Saturday, December 31, 2011

.so long and faired well.

when i reflect on 2011 like many of us are doing today, i've gotta tell you- i feel really blessed. while there were those moments that left me breathless like losing my little mochaccino and a very rough start to a work year, there were so many others that took my breath away.
in the spring of this year, i married my eye guy and sealed our deal forever. it's me and you, kid. with our marriage, we both gained new forever families. i couldn't be more grateful for all the wonderful people that have been added to my life.

in the summer, we rescued and adopted our scraggly, rollin-about, grunting, adorable applejack. and, poptart loves his new brother. we're a happy family.

friends have had babies, others have celebrated their babies' varying birthdays, others yet have become engaged to be married themselves and start their next chapter.

i gave birth to this, my blog, in 2011 and that in and of itself has been a sweet journey for me in both my kitchen and with writing, a true passion for me.

on the days i'm upset about how tight my pants are or how early i have to wake up for work or why i can't find anything to cook for dinner, let me remember all that i do have. putting things in perspective isn't always practical and is even harder to do all the time. however, i would like to make strides in the year ahead to do just that.

with 2012 a blink away, i look at the twelve blank chapters that lie before me and wonder what tales i'll write this year. what about yourself? our best stories come from what we overcome and accomplish. i wish for you stories of triumph, humor, adventure, love and most of all peace. happy writing...

Monday, December 26, 2011

.sweet tater waffles.

what to do with all those leftover sweet about make a savory sweet tater waffle?

take one baked sweet potato and mash it up really well. mix in 1/2 an egg. wait a second, half an egg? yes, just scramble it and use only half. you trust me, right?

go ahead and heat up your waffle maker and spray it with some non-stick spray.

then, mix in a dash of salt, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of ginger. if you have little tiny hands, maybe do two pinches. if you have huge, giant hands, don't overdo your pinches now. add one 1/3 cup cake flour. keep stirring.

take 1 tbs butter and 1/8 cups of milk and mix, mix, mix. if you are not as a big a fan of math as i am, i'll let you in on a little number secret. take your 1/4 measuring cup and just fill it halfway up.

pour your sweet tater batter in your heated waffle maker and sprinkle a few chopped pecans over top. close the lid and let the waffle maker make. once the waffle is well formed, add a little dollop of butter and sprinkle some more cinnamon on top. you've got yourself a baked sweet potato in waffle form. enjoy.

sweet tater waffles
what you need
1 baked sweet tater
1/2 an egg
dash of salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ginger
dash of cinnamon
1 tbs butter
1/8 cup milk
few chopped pecans
1/3 cup cake flour

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

.buffalo chicken tacos.

let me frank. i'll be me of course, but i intend to have you let me put it bluntly. this is an easy recipe.

chop up some celery and toss it with ranch or blue cheese dressing. chop up some lettuce of your choice. we like really dark green lettuce in our house. chop up some cooked chicken and toss it with a concoction of buffalo wing sauce. chop up some tortillas- wait- i got carried away. just get out some tortillas.

layer the tacos like so: buffalo winged chicken (that's not in fact wings at all), then lettuce, then celery swimming in ranch or blue cheese. if you have it on hand (which i did not), some blue cheese crumbled on top would totally take this taco to a divine level.

for you vegetarians, yeah, i'm talking to me. use some fake chicken. you know you love morning star farm products. yeah, i'm talking to me again.

dinner is done.

buffalo chicken tacos
what you need
chicken breasts (one large breast should be enough for 2-3 tacos)
buffalo wing sauce or buffalo wing dip for added thickness
ranch or blue cheese dressing
tortillas (one per taco hehe)
blue cheese crumbles (optional)

what to do
cook your chicken on the stovetop or in the oven. chop it up and mix with buffalo winginess. chop up your celery into little pieces and toss with dressing.
prepare your lettuce for tacos by chopping into smaller pieces. assemble all ingredients inside tortilla and top with blue cheese crumbles if you have some on hand. serve it up with a big smile on your face.

.welcome to the neighborhood.

when some close friends introduced us to their friends from another part of tennessee, i knew they were good people. friendly and kind, i was excited to soon learn they'd be moving to memphis themselves due to a career change.

there are three of them, if you're counting the little baby boy hidden inside that baby bump. what an exciting time in their lives and i can only imagine the jitters of a new city, new home, new career and new baby all at once.

.new mixers maiden voyage for new beginnings.

so, what would be the perfect magic elixir to ease all their nerves? cookies. ok, maybe it isn't an answer in and of itself, but it sure is a nice way to welcome someone to the "neighborhood."

i used this recipe for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and hoped that the growing baby would enjoy them the most.

to finish up the welcome gift, i boxed the sweets in a little white box.

then, added some ribbon for pizazz and cuteness. who doesn't love cuteness?

welcome to memphis- we hope you're going to like it here!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

.granola a.k.a. crack.

am i allowed to just write "do this. it's good."? sure i am, i can write whatever i want. but you probably know by now that i'm not really an expert in keeping things precise.

i had a craving come to me that i wore like an invisible food cloak all day. without shaking it, my only choice was to make it happen. to make it.

granola. it really is a simple concept, but man can it be delicious. here's how to make some for yourself. preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

mix 3 cups of oats in a large bowl with 1/3 cup sliced almonds, and 1/2 cup coconut.

add a tsp each of cinnamon and salt. the cinnamon will give a much needed punch of taste and the salt will bring out the flavor in everything. it is a magical ingredient.

set the bowl of mixed ingredients to the side and grab a saucepan. melt one stick of unsalted butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup of honey until it is one cohesive sticky liquid.

once the saucepan mixture is a smooth liquid, pour it over your bowl of dry ingredients and mix it all together. let me just warn you of something right here. if you do not like the most enticing aroma ever, do not make this because your nostrils will be under a wonderful attack.

spread your granola mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet. bake for 15 minutes and then remove to toss. bake for another 15 minutes and remove to toss once more. then, finish it off by baking for another 10 minutes.

after allowing the flavored oats-turned-granola to cool completely, feel free to add some little tasties. i added dried cranberries to mine, but you could add your favorite dried fruit, some dark chocolate, mini marshmallows, whatever suits your taste buds.

this stuff is food crack. my eye guy and i both love nibbling on it. top some greek yogurt with this stuff and you have a dynamic breakfast. mix it with frozen yogurt and add a lovely crunch to your dessert.

believe me when i tell you that you want to make this so you can eat it. and share it. and make friends by doing so.

3 cups oats
1/3 cup almonds
1/2 cup coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey

preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
mix in a large bowl the oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon and salt. set aside. in a separate saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and honey until the sugar is all melted. pour the melted mixture over the bowl of dry ingredients and mix.
on a parchment lined baking sheet, spread our your granola flavored oats mixture. with a little heat, it will soon be granola.
bake for 15 minutes, then remove and toss the mixture. bake for another 15 minutes and toss once again. after an additional 10 minutes of baking, toss one last time and allow to cool completely.
after your browned granola has completely cooled, add in some tasty ingredients like dried fruit, dark chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or whatever flavor you like. after one last toss, you have a good amount of delicious granola. there's enough to share.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

.tangy wonton tacos.

oftentimes, there are nights where i feel like my creative dinner juices are more dry than a sleeve of crackers. i'll find myself going towards a staple dish like pasta or enchiladas. however, i prefer trying something new whenever i can, a dish to add to the nighttime repertoire. hence, the beauty of searching for internet recipes provides me that chance.

this recipe i found for wonton tacos is a keeper. not only is it a unique dish, but it is low calorie and really simple to make. i think you're going to like this one too.

i've discovered that keeping a pack of wonton wrappers in the fridge is an excellent idea for all of the different purposes it can serve. so, i started by pulling out 8 of them, draped them over a baking dish into two triangles and turned them a little crunchy in the oven. doing this forms the taco to fill with the yummy stuffings.

while the original recipe calls for chicken, i had some tofu to try out. hey, i can hear you gagging! just stay with me here. even though i'm a long time vegetarian, i can count on my hand the number of times i've actually bought tofu. mainly, i just can't seem to cook it as well as restaurants can and the texture always bothers me. i decided to try again with this recipe by pan-cooking it in a wee bit of cooking spray on the stovetop. i flipped the pieces of firm tofu i'd cut up back and forth until they had a bit of a crisp to them. now, if you are still gagging, feel more than welcome to use chicken like the original recipe suggests.

in a separate microwave safe dish, mix the cole slaw mix and asian dressing and then nuke for about a minute. this will soften the crispy cole slaw a bit and make it mesh well with the dish.

while the mix is microwaving, go ahead and mix your tofu (or chicken) with the bbq sauce. spray a baking sheet and place your eight wonton tacos on it. stuff them with the bbq mixture and top with the asian dressing mixture. you'll only need to bake them for about 5 minutes and ta-da- you're done!

a little extra crunch is something i will never turn down. so, i topped mine with crunchy chow mein noodles. if your goal is a low calorie recipe, you probably should skip this step.

see, i promised you it would be easy. not only are these little buggers simple to make, but they are oh so very good. they have a nice variety of flavors in every bite and you don't even feel guilty when you're finished. i served up four to both my eye guy and myself. i wish i had one ready right now to pop in my mouth. only one way to satisfy that craving...

wonton tacos
adapted from hungry girl

8 small square wonton wrappers (usually stocked with the tofu in the refrigerated section of the market)
1 cup dry coleslaw mix
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (i omitted)
2 tbsp. Newman's Own Lighten Up! Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing (i used kraft low fat asian sesame dressing)
4 oz. cooked and shredded (or finely chopped) skinless lean chicken breast (i used tofu)
2 tbsp. BBQ sauce with about 45 calories per 2-tbsp. serving
1/3 cup chow mein noodles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray the inside and outside walls of a deep square or rectangular baking pan with nonstick spray. Evenly drape the wonton wrappers over the pan's walls on a diagonal, making triangle-shaped "shells." (Use two pans, if needed, to keep wontons from overlapping.) Bake until just crispy enough to hold their shape, about 3 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven, but leave oven on. Carefully remove wontons and gently open to form "taco shells." Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine coleslaw mix, cilantro, and dressing. Mix well. Cover and microwave for about 1 minute, until slightly softened. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine chicken with BBQ sauce; mix well and set aside.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute the BBQ chicken among the shells, followed by the slaw, about 1 tbsp. of each per shell. Lay the filled shells gently on their sides on the baking sheet.

Spray the shells lightly with nonstick spray. Bake until warm and crunchy, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly and then serve!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

.pumpkin roll.

it has happened a couple of times and every time it does, it truly delights me. i get a special request to make something.

this time, it came from one of my closest friends and she even offered to buy all the tools and ingredients to make it happen. for selfish reasons, i wanted my own jelly roll pan and so just went ahead and got one without her knowing and surprised her one day with the finished product.

her request? a traditional pumpkin roll. after much research, i discovered that the beauty of the pumpkin roll is in the delicacy of the roll itself. so, i read lots of tips and tricks on how to form a successful roll. putting all of the internet advice into one clump in my mind, i was ready to roll. cheesy? yes, i know.

with the ingredients of the season from cinnamon to pumpkin to allspice, this was an aromatic recipe and i was anxious to steal a bite of the finished product.

following the instructions like an 'a' student should, my roll turned out just fine and dandy. see for yourself!

the version of the classic recipe i chose to make included fun tidbits like toffee pieces in the cream cheese filling. after presenting the cake to my gal pal, she even let me have a piece. i must confess. i didn't really ask her to begin with, i had to taste it.

the recipe is yummy, but i have decided that pumpkin cake is not my favorite holiday treat. personally, i'd rather have another slice of this pumpkin pound cake.

pumpkin roll
from the joy of baking
3/4 cup (100 grams) all purposeflour
1/2 teaspoon bakingpowder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 largeeggs, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated whitesugar< 1/2 teaspoon purevanillaextract 2/3 cup (150 grams) pumpkin puree

8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
2tablespoons(28 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (115 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (130 grams) Heath Bits 'O Brickleor other nut brickle

Confectioners' (powdered or icing) Sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a non-stick vegetable spray, a 15 inch (38 cm) x 10 inch (25 cm) bakingpan, line it with parchment paper, and then butter and flour the parchment paper (or spray with Baker's Joy).

Sift, into a large bowl, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.
Place the eggs along with the sugar in your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (can also use a hand mixer). Beat on high speed for five minutes, or until thick, pale yellow, and fluffy. (When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons.) Beat in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree. Gently fold in the siftedflourmixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, evenly spreading the cake batter with an offset spatula or knife.

Bake for about 13 -15 minutesor until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake, when lightly pressed, springs back.

Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven invert the pumpkin roll onto a clean dish towel that has been sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Carefully remove the parchment paper, sprinkle lightly with confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, and roll up the pumpkin roll, with the towel, while it is still hot and pliable. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Filling: Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Then fold in the butter brickle or nuts.

To Assemble:Unroll the pumpkin roll, spread with the filling, and reroll. Transfer to your serving platter. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. (You can serve this cake immediately but chilling it for a few hours, or even overnight, sets the filling and makes it easier to slice.) Just before serving,dustwith confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar.
Serves about 6 - 8 people.

.candied grapes.

how about a little twist on the traditional candied apple? and by little, i'm talking grape-sized. the one magazine that i must get each month is every day with rachael ray. she's my martha stewart and i just love her and her magazine's editors. so when i ran across this super simple, super cute recipe for candied grapes, i just couldn't resist. let me show you how it's done.

put toothpicks, preferably decorative on the end sticking out, in about 36 grapes. feel free to pop a few extras in your mouth as you go. you're working hard after all. wait- you do i mean grapes and not toothpicks, right?

boil your granulated sugar and grape juice and stir in the corn syrup. to prevent a mess on the insides of your pot from hardened crystallization, keep scraping the sides down with a pastry brush. if you don't have one, a wooden spoon or spatula would help.

in a small bowl, combine the grape nuts and brown sugar. the original recipe doesn't call for brown sugar, but i found the cereal to be terribly drab without it. i needed a little pop of extra sweet.

after about 30-45 minutes of boiling your sugar mixture, it is ready to go. dip each toothpicked grape into the liquid and then immediately into the grape nuts. they'll stick and form a cute little candied grape. as it dries, the candy coating will harden for a nice contrast to the juicy grape beneath.

serve on a pretty party platter for a swanky presentation. i would show you a picture of that if i had one, but i don't. so, you'll just have to imagine. try not to let your eye guy eat them before they're ready to serve to guests. what, you don't have an eye guy? well, you know what i mean.

candied grapes
adapted from every day with rachael ray
2 cups Grape-Nuts cereal
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup grape juice
36 large, firm seedless grapes, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup brown sugar (my addition for sweetness)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Place the Grape-Nuts in a small bowl; set aside.

Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of a deep 3- to 4-qt. saucepan. Combine the sugar and grape juice in the pan and boil over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar is melted. Stir in the corn syrup. Continue to cook, brushing down the sides of the pot with a moistened pastry brush to prevent crystallization and adjusting the heat as needed to prevent boiling over. Remove from the heat when the mixture registers 305° (hard-crack stage) on the thermometer, about 45 minutes.

Working with 1 grape at a time and holding on to the toothpick, dip the grape into the sugar syrup, tilting the pan and rotating the toothpick to coat the fruit in a thin, even layer. Lift the grape and twirl gently and carefully over the pot to let the excess drip off. Immediately dip the bottom half of the grape into the Grape-Nuts (mixed with brown sugar) and stand cereal end down on the prepared baking sheet. Let cool for 10 minutes at room temperature before serving. Repeat with the remaining grapes, reheating the sugar syrup over low heat as needed to restore fluidity.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

.ornament wreath.

oh do i have a joyous craft for you to try! maybe i should say joyful because this is a fantastic one for the holidays. i've seen ornament wreaths all over the web and thought, "i can do that!." so, i did.

if you are the type to decorate your tree with purple and silver or hot pink with sequins or a snow white affair, this is still a great decoration for you. the beauty of creating your own ornament wreath is that you can choose whatever color scheme or theme you want. you're making it. i used my hardware store wreath base that i created when making my book page wreath. you can definitely work with a pre-made foam wreath as well.

after forming my foam circle, i wrapped the whole thing in christmas red ribbon so that any parts peaking out would blend in nicely with the ornament colors i chose. for my very first ornament wreath, i went with the traditional colors of red, green and gold.

now, these babies are pricey if you buy them in a store and i also had no intention of buying fancy schmancy ornaments in order to turn this project into a bank breaker. instead, i marched myself right into the dollar tree and stocked up. in total, the supplies to make this ornament wreath were approximately fifteen dollars. not bad, eh?

ok, start by laying out lots of your ornaments and heating up your hot glue gun. i hot glued and wrapped the red ribbon all the way around then started adding on the bigger ornaments first. i sometimes worked in clusters, then other times jumped to the other side of the wreath. i just let the wreath speak to me. ok, not really, but i wanted to see if you were still reading.

the smaller ornaments can be used to fill in the gaps. i figured i'd be gluing all of the ornaments to the wreath itself, but soon found that i was actually gluing quite a few of them to other ornaments only. that method ends up adding depth to the wreath.

you'll know you are done when you look down at your wreath and feel like it looks complete. i was not sure how i would know myself, but there was a moment when i stepped away and felt it looked like a finished project. voila- happy holidays to me!

in all, i probably used around 50 medium sized ornaments and maybe 15-20 small ones. have some back-up glue sticks ready to go and a little time on your hands. this didn't take all day by any means, but you'll probably need to set aside about an entire episode of House and half an NCIS to do it in.

to hang it, i used a wreath hook i already had and just looped it through. if it were on my front door, i wouldn't be able to look at it longingly. so, i instead hung it over a prominent window in our living room where we can enjoy it all the time. just looking at it right now makes me want to fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!