Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Picnic Tips!

Yesterday was the last day of school and I was woken up by an excited four year old requesting jelly beans for breakfast. I compromised with a chocolate chip granola bar and the day proceeded with fun and festivities. The kids had an end of the year festival, I personally downed 3 snow cones and the laughter and excitement was the perfect ending to the school year and beginning of summer.
We've been pawing through big brown grocery bags sent home with each child - filled with art projects, mementos, pictures and gifts from the teachers. My kitchen looks like a disaster hit it.

In the midst of the school celebrations, I need not forget the start of National Burger Weekend as we enjoy an extended holiday weekend observing Memorial Day. I have a fun menu planned with some helpful tips to get you out of a generic burger rut.

I plan on spending time at the pool with my family and having a big cookout - burgers, baked beans, chip and dip, a huge salad (I love salad) and some fun desserts.



Consider creating a topping bar for your family to enjoy choosing some new items to top their burgers.

Start with cheese: Sharp Cheddar, Blue Cheese, Brie and Pepper Jack are fun diversions to the stand by of American.

Think outside the box: Lettuce and Tomato are staples...but what about grilling or sauteeing your onions? Guacamole adds an interesting twist and I have fallen in love with green chilis on my burger. Feeling italian? Why not add some marinara sauce, mozzarella and basil?



For sides, don't go nuts and wear yourself out - your focus should be on enjoying time with your family and friends. Baked beans, macaroni and cheese, a salad - nothing over the top. Think hummus, salsa, bruschetta. Give me a bag of chips with some ranch or french onion dip and you won't hear from me for hours.



Desserts are my weakness and I have a few healthy and non-healthy options. Fresh fruit is plentiful this time of year and so I keep my house stocked with fresh peaches, strawberries and watermelon. Sweet as candy, we see fruit as a breakfast, snack and dessert option. It might be fun to create your own fruit kabobs - skewer some grapes, bananas and strawberries. Eat them plain or combine 8 oz. of cream cheese with sweetened condensed milk or some marshmallow cream and dip until you can't see straight. Or just spoon down the dip and call it a day. :)



I love chocolate - so a pan of fudge brownies with vanilla bean ice cream is hard to beat...but what about making your own ice cream sandwiches out of chocolate chip cookies and ice cream? My friend AmyA made them for my family once and we loved them, scarfed them, couldn't get enough.

I have an ice cream maker and so I plan on making homemade peach ice cream. I can already picture myself dipping my toes in the pool with a gigantic bowl of homemade ice cream in hand right now. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

As you kick off your summer and celebrate Memorial Day, I hope you have fun enjoying time with those you love. May your laughter be sweet, your conversations uplifting and you Chinet full of goodness.

I salute the service men and women who so valiantly have served and continue to serve our country to keep us safe and preserve the right of freedom. May God Bless You All!

Cheers!
CC

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crazed Juror Eats Cannoli Dip

We have 30ish teachers and staff at my sons' Preschool and I thought it would be fun to bake some treats as an end of the year thank you snack. I set this up prior to remembering that I had received a Jury Summons. Playing the odds, I really didn't think I'd have to show up. Surely I would be among the multitudes who call the number the night before at exactly 5:30pm and get the 'You are Excused' message. Surely.

5:19pm I call. The number says I have to report. Surely I've just called to early and they haven't updated their system.

5:35pm I call. The number says I have to report. Surely I've just heard wrong.

5:56pm I call. Again. The number again says I have to report. Recognizing this is a real deal I am in a pickle. I'm baking for all the teachers, have to get my children to school and report to fulfill my civic duty all by 8am the next morning. Lovely. After calling in reinforcements, I have it handled.

I baked two batches of my favorite Bliss Bite Cookies. Bite sized chocolate chip cookie goodness with the crowning glory of a Bliss Milk Chocolate. What's not to love? Nothing. Exactly!

Then I baked a gigantic tray of chocolate carmel brownies that are pretty much to die for. A rich creamy layer of carmel nestled in between two layers of chocolate brownie make it a decadent dessert of deliciousness. If I could have, I would've eaten half of them myself. I used self control. It was hard.




Then there was a fun stawberry display that I complimented with a Cannoli Dip. I'm experimenting with the perfect Cannoli Cream right now and this was a success. Chocolate chips whipped into a sweetened Ricotta Cheese mixture...ahhhhh!



Fast forward to the next morning. My wonderful reinforcement arrived in time for me to make it to Jury Duty and angelically agrees to take the tasty treats with her to school. I dash off to the courthouse.

Amazed, dazed and confused - I am actually called for a case and told I'll possibly have two cases as they are short on people. Seriously? Seriously. Thirty jurors are chosen to sit on a DWI case. They will whittle us down to 12. I don't want to be whittled. I want to sit in the room of uncalled jurors feeling like a caged animal and read my book all day. I have my son's preschool graduation the next day and nothing will stand in its way. I will be there.

I make my way into the courtroom and it is EXACTLY like television. I felt like I was auditioning for a movie. There I sat, anxiously watching as juror after juror is excused. My odds of sitting on this case are getting greater by the minute. Lunchtime hits and it hits me, they still haven't selected a jury, this case will be a at least two days long. I will miss my son's graduation if I am chosen.

The courthouse cafeteria looked vile and inedible. Barely able to eat, I shove down a Philly Cheese Steak with onions, peppers, mushrooms cheese and marinara sauce from a restaurant across the street. I spurged on a cannoli for dessert since I'm comparing my recipe. Theirs was awful. Let's add insult to injury, could the day be worse? Yes.

I went back to the courthouse and talked to the administration. I asked to be moved to another day, another time - anything but where I was as I could not sit on this case. There was nothing the lady could do. That's when I lost it. I broke down and cried and told her I was going to miss graduation. Her eyes grew large, she took pity on me and advised me to write a letter to the judge. I did so and gave it to the baliff. (Is this like TV or what?).

With a red, splotchy, tear stained face, I walked up to the baliff and gave him my letter. He read it, took one look at me and gravely advised that we were at the mercy of the judge at this point. A black caped man with unruly gray curls and a bad striped bow tie.

I watched in horror as my group of fellow jurors continued to be whittled away. We were down to four and I had a 25% chance of being called. The state and prosecution finally stood and announced they were satisfied with the jury. I let out a sigh of relief. The baliff shot me a quick victory grin. I was off the hook.

BUT WAIT! The judge wanted an alternate juror. I almost threw up then and there. The next name announced was miraculously another woman and she passed the screening. I made it! I was officially off the hook and was attending my son's graduation. Praise the Lord!

Thankfully I was there today for this important picture to be taken:




Let's not talk about the rest of the cannoli dip that completely disappeared as a result of my stress relieving binge. Along with some brownies. Ok a LOT of brownies, but who's counting?

Have a delicious day and we'll chat soon!
CC

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Calzones!


Awhile back I hit the absolute jackpot on some Rhodes Frozen Dinner Rolls. It’s the dough that you bake yourself. Since my freezer was full of dough balls, I asked around to see who among my friends got in on the deal and what they made with their said rolls. One of the suggestions was calzones and I simply had to try them for myself. Talk about easy and delicious! I could eat two right now just typing this. In fact, well never mind, I’ll be good and continue to drink my tumbler of water instead. Particularly since I ate cookies for breakfast.

On with the calzones! Two dough balls (or rolls) make one small calzone and I planned on two per adult and one per child. I simply followed the directions for the rolls on the back of the package, unthawing them at room temperature for several hours (under a Pam-sprayed plastic wrap layer to keep in the gases).



Each roll miserably deflates when you pick it up to turn it into a calzone.



Not to worry – redemption is two steps away! After mushing out a roll into the size of an adult’s palm, I spooned on some pizza sauce...



Then added some cooked crumbled Jimmy Dean sausage and black olives.



And don't forget a slab of mozzarella cheese...



Following suit by mushing out (love my technical terms here?) my second dough ball, I placed it over the top of the pizza looking thing I just created.



Gently pushing the seams together and rolling them under so all the goods don’t seep out, I repeated these steps until all my calzones were made.

Then I set them back into my oven to rise (the oven wasn’t on). I let the calzones rise again for about 20-30 minutes. I find the oven is a good place to let dough rise as it’s out of the way of kids running, Frisbees flying and the occasional toddler who climbs up on the counter to get candy without asking. You can see the amount it rose by in comparing these photos - 1 is prior to rising, 2is after I put it unter Pam-sprayed plastic wrap for the 20-30 minute timeframe.




They were picture perfect in my eyes and I baked them at 350 for 18ish minutes until they turned slightly brown. Some of the goods did unfortunately seep out of the one. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. No one has to see the cheesy goodness you scoop up and eat before you present a plate of perfection to your family.



I served these with ramekins of marinara sauce and they were a fantastic use of my dinner roll dough. I’ll be repeating this again soon.



Mangia!
CC

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Monster Cookies!


First of all, I have to tell you how excited I am about launching the catering aspect of The Musing Foodie. The final touches are being placed on the menu and it is going to be DELICIOUS! I so appreciate the many votes of confidence and the requests for this in the first place, to take me to this exciting new step. June 1 is right around the corner!

I've been on a cookie craving lately and came across a recipe I'd snipped out of the newspaper years ago. I adapted it for my means and enjoyed baking these delicious treats last night with my 4 year old son. He was thrilled to be involved and really did a great job, if I may say so myself.

The title of Monster Cookies doesn't adequately describle these. I might rename them "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" but it's not quite as catchy. I was thrilled to use up the plethora of candy that seems to multiply in my pantry, much to the chagrin of my thighs.

Without further ado, I present Monster Cookies...(thanks C. Gomez!)

Ingredients:
1 stick of butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated white sugar
1 t. Karo syrup
2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
2 c. peanut butter
4 1/2 c. quick oats
6 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. m&m's
6 oz. reece's pieces

Cream together the butter and the two sugars. Add eggs, Karo syrup, baking soda, vanilla and peanut butter. Beat until smooth. Add oats and mix well. Add chocolate chips, m&m's and reeces pieces, stirring them in by hand.

It will look like a big bowl of this:



Drop rounded teaspoonsful on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Depending on how generous you are on your teaspoonsful of dough that you plop on the cookie sheet, this will make approximately 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies.



Have a delicious day!
CC

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Enchiladas with Attitude.


My Cinco de Mayo fiesta was bumped to Seis de Mayo as we forgot my husband had a work dinner to attend. As it also turns out, one of my bestest friends was helping me shake and bake for last weekend's bridal shower, so she got to join in the fiesta fun of my kicked up Chicken Enchiladas.

I've serenaded you with the enchilada madness before, so the basic recipe is the same, only you add this incredible sour cream jalapeno sauce before baking. What emerges from your oven is nothing short of a Mexican Miracle. Seriously. This sauce will make you swoon. Don't let the jalapeno scare you off - it's not hot, you won't grow hair on your chest, you won't have to put out tongue fires with a gallon of water. It's a delicious add that has me craving more more more!

You start with 1/4 cup of butter and melt it in a saucepan. Add in 1/4 cup of flour and whisk until it's nice and smooth. Add in 2 cups of chicken broth. Stir constantly until it's a thick consistency and starting to bubble.



Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in 8 ounces of sour cream.



And 2 jalapeno peppers (from a jar) that you have sliced and diced, which equates to 4-5 Tablespoons worth.



Pour half of the sour creamy deliciousness into a pyrex pan, add in the lovely row of chicken enchiladas and top it all off with the remaining sauce.



Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Top with additional shredded cheddar if you need it and prepare to have your socks knocked off. It's amazing. It's delicious. It's so good you need to stop reading, head to the store and buy the ingredients to fix this right now.



Have a delicious day!
CC

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cupcake Mania


Well did you have a good Mother's Day weekend? Mine was so full and fun, I want to do it all over again. We tend to make a weekend out of celebrations like this and I lived it up.

In the midst of cookouts and presents and soccer practice and a birthday party, I managed to help host a bridal shower where I was somehow put in charge of the food. I don't know how these things happen.



We were anticipating about 75 guests and I thought it would be hip and cool to bake cupcakes for the dessert. Strawberry cake, yellow cake, chocolate cake - swirly delicious icing and a fun personalized chocolate "W" in honor of the bride's new last name.



I was pleased with the outcome. Aren't they fun?!



I'm now all about cupcakes. And icing. And chocolate letters. I think I'm adding this to the catering menu. Ahem, June 1 launch date! Whooo hoooooooooooooooooo!

Have a delicious day and we'll chat soon!
CC

Friday, May 6, 2011

An Early Mother's Day

Yesterday afternoon I received an early Mother's Day gift. My husband was home early, we were feeding my almost 2 year old a snack in the kitchen and in the front door walks my 4 year old holding a small white box. He excitedly ran into the kitchen and grabbed my hand, pulling me away from everyone else and had me sit on the stairs.

Taking both of my hands in his, he looked into my eyes and sweetly sang to me a song about how mommies are for kissing and hugging and at the conclusion of the song, presented me with the white box. He went ahead and opened it, revealing two miniature blueberry muffins wrapped in waxed paper.


Handing them to me with an expectant look on his face, I asked him if one was for me and one was for him? He nodded and I gave him one of the muffins, which we enjoyed on the spot. No one else in the family knew of our special moment and my eyes filled with tears as I kissed him and hugged him. The contents of the little white box were more valuable to me than anything a blue box from Tiffany's could ever hold. His sweet little song will be forever etched in my heart and I may have just had one of the best Mother's Day's ever...a few days early.



I'm blessed to not only be a mom of two precious boys, but to have a wonderful mother who has been an amazing role model. I'm richly blessed. I wish all of you a wonderful Mother's Day weekend.

Don't forget to go to church on Sunday!
CC

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Enchiladas and Meatball Subs

Happy Cinco de Mayo Friends! It's grand day in the Carolinas and I want to extend a warm welcome to all of you visiting my corner of the world as a result of my guest post on The Carolina Clipper. That clipper and I have been friends for a long time and I am honored she'd allow me to go mainstream and share a few thoughts on fix 'n freezes.

Today is the perfect excuse to fix Mexican food - and I have a fabulous meal planned for the family. You've read before about my Chicken Enchiladas. Tonight I'm giving them a swift kick in the pants by adding a jalapeno sour cream sauce that will make you swoon. I'm also attempting chalupas for the first time so stay tuned for riveting details on our fiesta!

Going to an opposite culinary extreme in taste and heritage, I simply have to share with you a fabulous dinner I made as a result of a recent Fix 'n Freeze meal. One of my freezing groupies made outstanding Meatballs in a Marinara Sauce. I thawed them in the crockpot and decided to make open faced Meatball subs out of them.

Taking a loaf of Italian bread, I alotted two pieces per person and dipped the cut slices in melted butter infused with a minced garlic clove. Sprinkling some parmesan cheese on top and baking for 5ish minutes creates garlic bread from Heaven above.



Being the carnivorous meat eaters we are, I placed 4 hearty meatballs on top of each pair of garlic bread slices and topped with additional parmesan cheese. A delicious meal that from start to finish, took me less than 10 minutes to make and serve. The family raved and I am a happy camper. Consider me the #1 fan of Fix and Freeze's. (Thanks Donna for the delicious meatballs!)




I'm off to vacuum up about a 1000 lentils that were spilled on the floor while my husband was watching the boys this morning so I could sing at the National Day of Prayer breakfast. I'm sure there's a story behind this...

Have a delicious day and we'll chat soon!
CC

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's Frappacino Time!


Good Day Friends! I'm sitting here munching on Reece's Pieces and had to share some fun beverage news with you.

Starbucks just announced May 6-15 is Half Price Frappacino Happy Hour from 3-5pm! I immediately marked my calendar so I can feast upon my favorite beverage weakness: A Carmel Frappacino with Extra Whip.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, I can taste it now. I'm such a savage when it comes to these drinks, I pop off the top and lick the carmel drizzle off the inside of the lid so as not to waste any of the sweet gloppy goopy goodness.

Now, for those of you not willing to foot the bill of a store bought frappacino delacacy, not to worry! The copy cats at Food Network developed a contraban version and published it for you 'do-it-yourselfers'!

For a Mocha Frappacino (which is a close second to my beloved Carmel) here is the inside scoop:

For the Coffee Ice
3 T. sugar
2 C. warm strong coffee

For the Chocolate Syrup
2/3 C. sugar
1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz. milk chocolate - finely chopped
1.5 t. honey
1/2 t. vanilla extract

For the Frappe
1 C. reduced fat milk
Whipped Cream for the amazing topping.

Make the coffee ice by stirring the sugar into the coffee until dissolved, then let it cool. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid (around 3 hours).

Make the chocolate syrup by combining the sugar and cocoa powder in a saucepan and slowly whisking in 2/3 cup of hot water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking until all of the sugar dissolves - 3 to 5 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, honey and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cool.

Make the frappes by pureeing 8 coffee ice cubes, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/3 to 1/2 cup of chocolate syrup and 1 cup of plain ice in a blender until smooth.

Pour into 2 glasses and top with whipped cream and more chocolate syrup.

Enjoy my fellow foodies!
CC