Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More than just a Potato

I just finished the most divine ramekin of Mediterranean Potatoes ever to grace the face of the earth. A few years ago, I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant with some girlfriends and one of them ordered a side of these potatoes. I took a bite and almost couldn't stop going back for seconds, thirds, or ordering my own portion. I crave these potatoes and fix them ever so often so as not to lose total control on carb counts and end up featured on a show concerning morbid obesity.

I found the recipe on YouTube of all places, and this delightful woman of Mediterranean descent walked me through how to make them. If I knew her, I would hug her. Such a good recipe. The ingredients had me skeptical at first, as they involve fresh Cilantro of all things (which I'm not the fondest of) - but be adventurous with me and you'll enjoy an amazing surprise as the traditional flavor is transformed in this dish. Think lemony with a zing of ceyenne and have your fork perched to pounce on these beauties when you're done as they will FLY out of your serving bowl.

Mediterranean Potatoes
2 c. cubed Potatoes (yellow, red, russet, fingerling...doesn't matter, but keep the skin on for added earthy delight)
1 c. fresh Cilantro leaves
Ceyenne Pepper
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
6 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 T. Lemon Juice

Mix potatoes with 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/2 t. salt and evenly distribute on a foil lined cookie sheet. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. In a skillet, saute more olive oil, garlic and cilantro - the leaves will wilt and cook down - you want this. Add in salt, pepper and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Add the roasted potatoes to this seasoned juicy mixture of love and make sure to coat the potatoes thoroughly. Taste one and feel free to add more ceyenne pepper and lemon juice if you prefer living life on the edge.


Monday, October 25, 2010

When Mom's Away...

Well good morning to you! I'm sitting here enjoying a mug of Cranberry Cider and reminiscing on my delightful weekend in the mountains. The leaves were changing, the weather was crisp and cool, and I had a wonderful time spent with 300 other ladies from my church. Crazy good fun, but I was also happy to get back home to my boys and hubby!

I discovered what goes on when "mom is away". They ate well - I made sure of that, but there are funny behind the scenes things that took place that left me scratching my head. Instead of changing sheets, a blanket was laid down on the mattress of my son's bed. Apparently it felt more like a 'camp out' - huh? My four year old hadn't had a nap in 3 days (OH Lord). Two cereal boxes are in the pantry with no cereal in them, and a lot, and I mean A LOT of Veggie Tales Gummy candies were consumed. It could definitely be worse. I appreciate the help while I had a few days out of town. I came back refreshed (and with a tiny cold) but that's ok.

This week I am all about pureed foods as I prep for dooms day on Thursday when I am getting all four wisdom teeth pulled. I'm planning on making a massive batch of butternut squash soup and some homemade applesauce, and enjoying many MANY milkshakes. I'll be sure to let you know how that turns out after the laughing gas has worn off.

Oh, and if you're wondering about my cranberry cider...I took half a gallon of cranberry juice and added about 6-8 tablespoons of mulling spices, shook it all up and heat up a mug each morning. A great twist on the traditional mulled hot apple cider.

Have a great day and we'll chat soon!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A hairy chest and the promise of FREE JELLO!

Don't tell anyone, but I believe I made the Jambalaya SO spicey, there is now hair growing on my chest. My husband clearly has a cold, because as I am blowing my nose and drinking gallons of water in between each bite, he is generously dousing his meal with more hot sauce. I'm surprised his tastebuds didn't suffer 3rd degree burns. Aren't we a pair - a hairy chested woman with a tastebud-less man? LOL.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend - we had lots of family time and I loved it. There is a store I've been wanting to discover for about 2 years now and Saturday was my lucky day. We loaded the family up and drove me to a Fresh Meat store in the town of Waxhaw, NC. I wanted to know what it was all about - as the sign just says Fresh Meat with a phone number at the bottom. It's a small retail establishment, but when we pulled up, there was a large inflatable bounce castle for kids, a vegetable stand set up alongside a cotton candy and popcorn machine...further down the drive was a Food Truck selling Tacos and a local Mexican radio station was blaring festive music as a crowd of people at least 20 deep stood in line. The excitement was about more than I could stand!

We flocked to the action with the throngs of people and as I elbowed my way inside, I was greeted by the owners. It must have been the overwhelming deer in headlights look on my face that alerted them that I was a new comer. They quickly explained we hit the store during a special that was being advertised on the Mexican radio station, and that for coming in during the special, we were going home with FREE JELLO! Oh HOLD ME BACK from the joys of free jello! The meat was fresh and local - chicken, beef, pork - and if there was a cut you didn't see, just request and they'd go in the back and cut it fresh for you. It was less than the supermarket pricing and the meat was BEAUTIFUL (if you could call raw meat beautiful). I was impressed.

I didn't succumb to the peer pressure of a sale though, as I have a stockpile of meat in my beloved deep freezer that will carry us through many moons. I will be remembering this fun place for future reference though!

We left the store to let the kids jump in the bouncing castle, enjoy the aroma of fresh tacos, popcorn and cotton candy, and ponder what one does with fresh cactus at the vegetable stand.

I say - Ole!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Walmart and Reece's Pumpkins De-Stress

For some reason, though I tend to buy in bulk, I let things run out until we’re running around looking for napkins or Kleenex since the toilet paper has vaporized. I’m sure that never happens to you. Better yet – the paper towels are gone and you’re using your hand, your shirt sleeve or dish towels to wipe food, faces, crumbs and dishes.

I was a bit stressed today and made a trip to Walmart over lunch to put an end to Kleenex and shirt sleeve use. Holding my breath as I pass the Subway inside (that ghastly bread makes me want to hurl every time I smell it – the lovely after effect of having two children and major scent sensitivity)…the cart glides with ease to the candy aisle. It’s almost as though there is an invisible GPS on my cart. There, I am in a safe haven of sugary sweets that put me in a happy place. Reece’s peanut butter pumpkins might be the most perfect candy on earth. Just standing next to 40 cases of them, I start to calm down and head over to other random aisles to peruse protein bars (Ooh! They’ve done a re-org), cookie and cupcake decorations, the price of mixed nuts and then it’s to the check-out lane. I’ve made an unprecedented move by only purchasing the three things on my list and nothing more – no miscellaneous pumpkins, lotion infused socks, cheese balls that will feed the 5000. Nope, I’ve purchased my quota and head home with tp, paper towels and a movie from Red Box.

As soon as 5pm hits, I’m making Jambalaya, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and popping in the movie to enjoy with my family.

Let the weekend begin!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cupcakes, Pockets, Potroast and Chile

I'm amazed I'm getting anything done today - my eyes have been glued to the news as each miner is pulled up in a small metal capsule, having been trapped underground in Chile for the last 69 days. Each one is a miracle! I've been on the edge of my seat and have cried and cheered right along with the families. Looks like God is still in the miracle working business folks - don't ever doubt Him!

Last night I attempted these fun little cupcakes from kraftfoods.com - Pumpkin Creme Cupcakes. They're a quicky way to make some individually portioned pumpkin roll-like treats and I had most of the ingredients in my pantry. Check it out!

Now onto my love of this wonderful dish we crave in our house - Chicken Squares! My photo doesn't even remotely resemble a square...but I have also heard them called Chicken Pockets...once again mine is more of a pouch than a square or pocket - so call them what you wish.

Here is what you need:
2-3 chicken breasts - cooked and shredded
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1/2 a stick of butter
3 T. onion
1/2 c. milk
Salt / Pepper
2 tubes of crescent rolls (8 each)
1 can cream of mushroom soup

I take several cooked chicken breasts and shred them, adding in a package of cream cheese, half a stick of butter, 3 tablespoons of finely minced onion, 1/2 cup of milk and some sea salt and pepper. It makes a rich chicken salad consistency and you'll want to begin spooning it down right then and there, but control the urge as you pop open a tube of crescent rolls, mush two together so it makes a rectangle and then place a generous scoop in the center. Pull all four corners up to meet and then seal the sides by squeezing the seams together. You don't want the chicken salad mixture to leak out while baking - so squeeze those seams good!

I sprinkle seasoned stuffing mix on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 20ish minutes, until the top is nice and golden brown. Cream of mushroom soup diluted with several tablespoons of milk makes an excellent sauce to spoon over each Chicken Square prior to serving. I love these.

Ok, now I've got to get back to these miners being rescued, finish work and get everyone to kids choir and grown up choir rehearsal. Thank goodness we're having a potroast for dinner - the perfect "fix it and forget it dish" for busy days and nights.

Have a great day friends!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THOSE Sandwiches...

should be served in EVERY deli across the Country! Well, with a vote of confidence that strong from my hubby, I believe I have a blog post to type! Yesterday was Columbus Day which meant I had the day off...and I took it literally so you get to hear from me today instead!

I played around with deli meat and Italian bread and came up with this Hot Italian Sandwich that's going in "The Cookbook". There was a buy two get three free sale not long ago and I loaded up on salami, pepperoni, smoked provolone and the like...creating a masterpiece that has me drooling as I type this and it's not even lunch or dinner time. Hang on - I have to go eat one...I can't stand it any longer. Give me a minute and I'll be back....

Ok, thanks for bearing with me. You'll understand once you make these for yourself. (Wiping marinara sauce from the corners of my mouth...) Let's get started!

What you'll need for this amazing sandwich:
1 loaf of Italian Bread (I happen to enjoy those coated in sesame seeds)
1 stick of butter (ooooh, you know your in trouble now!)
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Sliced Pepperoni
Sliced Salami (Hard/Genoa - your choice!)
Sliced Smoked Provolone Cheese
Sliced or Grated Mozzarella Cheese
1 large jar of your favorite Marinara Sauce (I used Barilla the other day thanks to a B1G1 sale)

Now, melt the butter and the pressed/minced garlic for 1 minute in your microwave (combining them prior to melting is key, as the garlic infuses the butter). While this infusion is taking place, slice the loaf of bread so as to allow two sandwiches per person (i.e. 4 slices per person). Quickly dip one side of bread into the buttery goodness and place it butter side up on a foil lined cookie sheet (you'll thank me later on the ease of clean up). Sprinkle each slice with parmesan cheese. (I mention quickly because if you allow the bread to linger in the butter sauce, one slice will slurp up WAY too much butter - you don't want this. Each slice must be nice and SHARE the butter).

Next, take sliced pepperoni and salami and layer as much as you wish on half of the bread slices on your cookie sheet (the other slices of bread are for the cheese - so hold on!). I have a meat loving husband, so I layer lots of hearty meaty slices on his. 4 big slices of pepperoni and 4 big slices of salami usually get the job done.

Now layer the provolone and mozzarella on the other slices of bread you haven't touched yet and promptly pop this cookie sheet into a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. You want the cheese to melt and the meat to heat through. After you pull it from the oven, match your meaty piece of bread with your cheesy piece of bread and WhaaaLah! You have a sandwich. I plate two per person and heat up a ramekin of marinara sauce for each plate so everyone feels special. The idea is to dip your sandwich into the marinara and then savor the most amazing taste to hit your buds since Reece's Peanut Butter Cups were invented.

While the sandwiches are working it out in the oven, it's a nice time to whip up a lettuce salad with an Italian vinaigrette. A meal fit for any deli across the country! This one will have you singing Bella Noche in no time.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

My life as a professional deviled egg maker

My kitchen smells like a sulfur plant but I now have 2 dozen delightful deviled eggs that bring me extreme joy. I have to admit - I've never liked deviled eggs, hard boiled eggs - or eggs period - unless they were scrambled and included lots of cheese. My grandmother is known for making amazing deviled eggs and I used to lick the yellow center out and pitch the egg white. Until today.

I received a request to make 2 dozen of these beauties for a dinner some people are having. I was a bit befuddled (fun word!) as I've never made them...and the last time I licked out the yellow center I was about 5 years old (who has refined tastebuds at 5?). No one in my immediate family is a fan of them, so I haven't been around them much. Not being one to shirk in the face of challenge, I agreed to make these little "devileds".

Several friends passed along their tips to success, and armed with a fuzzy idea of what to do, I set out to make something dazzlingly delicious. Can I tell you how fun these are to make? I need more excuses to fix these - so someone hit me up for your next potluck or something. Peeling the egg - way cool. Slicing those eggs in half and squeezing out the yolk to where they literally jump into the bowl - hours of entertainment. I then mixed in sea salt and pepper, finely minced onion, mayonnaise and spicey brown mustard. ShaZam! Perfection was piped into each little egg white and topped off with a fun dash (or two) of Paprika. We have something to talk about - these make me want to become a professional deviled egg maker.

Have a delicious day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm a fan of The Crepe Cellar

Last night I was treated to a marvelous meal at The Crepe Cellar. The foodie in me is a huge fan of Crepes. Wild horses couldn't stop me from this restaurant once the invitation was given. I went in armed with an empty stomach, which was a very wise decision. My initial intent was to have dinner and dessert there...and then have dessert again at my favorite little Amelie's...but that was thrown out the window when they had to all but roll me out of the place like Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka.

Back to the meal...the menu is modest, not over complicated with 2700 choices. I was easily able to select, and then deliciously wait until each course arrived. The starter was a heaping plate of hand cut french fries, topped with basil pesto, melted brie and fresh tomatoes. There wasn't even a smidgen of a crumb left on any of our plates when the main dish arrived. It was an unusual blend of flavors that made you stuff these fries into your mouth as fast as you could; a race to see who could eat the most pesto brie laden bites.

I selected a savory crepe as my main course - afterall, who goes in an orders a burger at a crepe place? Wilted spinach, sauteed mushrooms, carmelized shallots and goat cheese carefully robed in a buckwheat crepe with a side of homemade macaroni and cheese. Pure bliss. I savored each bite and was trying to figure out how to lick out the cheese sauce from my ramekin of macaroni without looking like a fool. I finally gave up, lest the artsy crowd that surrounded me had me arrested for uncouth food eating habits.

And on to dessert...the crowning glory of the entire experience. Why choose just one? We chose two and four of us still weren't able to gobble it all. The first dessert was a nutella and banana crepe, lightly dusted in powdered sugar. It went down oh-so-easily. Then my fork marched its way to the second dessert that was the ultimate show stopper. My stomach did a happy dance over this amazing concoction. Take a rich chewy, fudgey brownie and wrap it in a sweet crepe...go ahead and layer in lots of nutella, top it with a softball sized scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and swizzle some brandied whipped creme on the size while you're at it. I couldn't even speak. I was in a complete dessert trance as I ate bite after bite of nutella crepe heaven.

That my friends, is a delicious restaurant that I'm adding to the most wanted list. I simply must return - and soon! Thank you Crepe Cellar for a stellar experience!

Have a delicious day!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Birthday - to ME!

This past weekend I celebrated my 30 something-ith birthday and enjoyed every bite! I've received multiple requests to post my celebration meal(s), so here it is!

Friday night we magically had no children (thanks to adoring grandparents) so my gorgeous husband whisked me away to an intimate Italian dinner for two at Toscana. We started with a Cannelinni Bean appetizer and Crusty Italian Bread that I couldn't stop eating...so we got two. Moving on to salads, I opted for something edgy with white balsamic vinaigrette, pears/bacon/gorgonzola and wanted to eat my husband's portobello salad instead. Dinner consisted of handmade pasta - there is SUCH a difference in taste and texture of fresh pasta! Hubby enjoyed ravioli and I had penne with asperagus and proscuitto in a perfect cream sauce. Pure bliss. I left stuffed like a Thanksgiving Turkey. The night was chilly as we left, so dessert was a Campfire Coffee with white and milk chocolate and toasted marshmallows from Caribou. The perfect ending!

Saturday, I continued my culinary celebration with a lunch at my favorite funky French Bistro - Amelie's. I ignored every calorie as I bit into the world's best chocolate filled eclair after polishing off a roast beef and horseradish baguette. You totally feel like you're eating at an eccletic consignment shop, but the food outweighs the somewhat mismatched French decor.

Dinner was at my request: My mom's world famous pasta and meatballs with garlic bread and salad. I couldn't stop eating it or thanking her for making this divine meal. I'm convinced we'll be eating it in heaven. Too bad I can't share the recipe with you...it's a family secret. The birthday dessert that had everyone singing was a fresh fruit tart - and I've included a fun picture of it as it was almost too pretty to eat.

It was a fabulous weekend and I am blessed by wonderful family and friends to celebrate with. Thanks for all of your well wishes - it was indeed a delicious birthday!