken to the pan along with the tortilla pieces.  Stir until combined and top with grated cheese.  Cover pan and cook for 5-10 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is melted.

One Year Ago: Lemon Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze
Two Years Ago: Margarita Cupcakes

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sweet Samoas Cake for a Sweet Victory

We ended our club volleyball season with a sweet 1st Place victory at the last tournament!  Proud mama moment as I have never seen my girls play so incredible in their entire career...(that would be because I couldn't get any of it on video that day) of course they played like professionals when I can't get it recorded for recruiters...oh, well at least we have the fun memories of the day!!

The team came home with their 2nd pin (for 1st place in a tournament) for the season this year. These pins have more value to them than anyone could possibly understand!

...and speaking of pins.  Back in the day when my girls were Girl Scouts, they had to participate in the annual cookie sales each year (to earn a pin or patch) which was also priceless!  One year I had the insane idea to volunteer and be "The Cookie Mom".  We had cookies in every room of the house, from wall-to-wall and floor to ceiling.

The downside of being the cookie mom was that you had to look and smell at all the wonderful cookie flavors every day!!  

Today, we still support our local Girl Scout troops and buy cookies from them every year.  Oddly enough though, we ended up with a box of Samoas that never got touched.  I think we just burned out on them from so many years of cookies sales and inventory in our house.

I had heard about cookbooks using Girl Scout cookies as an ingredient.  I searched out and found this cake that is so over the top and I'm embarrassed to say that I couldn't stay out of it!  I have just recently lost about 20 pounds and I think gained half of it back from this cake (well maybe not that much) worth it though!!!

Samoas Mascarpone Filled Layer Cake

1 recipe butter cake (original recipe features directions from scratch)
1 recipe Samoas Mascarpone filling (recipe follows)
1 recipe coconut buttercream (recipe follows)
1 recipe ganache (recipe follows)
1 cup caramel sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup toasted, sweetened coconut (optional)

For the butter cake:
1 box of Butter Cake flavored mix (or you can make your own from scratch)

For the Mascarpone Samoas Filling:
1 ½ cups chilled heavy whipping cream
½ cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 box Samaos (20 cookies), smashed into pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup powdered sugar

Coconut Buttercream:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
pinch of salt
2 tsp. coconut extract (found in baking aisle)
¼ cup heavy cream
3 cups powdered sugar

Chocolate Ganache:
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup corn syrup

For the Cake:
Spray two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray and line the bottom of the pans with parchment circles. Don’t skip the parchment as your cake will most likely stick to the bottom without out it…cakes are mean like that.

Prepare your cake mix according to package directions.

For 8 and 9-inch pans bake for about 25 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched in center and a wooden skewer comes out clean. 

Let cakes cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pans.  Let cool completely once out of pans.
Wrap in plastic and chill for several hours or overnight. This helps the cake stay together when making the layer cake.

For the Samoas Mascarpone Filling:
Using a cold mixer bowl with the whisk attachment beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form.
Add the mascarpone, vanilla, and powdered sugar and beat until it forms stiff peaks.
Fold in the Samoas cookie pieces.
Put in a separate bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to assemble cake.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat together the butter and powdered sugar.
**Add one cup of the powdered sugar on low at first (to avoid it flying everywhere).
Add the heavy cream and beat until combined.
Add the remaining powdered sugar and beat until fully combined.
If it’s too thin add a little more powdered sugar. If too thick thin with more heavy cream.

Place the chocolate chips and corn syrup in medium bowl.
In a small saucepan bring the cream to a boil.
Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and corn syrup.

Let sit for 5 minutes.
Whisk the cream into the chocolate, it should combine easily. Whisk until smooth and glossy.

Cake Assembly:
If you used 8 or 9-inch cake sizes, then split the cakes in half horizontally. 
Spread the Samoas mascarpone filling between the layers. If making the 8 or 9-in cakes you will have thinner layers.
Place the cake in the fridge for an hour.
Frost with the coconut buttercream. You can do a crumb coat if you like. But you don’t want super thick layers of frosting as this is being covered in caramel and chocolate.
Spoon the caramel on top to the edges so it drips down the sides.
Spoon the ganache on top of the caramel again to the edges so that it drips down the sides.
Add toasted coconut and an extra cookie (if you have any left) for garnish (optional).

One Year Ago: "Un-Fried" Fried Ice Cream
Two Years Ago: White Pizza