28 July 2009

I'm Back!!!

I just got home from the left coast and am worn out. I got the worst sunburn of my life after having spent all day Sunday at Poway Park and then all day Monday at Torrey Pines beach. I promise that I will never forget my sunblock again. With that being said, here are some pictures to tide you over until I get unpacked and am able to be in the kitchen with the stove on without my body feeling like it's on fire (not kidding, I feel like a bag of poo that was lit on fire and then stomped out).

This is my cousin Vanessa and her new husband, Will.

Me and my cousin Celissa. I love this little girl!

I made cake balls for my Uncle Robert at my Aunt Bea's house. When I came across her stash of 70s bowls, I was giddily happy. They are way too awesome!

This is my Nana and Papa (my mom's parents). They will be married for 57 years in August.

My Auntie Ellen made this cake for Vanessa's wedding (she also made mine as well as several other family members' wedding cakes). In November, she'll get to make her son's cake (he'll be the first of her four boys to get married).

This is the family (minus about 60, about half hadn't made it into the room yet and the other half wasn't able to come to the reunion). This is just my mom's family.

This is the family again, milling about after having a family photo taken (I didn't get one on my camera, but I'll get a copy from someone else later).

This is Torrey Pines beach. I've never seen the ocean this blue.

This is the top of my shoulder. It's not great quality, but it shows just how burned I got (it doesn't look as bad as it feels).

22 July 2009

Breakfast for Dinner

Tonight you get a two-fer. Hopefully this will make up for my absence over the last week and, hopefully again, hold you over until next week (I leave on Friday and will be spending tomorrow evening finishing packing and cleaning).

For the past few days I have been craving scones. I think this has to do with what I made over the weekend: lavender jam. It's more like a thick syrup than a true jam, but it's earthy and a bit sweet. I found the recipe via Brownie Points who linked to another blog. The scone recipe comes from one of my Irish cookbooks.

The scones are simple, and you should have most if not all of the ingredients on hand. What's really nice about the recipe is that it can be adapted (I love adaptable recipes). Sometimes, I stick with the plain scones, as the recipe is written, but other times I like to throw in some chocolate chips. It would also be good with some cinnamon and nutmeg or cardamom. Sprinkled with some brown sugar instead of white, I think it would taste like Christmas.

The jam was fairly straight forward as well. It calls for some alcohol, but it can be made fairly cheaply if you grow your own lavender (I'm looking at you, Sabine). I got my lavender from one of our local farmers' markets from a stall owned by The Spice Market. I'm thinking that when I get home from the reunion, I'll make some more and include it in my jam exchange (depending on how far my package will have to travel, I may even throw in some homemade scones). Just a word to the wise, be sure you really like lavender or are feeling adventurous. It's a different taste than let's say a lavender ice cream. Enjoy!

Recipe from Irish Cooking

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 Tbl sugar, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cold butter, cut into 8 pieces (one stick)
1.3 cup cold milk
2 eggs, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place flour, 4 Tbl sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Mix together.
  2. Using a pastry blender (or your hands, that's what I do), add butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (the actual recipe calls for using a food processor, but I prefer to use my hands for the whole recipe).
  3. Reserving 1 Tbl of the milk and egg mixture, add the milk mixture and mix until the flour is blended in and dough is soft.
  4. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Shape into a ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Roll or pat into 8-inch circle. Cut dough into wedges using long sharp knife. Leave wedges in place, keeping circle in tact.
  5. Brush reserved milk mixture over dough. Sprinkle remaining 1 Tbl sugar over dough. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack. Pull wedges apart to serve.

Lavender Jam
Recipe from JoAnna’s Food

10g dried lavender
50g caster sugar
2tablespoons of honey
150ml Marsala
100ml crème de cassis
120ml water

  1. Put all the ingredients into a heavy saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, until you have a syrup. Pour into a sterilised jar.

21 July 2009

Simple Meal Monday

So I just spent half an hour on this post and Blogger deleted it. I'll try again later.

Here we go again, round two. I had every intention of posting this yesterday but got distracted by other things (namely a hot bath because I smelled from running). Then I planned to post it this morning, but we all know how that turned out. Anyway, I title this post Simple Meal Monday because it truly is one of the easiest meals you can make.

In my family, we call them taco pockets (it's exactly what it sounds like). It's based off a recipe for Taco Ring from Pampered Chef that I had tried at one my mom's PC parties that she hosted years ago. We've been hooked ever since, but it's a bit time consuming to do the ring. That's how the pockets came around (I'm sure others have done this too). It only requires four ingredients, one of which isn't necessary. It can also be altered and suited to your own family's tastes. Enjoy!

Taco Pockets

Recipe adapted from Pampered Chef

1 lb ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
2 tubes crescent rolls
Shredded cheese (amount depends on how much you like; we love a lot but others could do without).
  1. Preheat oven according to crescent roll package. In a medium-sized pan, brown the ground beef. Drain and add taco seasoning and any other ingredients the package calls for (mine called for 3/4 cup water). Bring to a boil and simmer until the juice has been soaked up by the meat.
  2. Open crescent roll packages and place crescents on a baking sheet. Do not separate (you want a package of 8 crescents to make 4 rectangles). Place about 3 Tbl of the meat on one side of the rectangle. Top with cheese. Fold the rectangle over and pinch the sides closed.
  3. Place in the preheated oven and cook according to the crescent roll package.

Thanks to PB Swirl and Meg for your words of encouragement. I really appreciate it.

17 July 2009

Dinner and a Movie!

Sorry I haven't posted in the past couple of days. It's been a bit busy around here, but I'm back now and will be until next Friday when I leave for the west coast for my family reunion (I'll try to at least post some photos of my family while I'm gone).

Tonight, I had a Greek night. It was my first foray into Greek food, if you don't count the Greek salads I've had (which I don't since I didn't make them, natch). Since I went Greek, I had to go with a Greek movie. I realize it's not actually Greek, but it's still a great movie. Can you guess what it is? Yeah, My Big Fat Greek Wedding starring Nia Vardalos. I don't know what it is about this movie, but I love it. Every time it comes on TV, I watch it. I just can't help myself. When it showed up the $5 bin at Wal-Mart, I jumped at the chance to own it. One of my favorite scenes is near the beginning when a 6-year old Toula brings her lunch to school. "What's that?" the little blond girl asks snidely. " Moussakas," little Toula answers. "Moose caca?!??" And so begins the movie.

When my husband was sent to Greece, he came across an awesome cookbook that he sent me. I hadn't had the opportunity to use it until last weekend when I saw it sitting on my cookbook shelf, beckoning me. When I opened it and came across the recipe for moussakas, I was transported back to my favorite scene from the movie and knew I had to at least attempt to make it. I had every intention of making baklava to go with it, but dinner took longer than I expected to make. I promise to make some later and post it. So for you, dear reader, please enjoy my "moose caca."

Recipe from Cretan Cuisine (I couldn't find it on Amazon, but trust me, this one has some fun recipes

2 lbs eggplants, sliced
2 lbs potatoes, sliced
2 cups olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 cup red wine ( I used Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 onion, finely diced
2-3 tomatoes, diced (it actually called for it being grated, but how do you grate a tomato?)
Becahmel sauce (recipe can be found here; I was having a hard time following the recipe in the book which was on a different page with a completely different recipe, the whole book was a bit confusing to be honest)
1/2 lb cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using the olive oil, fry the eggplant and potatoes and allow to drain for 2-3 hours (I did not let mine drain for that long because it would have been past midnight before I got to have dinner; I also fried them until they got browned a little).
  2. In a medium-sized pan, saute the onions in the leftover olive oil. Add the ground beef and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the red wine and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 20-25 minutes.
  3. In a 9x13 pan, place a layer of potatoes. Place a layer of eggplant then add some of the meat mixture. Continue to layer until all of the ingredients are gone or until the pan is full. Top with the bechamel sauce and cheddar cheese.
  4. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the sauce becomes slightly brown and the cheese has broiled.

13 July 2009

We Be Jammin!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am participating in a jam exchange being held over on Stephchows. There are still a couple of weeks before I actually needed to make the jam, and the fruit looked so good. I couldn't help myself!

The two jams I decided to make were Quadruple Berry and Pineapple-Rhubarb. I wanted something different and bit unique. The idea of Triple Berry sounded so good and was actually going to be the first one I attempted. It consists of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries...three of my favorites all together. I ended up at Whole Foods pretty early on Sunday morning to pick up the raspberries when I came across my other love: blueberries. "Surely I can add that to my triple berry and it will still taste good," I thought to myself. I grabbed a pint and made my way to the register as I tried to come up with a creative name for the jam. Black and Blue with some Red? Um, no. Bruised Ego Jam? Better. Quadruple Berry? Well, yes that's true. Nothing really stands out to me, so if you can come up with a creative name, I'd be eternally grateful (I might even be convinced to give a jar away to the person who came up with the best name...Hint hint!).

I'm in a love-obsession with rhubarb at the moment so I decided to try something a bit less conventional. I love pineapple and was so happy to come across a recipe that paired the two (I really didn't want to have to go the predictable route and use strawberry). I was a bit concerned that it wouldn't turn out since it called for way less sugar than the berries and absolutely no pectin (this was my first time so I had no idea what I was actually doing).

Overall, I'm happy with the outcomes. The berry jam is by far the better of the two (I'm counting down the minutes until breakfast so I can try it on toast). I actually think I'd like it with a schmear of peanut butter which you all know I just don't like. The rhubarb one is good, not great, but good. I think it would taste better heated up a little and put on a waffle or giant stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes. I'm still trying to come up with something special to add to the package that I'll be sending to my jam buddy. I'm excited to see what everyone else comes up with, but mostly I'm excited to hear if the person i get likes what I made. Enjoy!

Quadruple Berry
I adapted this recipe from the Triple Berry recipe in the Sure-Jell box

2 pints strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 pints raspberries
1 pint blackberries
1 pint blueberries
7 cups sugar, divided
1 package pectin
  1. Be sure all of the berries are cleaned. Crush berries into a large pot and mix together.
  2. Mix 1/4 cup sugar with the package of pectin. Add this mixture to the berries and stir. Heat the berries to a rapid boil.
  3. Add the remaining sugar and bring back to a rapid boil for exactly one minute. Remove from heat.
  4. Fill your sterilized jars to within 1/4-inch of the top. Place sterilized lid and band on the jar and process for 10 minutes. Allow to rest in a cool dark place for 12 hours or overnight.

Pineapple-Rhubarb Jam
Recipe from Rhubarb Info

8 cups rhubarb, chopped
4 cups sugar
2 cups pineapple, chopped

  1. Mix all ingredients together and boil to jam stage, about 30 minutes, being sure to stir the mixture every so often (I would do a little less, maybe begin checking on it at 20 minutes). Pour into sterilized jars and process as you would any other jam.

10 July 2009

Dinner and a Movie!

Dinner and a movie got off to a horrible start tonight. I was cooking away in my kitchen, water almost boiling, my hands full of pasta ready to be thrown into said boiling water. Then...the power blows. The lights shut off, the TV is off, air condition has stopped blowing cold air. But the worst part? I have an electric stove...
So there I am, dinner almost ready to be served, and I can't cook my frickin pasta. I sit down int he living room with my sister and start reading a book sure the power is going to come back on. An hour goes by and nothing. By almost 7:30 we gave up and went to TGIFriday's for dinner. Then we ended up at a friend's house for an hour or two. When we finally came home, the power was back. Granted, it had only been back for an hour and a half, but it was back. I finished making dinner and put it away in the fridge for lunch tomorrow (and by lunch, I mean breakfast because I don't think I'll be able to avoid the temptation past then).
For dinner I made a Cajun chicken pasta. It's the only thing I'll eat at Red Lobster (no seafood, remember?). I had been craving this as I wandered the aisles at the grocery store and even splurged on some bakery-fresh garlic bread. This would be great with a nice salad and a glass of wine (perhaps a fruity rose to offset the spice or even a nice red to add to it). As for the movie, I never got around to watching anything (I barely got this finished before needing to go to sleep). I promise, next week I'll try to not have a power outage. Enjoy!
Cajun Chicken Pasta
recipe by me
1 lb chicken tenders
3 Tbl Cajun seasoning, divided
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbl butter
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese (I used a blend of parm, romano, and asiago)
1/2 tomato, diced
3 scallions, sliced
1 lb pasta (the amount depends on if you like a lot of sauce or a little; also, I used spaghetti because I forgot to pick up some fettuccine, but feel free to use some farfalle or even some penne)
  1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Use 2 Tbl of the Cajun seasoning to coat the chicken strips (you may use more or less depending on how spicy you'd like it). In a medium-sized pan, saute the chicken until cooked through.
  2. In a large pot, boil water. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and place back in pot. Add chicken.
  3. In a medium pot, place heavy cream and butter. Heat to a boil and lower temperature to medium. Add the Cajun seasoning and the shredded cheese a little at a time, stirring constantly until completely melted. After all of the cheese has been added, add tomatoes and scallions and cook until completely heated through. Add sauce to the pasta and chicken and stir until evenly coated.

P.S. Aunt Laura, thank you so much for the funny present (best "I Love You Day" present ever!). He sure is one fat I have no idea why you would see that and think of me and Uncle Robert. Surely it had nothing to do with us watching that movie every day that summer I stayed with you. He's got a special place on my desk at work (I actually can't wait for Monday now). I love you!!!

08 July 2009

Jam Exchange

One of my favorite bloggers is hosting a jam exchange! I am incredibly excited at the thought of finally learning how to make jam that I'm having a hard time concentrating. If you're interested in joining, the rules are below as well as a link to a helpful site on jam making tips.
  1. You do NOT need to have a blog to participate! Everyone is welcome to join in!
  2. You must be willing to mail 2 jars of any kind of jam your little heart desires to your given person.
  3. You must sign up with stephchows so she can make sure to pair you with someone! Email her at stephchows (at) gmail (dot) com with the following: Your name and address; Blog URL if you have one (see rule 1... you DO NOT need one); If you would be ok with mailing internationally or if you want to stick domestic (USA) (totally ok either way you choose). (I know the USPS has flat rate international boxes... probably the cheepest way).
  4. If you would like your jam included in the final roundup email her a picture of it and a link to a blog entry if you have one up, or just email her to let her know what you sent/received.

You can see the rest of the details here (due date and all that jazz). Two helpful sites (one of which is from stephchows) are here and here. Happy jamming!

06 July 2009

Happy Anniversary, Christopher Robin!

Eight years ago last Friday, my husband finally asked me to be his girlfriend (there was a lot of chasing involved before that, but mostly by me). We were in high school, and I wanted nothing more than to be his. For about a year he strung me along and then decided that he just wanted to be friends. I was OK with that (being friends was better then being nothing at all). It took him a year to realize that he really did want to date me (I think it was because I went away on vacation for a week and he realized how much he really liked me). We've been together ever since.

Now that we're married, we don't really celebrate the dating anniversary (sure, we give each other a card and maybe a small trinket expressing our love for each other). It's funny because even when we were just dating in high school, we were like an old married couple. We still are even though we're just now going on three years of marriage.

I'll be honest. I get pretty lonely without him here. This is our third deployment (his first was while I was in my last year of high school, the second was right after we got married). We're pros at not being together, and when he comes home, we're like newlyweds. All things considered though, it still sucks. Some days are better then others, but then I have some really bad days too.

Since hubby wasn't here for our anniversary, and I was incredibly busy on the day of, I didn't get to do anything special. His friend Daniel came over to visit my sister and me, so I treated him to breakfast and then dinner on Sunday (a little too much beer means Danial crashes on my couch). Breakfast is my hubby's favorite meal of the day, but I also made his favorite pot roast for dinner (that's what I'm sharing with you). If you're married or have a significant other, please give them an extra hug and kiss for me. And try to remember just how much you love them the next time they don't take out the garbage or do the dishes (the fight just isn't worth it). Enjoy!

Christopher Robin's Favorite Pot Roast
Recipe from New Cook Book: Bridal Edition, adapted only slightly by me
1 2 1/2-3 lb boneless beef chuck pot roast
3/4 cup water
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp instant beef bouillon granules
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz tiny new potatoes or 2 medium potatoes or sweet potatoes (I don't actually measure; I use about half a bag of the red potatoes)
1 lb carrots or 6 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (I use baby carrots)
2 small onions, cut into wedges (I use 1 large white onion cut into quarters)
2 stalks celery, bias-sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water 1/4 cup all=purpose flour
Black pepper to taste, optional
  1. Prepare all veggies (clean and cut; potatoes should be quartered especially if you're using the bigger ones). Toss all the veggies together in a crock pot.
  2. Mix the water, Worcestershire sauce, beef bouillon, and basil together. Place the roast on top of the veggies and pour the beef mixture over the top.
  3. Set the crock pot on low and cook for eight hours (your house will smell amazing, and dinner will be ready when you get home from work).
  4. Remove meat and veggies and set aside. Measure out the juices so that you have two cups to make your gravy (you can always add water if it's needed). Using a spoon, skim the fat off the top of the juices (tilt your measuring cup a bit and place the spoon just barely in it so that only the fat gets in it; discard and repeat; you don't necessarily have to do this step, but I'm trying to look out for those who are trying to be a little healthy). Place the juices in a pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, mix the cold water and flour together in a bowl. Slowly add to boiling juices. Stir occasionally until sauce has thickened. This can be served with mashed potatoes as well if you need to stretch the meal out.

P.S. Christopher Robin, This much O, only bigger...

04 July 2009

Rockets Red Glare...and S'mores

Happy 4th of July! I made s'mores to share with you. They came out awesome. Homemade marshmallows and graham crackers with some Hershey's chocolate, can't get much more American than that. You can find the recipes here and here (Thank you, Smitten Kitchen).

01 July 2009


When I was deciding what I wanted to make for dinner tonight, I remembered reading about homemade Nutella. One of my favorite bloggers, steph chows, graciously shared her recipe with the world so we could all revel in a better for you snack spread. If you haven't been to her blog yet, you should make a trip. She's well worth it!
This Nutella has only four ingredients and is super easy to make. When I made mine, it came out as a mini-Fail mostly because I have the world's crappiest food processor. I could never get the hazelnuts down to a thick, butter-like consistency. It's a bit grainy, but it still tasted good (I also burned the nuts just a touch so they came out a little bitter).
I had the intention of making some crepes as well until I had to run to a second grocery store just to get the nuts and didn't get started on it until well after 8:00P.M. I'm thinking I might leave for work a little early for work tomorrow and surprise my co-workers with bagels and Nutella (there are only five of us since one of them is already gone for the long weekend).
There really isn't much more that can be said about how simple and delicious this recipe is. I bought some really good cocoa powder from Whole Foods since all I had was Hershey's in my pantry (nothing wrong with that, but you can never go wrong with Green & Black's). Enjoy!
Nutella ::steph chows:: style
Recipe by Steph Chows
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts
2 Tbs cocoa powder
3 Tbs maple syrup (I used light corn syrup because all I had was butter flavored maple syrup...yuck)
2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Roast hazelnuts whole in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Let cool a bit and remove skins by rubbing them between a dish towel or your hands.
  2. Grind nuts in a food processor until they form into a thick butter. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
  3. Spoon into a jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate.

P.S. I just wanted to remind everyone that Dinner and a Movie is coming up (I have no plans for once so I should finally be able to get back to the fun). If you have any movie suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them. I think I might have something special planned so stay tuned.