Sunday, January 24, 2010

Holy Accolades, Batman!

Wow - many thanks to my friend Renee at Flamingo Musings for passing me the Honest Scrap award on her blog.  This is the first award I've ever received and I'm just thrilled to my toes.

This award comes with instructions, which are as follows: This award came with some fun instructions:
1. Post the award on your blog. Present this award to seven others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
2. Tell those seven people they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP, inform them of these guidelines, and ask that they link back to you.
3. Share TEN HONEST THINGS about yourself.

Wow ... ten honest things about myself ... well, here goes nothing. :)

1. I was terrified of walking down the aisle on my wedding day because I get really nervous when people look at me and I turn bright red.  So I was convinced that in every picture of me walking down the aisle, I would look like a tomato with hair.  As it turns out, I was so darn excited about getting married to my beloved husband that in every picture taken of me, I am beaming from ear to ear.  I look slightly ridiculous, but unbelievably happy.

2. I think about my Grandpa Stan every day of my life.  He passed on a few years back, but he's very much with me in spirit.

3.  And speaking of spirits, I am convinced that our house is occasionally haunted by the guy who used to own it.  Our spirit is named Vern.  He keeps things together.

4.  Although I like to believe that I'm a cynic, I am pretty gullible at times but have learned to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself until I know that I'm not getting my leg pulled.

5.  When I was a kid, I couldn't stand my younger cousin Tracy.  But now that we're older, I cannot imagine life without her.

6.  There are days where I am so much like my parents, it scares me.

7.  I talk in my sleep and sometimes I walk in my sleep.  My sleep walking has put me in precarious situations - i.e., waking up at the top of the stairs in my childhood home, almost locked outside a hotel room in Rapid City, South Dakota, etc.

8.  When River Phoenix died, I became a vegetarian for a year.  Considering that my father is a farmer, that did not fly too well in my parents' household, but my folks were amazingly tolerant of my schemes.

9.  I do have a temper and have worked over the years to corral it.  I feel terrible whenever I lose my temper.  One of the worst things I ever did when I lost my temper was I threw a lit and burning candle at my kitchen wall.  As you can imagine, it splattered wax everywhere once it hit its target.  I called my mom later and told her what an idiot I had been.  "Well, what did you expect to happen?" she very sagely asked.

10.  I don't answer my phone very often.  It's one of the worst things about me.  I just really hate talking to people on the phone.  The irony is that when I was younger, I could spend HOURS on the phone with my friends.

I'm passing on the Honest Scrap award back to some of my blogger friends.  I've been doing this for over a year now and I remember how cool it was when I'd get emails back from some of the bloggers I had been following throughout my blogging journey.  I am so appreciated of the support, friendship and inspiration I get from all of you guys ...

Deb at Pladsen Family
Lan at Angry Asian Creations
Paula at Dragon's Kitchen
Katie of Salt and Chocolate
Michelle at Big Black Dog
Jenn at The Unmarried Housewife
Elle at Elle's New England Kitchen

And so many thanks to Renee. :)  I really appreciate it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chicken Chickpea Curry Bowls

I think one of the secrets to my marriage is that I make a passable curry recipe.  I'm still afraid of raw ginger (I will conquer this in 2010, I swear), most of the spices that are typically mentioned in "authentic" Indian recipes have me scratching my head, but I'm not afraid to buy curry powder and use it.  And my husband loves curry - he loves curry even when I screw up the recipe, so he was particularly happy one night when I announced I was making Rachael Ray's Chicken Chickpea Curry Bowls.

One of the blog sites that I have bookmarked is Everything Rachael Ray and they've been kind enough to link to me on a couple of occasions.  This recipe was featured and I knew that I had to try it:

Rachael's Chicken Chickpea Curry Bowls
Adapted from Rachael Ray and Everything Rachael Ray

1 T. EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 baked chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 large red pepper, sliced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup plain yogurt [I used Greek yogurt - the full fat, thick and wonderful stuff.]
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 14.5-ounce can chick peas, drained and rinsed
Green onions, sliced (optional)
Brown rice to serve

Yields: 4 servings

Editor's Note: In an effort to save time, I cooked up a large batch of rice and kept it in the fridge to use throughout the week.   Dishing out the rice and having to heat it up separately also keeps hubby and I from eating inordinate amounts of rice at dinner (we love us some brown rice - we're slightly addicted to carbs).  But if you need to make rice, here's the recipe:  In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine rice, water and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 turn of the pan EVOO and warm the chicken. Add the peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes.

Sprinkle with the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the yogurt and simmer gently for 3 minutes, adding a splash of water if it needs to loosen up a little (I used some of the juice from the diced tomatoes for this.)  Stir in the tomatoes and chickpeas then remove from heat.

When trying this, I felt like there was something missing (something I feel frequently when I'm making my own curry ...), so I added a dash of cinnamon for some warmth and a bit of cayenne for some heat.  And damn - it was good.

Divide the rice and chicken mixture among individual bowls and garnish with the green onion.

A few more notes ... the original recipe called for ground chicken, which I'm sure is really good.  There had been a sale on chicken breasts (bone-in, alas!) but I bought them and baked them at 400 degrees until they were done and then took the meat off the bone, stashed some in the freezer for future dishes and left the rest in the fridge.   I also had the brown rice cooked and on hand.  I do this when I'm working on other stuff in the kitchen, because it saves time later in the week when I'm fracking exhausted and would rather eat cereal than actually cook dinner.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bastardized Crab Rangoon

This is one of my favorite appetizers ever.  It's ridiculously easy, disgustingly in-authentic and gets people to stray out of their comfort zone and try something they probably would avoid in other culinary situations.  What is it that I am referring to?  Why, it's Kraft's bastardized recipe for crab rangoons. :)

I originally found this article in the back of Kraft's food magazine and had tore it out to try.  This was many years ago.  I finally got to sample this appetizer when my friend Erin made it for a party I attended and I was hooked.  I finally made it for a friend's birthday and was amazed how good and how easy it was to make.

Baked Crab Rangoons
adapted from Kraft

1 8 oz. pkg of Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
1 can of crab meat, drained and flaked
green onions
wonton wrappers (you can usually find these in the produce section of the grocery store)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray muffin tins and line with wonton wrappers.  Drain the crab meat (I actually rinsed the meat and then dumped it into a few layers of paper towels and squeezed it so it was dry ... you don't want runny rangoons) and combine with cream cheese and green onions.  (I used about four onions - much to my friend Anne's dismay.  Sorry buddy!)

Bake for 18 minutes.  Remove from tins and put on platter.  This is divine by itself, but we paired it with some sweet and sour sauce. 

Editor's Note:  The original recipe calls for light mayonnaise.  Since I couldn't locate my recipe and kept googling "Pillsbury Crab Rangoons" instead of "Kraft," I couldn't find the original recipe.  I think this was good without mayonnaise, but I'll leave that to your discretion.  Also - if I make these again, I'm so mincing some garlic and throwing it in there.  These were delightful, but I was missing something and I think that something was garlic.

... done, blurry & delicious

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pioneer Woman's Fancy Macaroni

Did I tell you that I've been relatively obsessed with macaroni and cheese lately?  Have I told you that I cannot really make homemade macaroni and cheese without putting bacon in it?  (For that, I blame the divine Ms. Jenn_C.) This was another one of The Pioneer Woman's recipes that I saw on her blog and made almost immediately ... and man ... is there anything better than a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese?

Pioneer Woman's recipe may be found here.  And the only modifications I made to the recipe was that I use thick-cut bacon (it's something I need to stop, but it's soooooo goood) and instead of gruyere cheese I used Monterey Jack.

Leftovers are delicious.  I lived on this stuff for about four days.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What I ate in Mexico

I was extremely blessed to travel this weekend with a few friends to California.  From San Diego, we cruised down to Ensenada, Mexico where I ate steak tacos that basically changed my life.

Oh how I love you carne asada tacos - let me count the ways - homemade tortillas, grilled steak, topped with cilantro (and usually I hate you?  What is wrong with me!), pico de gallo and homemade guacamole.  The tacos were $1.50 a piece and I think I've sworn off fast food tacos forever.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Beef, Beer and Bacon Stew

I love beef.  I love beer and I really love bacon.  My husband really loved me after I made this stew - that's why Not Quite Nigella calls this stew the "Marriage Maker."

Click here for NQN's recipe.  The only real part that I diverted from in my recipe is that instead of making the cheese dumplings as specified by NQN, I used a Bisquick recipe to make some dumplings.  A cheat, but a delicious cheat.

Another comment - this was really good, but it's more of a weekend dish than something you would want to make during the week ... leftovers are also very good.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rachael Ray's Sausage, Potato and Cabbage Stew

I do love cabbage, but one of my bastardly tendencies is to use half of a head and leave the rest moldering in the crisper drawer of my fridge.  A few weeks ago, I made a big pot of Mama Soup and had some leftover cabbage.  Luckily for me, I had spotted this recipe from Rachael Ray's magazine and decided that nothing sounded better than a combination of mustard, kielbasa, potatoes and yes - cabbage.

My only complaint about this soup is that it didn't make nearly enough ... I could have ate the leftovers for days.

File this under:  Looks questionable, tastes amazing
Rachael Ray's Sausage, Potato and Cabbage Stew
adapted from Rachael Ray 

    * 2/3 pound kielbasa, sliced (I used turkey kielbasa)
    * 1/2 red onion, chopped
    * 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
    * 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (Don't have - I subbed champagne vinegar ... weird, I know)
    * 4 cups chicken broth
    * 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (again - didn't have, so I used Yukon Gold)
    * 2 1/2 c. shredded cabbage
    * 3 large carrots, grated or chopped finely **
    * Salt and pepper

**For the cabbage and carrot portion of this soup, Rachael used bagged coleslaw mix.  Great idea, but I had cabbage and carrots on hand and wanted to use them up before they turned into a science experiment.   

Directions:  In a large pot, cook the kielbasa and onion over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the mustard and vinegar, then add the chicken broth, potatoes and coleslaw mix; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Holiday Hangover: Apple Pie Shots and Pesto Pinwheels

You know that you've thrown a successful New Years Eve party when the kids in attendance cry upon their parents telling them that it's time to go home.  Then again, that could have more to do with the fact that all kids in attendance at the Casa de Mahannah party were up way past their bedtimes and not anything to do with me being a great hostess. :) 

We had members of our Urban Family over to ring in the New Year this past holiday and I decided to keep it simple:  a  big pan of homemade macaroni and cheese and a bunch of snacks for our guests.

Here's the table before my awesome friends Paul and Anne brought their "Velvet Elvis" dip (Velveeta cheese and salsa melted together - one of our friends calls it "Velvet Elvis" - not sure where that comes from ...)

I had Ina Garten's Rosemary Roasted Cashews, leftover Christmas cookies, red velvet cupcakes, cocktail wieners, my friend Deb's Pesto Pinwheels and a big relish tray with green and black olives, baby dill pickles and baby carrots. Not pictured is the macaroni and cheese that was bubbling in the oven, getting ready for company to arrive.

For drinks, our friends brought some Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat (one of my favorite beers - I love you Wisconsin).  Ryan and I had some wine from a winery in South Dakota that I visited when I went on vacation with my nephews (nothing says "quality family time" like dragging three boys to a winery).  We drank Red Ass Rhubarb and Lawrence Elk (a black currant wine) from the Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City, South Dakota.  We also had some homemade pear wine, some homemade wine from my friend Paul and apple pie shots - which we drank in tumblers.

I think a good time was had by all.

Deb's Pesto Pinwheels
from my friend Deb, who got it from a Taste of Home magazine


1 tube (8oz) refrigerated crescent rolls (I used Pillsbury's Garlic Butter crescent rolls to ward away vampires.)
1/3 cup prepared pesto sauce
1/4 cup roasted sweet red peppers, drained and chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup pizza sauce

Unroll crescent dough into two long rectangles; seal seams and perforations.  Spread each with pesto; sprinkle with red peppers and Parmesan cheese.  Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a short side.
With a sharp knife, cut each roll into 10 slices or so.  Place on greased baking sheets.  Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm with pizza sauce.

Editor's Note:  I actually prepared these the night before, put them in a container and threw them on my side porch step because I had run out of room in my refrigerator.  They got a little frozen, but baked up awesomely.  If you are freezing these, whether accidentally or on purpose, give them about five extra minutes for baking.

Apple Pie Shots

These were actually packaged for Christmas gifts this year

Pretty, festive and powerful ... be careful when consuming since Everclear is, like, 150 proof

adapted from

    * 750 ml Everclear
    * 1/2 gal. Apple Juice
    * 1/2 gal. Cider, apple
    * 3 sticks Cinnamon Stick
    * 1.5 cup Sugar


Mix apple juice, apple cider, sugar, and cinnamon sticks together. Boil until cinnamon sticks lose flavor (I gave this about 1/2 hour and sucked on the cinnamon stick - then I rationalized that while the concoction was cooling, the cinnamon sticks would continue to steep.  And I was right.) Add Everclear. Refrigerate.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year! The Best of 2009

It's going to sound cliched, but where did the year go?  As 2008 was winding down to 2009, my friends and I were at a dive bar, drinking 7 & 7s out of plastic glasses and were cooing over a lady-obsessed chinchilla.  (Yup - only in Minnesota will you find ladies with chinchillas hanging out in their shirts ...)  I remember enthusiastically kissing my then-fiance at midnight and exclaiming that for New Years Eve 2009, we'll be married and oh how wonderful that will be.  And yes, 2009 has found me happily married, but instead of kisses at midnight, 2009 winding down into 2010 found me asleep on the couch, drooling and snoring when the ball dropped.  No kisses for my wonderful husband.  But since I had thrown an epic party complete with homemade macaroni and cheese and some of my liquid apple pie, all was forgiven.

Anyway - so many of my blogging friends posted this type of "Best of 2009" roundup yesterday and during this week - as always, I'm a day late, but the thought is there:  Here are what I consider to be my best recipes from 2009.  These are the recipes that made me think "damn, I need to make that again" when I went back in the archives to look at all the culinary messes I made this year.

Thank you to everyone who continues to read my blog, for my fellow cooks who continue to encourage me and to my awesome husband who can now tell me specifically what a dish is missing and who does the dishes for me.  My love and best wishes to all of you in 2010!

January had me on a soup kick and this particular one was comfort in a bowl - Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup.

February: The recipe for Butter Almond Cake came from one of the most unlikely places - a debt reduction blog that I subscribe to, but don't be fooled - frugal can be synonymous with decadent.


March: My husband and I happen to love Indian food, but it's not always a practical choice for our wallets. This is my buddy James' recipe and while it may not be the most authentic Chicken Curry that you'll find, it's enough to make my husband and I happy.

There were recipes in April, but April was the month that husband and I got hitched and his co-workers pitched in to buy me a KitchenAid mixer. While I don't use my KitchenAid every day, it is one of my favorite kitchen tools in the whole wide world.

May brought Blueberry Lime Margaritas.  Oh May was a great month indeed.

In June, I had a craving for some comfort food - Mama Casserole fit the bill.  This dish is something that my brother and my father wouldn't eat when we were growing up, so on weekends when Mom and I were holding down the fort, she'd make a pan of this dish.  I found myself making many of my family's tried-and-tested recipes in 2009. 

Get-togethers and grilling parties were the order of the summer during the month of July ... I ended up getting a reputation at one particular event as "the girl who cooks with booze" for these Margarita Cupcakes.  They are tequila-laced perfection in a baked good.

August: Rosemary Ranch Kabobs - these became my go-to dish for this summer.  Anytime we had friends over, anytime I was hungry for chicken, this was the dish that I turned to. It is so amazing, I'm ready to fire up my grill pan right now for some of these.

September:  I could have lived without the garden of mint in this salad (that or I need to work on my knife skills), but this Orzo Salad from Giada DeLaurentiis is an elegant side dish for any party and would work well for a week's worth of lunches.

This Pumpkin Beer Quick Bread was part of a #GreatHallowTweet in October that was organized by my friend Renee at Flamingo Musings.  I ate this bread for a week's worth of breakfasts after Halloween - it made for some good mornings.

November:  For some odd reason, I've been slightly obsessed with making snacks out of nuts lately and these Chipotle Roasted Nuts are now part of a larger repertoire that I've been hauling out for parties.  Very easy and very good.

December:  This is another Giada DeLaurentiis dish - Farmer's Pasta. I've been slightly obsessed with the combination of pasta, bacon and cheese this year - so much so that I think I'll need to cut back on this combination in 2010, but this dish is stellar good.

Happy New Year, my friends!