Sláinte!

I made Monte a chocolate Guinness cake for his birthday (recipe here).  I put a little chocolate powder in the icing (link for that is also in the recipe for the cake) so it would be tan colored instead of white.  You know, so I could put a little beer foam on top along with the signature shamrock  🙂

Happy Birthday!

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Dinner and a movie.

Yesterday we helped Julie move into her new apartment.  Then she joined us for dinner.  I shouldn’t have, but I made a very decadent pasta dish, and we pigged out while watching The Princess Bride (for probably the tenth time).  If you are craving a high-calorie, savory, down-home, soul-food kind of pasta dish.  This is the one for you.

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Sausage & Basil Baked Pasta

  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz dry penne or ziti pasta (makes about 3 cups cooked)
  • 1 lb fresh mild italian ground sausage
  • 24 oz jar of tomato & basil sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz carton of ricotta cheese
  • 2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c fresh basil, chopped

Boil pasta per package directions, drain and set aside.

In medium saucepan, cook & crumble italian sausage.  Drain off fat.  Return skillet to heat and add onion & garlic to sausage.  Saute until onion is soft.  Add tomato sauce, heat through and set aside.

In large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, and half of the mozzarella.  Fold in the cooked pasta to combine well with cheese mixture.

Into a 13×19 pan, add half of the pasta & cheese mixture, spread evenly.  Add half the sausage & tomato sauce mixture.  Layer again with remaining cheese and sauce.

Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, until bubbly.

Remove cover, add remaining mozzarella cheese and place back in oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve.    Makes enough to feed an army.

 

 

The birds and the bees.

The hummingbird feeders are getting quite a lot of traffic these days.  Between the bees, the hummers and the finches, they’ll empty one of these in a day.   I had just refilled this feeder and by the time I got back into the house, these two had already stopped for a drink.

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Hummingbird Nectar
1 part sugar : 4 parts H2O
Bring to a boil for several minutes.
Let cool completely.   You can refrigerate any extra for a week or so.
Probably shouldn’t leave in the feeder for more than a day or two.

Cookies, baked & decorated.

I had a marathon baking session yesterday.   🙂

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I used a recipe from Southern Living‘s “Christmas at Home” 2009 special issue that I’ve had for years.

Sparkling Sugar Cookies  (made 4-5 dozen medium sized cookies when I made them)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Coarse sparkling sugar sprinkles of your choice

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

Combine flour and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Divide dough in half. Cover; chill 1 hour.

Roll each portion of dough to 1⁄8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with desired cookie cutters.  Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes ( 14 worked perfect in my oven)  or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on baking sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Add glaze (recipe below) and sprinkles (while glaze is still wet).  Leave flat until completely dry (this took quite a while for me).

Enjoy!

Simple Glaze  (makes about 1 cup)

1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons hot water
Liquid food coloring (optional)

Stir together powdered sugar and hot water until smooth. If desired, divide mixture, and tint with food coloring.  Spread on cookies with spatula or dip, whatever works best for you.

 

 

Garbage-pail pasta before & after.

Garbage-pail pasta is a quick dinner dish that I throw together using whatever is in the fridge.   Last night’s version featured:

  • leftover chicken breast meat from the day before – diced (8-10 ounces)
  • 1 onion – diced
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp each of kosher salt & ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces of dry bowtie pasta, cooked before it is added to sauce
  • 1 cup of half & half
  • 2 cups of baby spinach – coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces of grated parmesan cheese

Pre-cook pasta in salted water.   Save the pasta water to use it to thin the cream sauce later, if needed.

I use a 4-5 quart saute pan/pot to make the sauce, so that it is big enough to hold both the sauce and the cooked pasta when it is added later.

Saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat, until soft.   Add in the pre-cooked chicken, salt & pepper, and stir for another few minutes til chicken is warm.  Add flour and stir, to coat meat and veggies (this will help thicken the cream sauce later).

Add half & half and stir until sauce begins to thicken.   Add small amounts of pasta water if sauce gets too thick.  Stir in parmesan and spinach, for a minute or two.  Then turn off heat under sauce.  Add drained, cooked pasta to the sauce and stir.

Before:

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And after:

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Not bad.  This dish would easily serve 4.  Next time, I’d add more mushrooms.

Lemony goodness.

During our visit to Seattle, my niece made ice cream sandwiches for dessert.   They were delicious, so I had to try making them when we returned home.

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If you like lemon, and you like ice cream, you must try these.

Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches (makes 4)

4 or 5 scoops of vanilla ice cream – we used Bluebell Homemade Vanilla, of course
1 Tbsp Dickinson’s lemon curd – or more, to taste
8 belgian butter cookies

Put all ice cream scoops together in a single bowl.  Add lemon curd and stir well.  I used a stiff spatula to blend.  Do this relatively quickly, before ice cream gets too soft.  Place 4 cookies on flat baking sheet.  Spread a scoop of the blended ice cream onto each cookie.   Lightly place another cookie on top of each.  Place in freezer for several hours.

 

 

 

And another.

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Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

  • Mix 4 parts water with 1 part granulated sugar in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches a light boil for a minute or two.  Let cool before filling feeders.

 

How’s it hanging?

I’ve crossed off another project from my growing wanna-do list in my head this weekend.  As you may have come to know through this blog, we like to make homemade pasta.  A lot.  Spaghetti, fettucine, ravioli, waddevah.  It’s the food of the gods.  Over the holidays, I ran across a fresh pasta hanger on Amazon and it looked so simple and easy to make, that I refused to put it in my cart.  We have a gynormous wood shop out back.  So I did a little recon and found what I needed already in the shop and… voila!   Ye olde pasta hanger.  I made it without glue, so I can take it apart to store easily in the cabinet.

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Tonight I tried it out.  So, here’s how it went down:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour

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  • 3 eggs

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  • stir / mix with a fork, blending the egg & flour crater from the inside out.  You may not need all the flour.   When the dough stands on its own, knead by hand for 10 minutes.  Till it looks a like more or less like this:

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  • Wrap dough ball in saran wrap and let sit at room temp for 30 mins or so.
  • Afterwards,  I cut the dough ball into 3 equal-ish sided pieces, ready to put through the pasta roller.

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I used our Kitchen-Aid roller, starting on setting 1 – ending on setting 5.  Rolling and dusting the dough with flour several times on each setting.  After rolling each of the three balls into a sheet at setting number 5, I cut each in half.  I found that each of my six pasta sheets ended up making about 2 ounces of pasta – a serving.  So 3 eggs + 2 1/4 cups of pasta yields approximately 6 servings.

Next, I put the fettucine pasta cutter on the Kitchen-aid

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I hung each section on my new, handy-dandy pasta hanger.  (Awesome!)

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Then I threw the pasta into a pot of boiling water.  I sauteed the other bits in a skillet with some olive oil and I let the flavor develop.

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Yummm!

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Currying f(l)avor.

We roasted a whole chicken the other day and I took both cooked breast pieces and transformed them into a magnificent, mouthwatering curried chicken salad.

Simply delicious.

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Here’s more or less what went in.  It made 2-3 cups of chicken salad.

Curried chicken salad

  • 2 cooked/skinned/boneless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/2 c mayonaise (I like Duke’s light olive oil mayo, tastes just like regular)
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 5-7 tsp curry powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 scallions sliced finely
  • 1 apple (I used a sweet, crunchy gala), peeled and diced
  • 1/8 c sliced almonds
  • juice of half a lime

Mix well so everything is coated with yellowy goodness.  Then put it in the fridge – for several hours before serving, to make the flavor pop.  Be patient, it’ll be worth the wait.

By the way, the baguette came from Baguette House over on North Lamar.  They make the best baguettes I’ve ever tasted.  Hands down.  Go get you some.

Bringing back the bread machine. 

We received an awesome Breadman Ultimate breadmaker for a wedding gift way back when.  And I used it for several years but stopped for some reason.   I was probably traveling a lot at the time.

A couple weeks ago I was cleaning out the pantry, and rediscovered it.  I have since stocked up on wheat flour, gluten and other ingredients and am back in the bread making groove.  The 1.5 lb loaves are perfect for the two of us for several days.

The light whole wheat bread loaf is delicious.

This one’s hot out of the machine:

And this is a link to 100+ page PDF for the bread machine with many recipes.

Beef burgundy. 

Today winter seems to have relaxed its grip.  Temps were in the 50s for most of the day.  Monte and I headed outside and trimmed, pruned, tilled and sowed.   A great day. 

I’ve dug out my crock pot recently and have been making recipes from way back when.   Tonight I made Beef Burgandy.  And Monte made homemade noodles to go with.  Oh my.  Delicious!





Beef burgundy ala crockpot:

– 2-lb beef round steak, cut in 3/4″ cubes

– 1/4 c flour

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 3 Tbsp butter

– 2 c red wine, Bordeaux or burgandy

– 1 c beef broth

– 1 c chopped onion

– 6 oz white mushrooms, rinsed dried & quartered

– 2 bay leaves

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Coat beef with flour and salt mixture.   Melt butter in skillet.  Add beef and brown on all sides.  Transfer browned meat to crock pot.  Deglaze hot skillet with a little bit of wine and put those tasty bits in the crockpot, too.  Combine all other ingredients in crock pot and stir. 

Cover.  Cook on high for 2 hours, then reduce to low for another 2 -3 hours, until meat is tender. 

Before serving, remove 1 c of liquid, heat over medium on stove; bring to a low boil.  Wisk in 1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in  2 Tbsp cold water,  until  thickened.  Pour back into crockpot and stir. 

Remove bay leaves.  Serve over noodles. 

Applebuttery goodness.

I have had a hankering for apple butter lately.   My HEB has a poor selection.   The only one they stock was full of multi-syllable chemical ingredients, and high fructose corn syrup.  I couldn’t bring myself to put it in my cart.    When I was a kid, apple butter was one of the many delicious things my mom would make and I would help her with the cooking and canning.   So, i decided to make my own apple butter.

There were many different recipes online.   I wasn’t looking to go the whole canning route, as I just wanted to make a small batch.    Some recipes started with apple sauce.   But I wanted to go as close to the good old fashioned way as possible.   I found a recipe that sounded minimalistic and simple.   I halved the original recipe, and it yielded 2 pint jars (i recycled some Bonne Maman 13 oz jam jars) of applebutter, which have a fridge life of about 2 weeks.  Or could be frozen up to a month.

I’ll start with a picture of the result, to get your mouth watering, and follow with the recipe:

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You’ll need a crock-pot and an immersion blender.   Here’s the before:

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You may want to use a variety of apples.   I used mostly gala, which are on the sweet side, and mixed in a few red delicious which are less sweet.   I also have one of these awesome contraptions, which makes peeling/coring/slicing the apples a breeze:

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Crock-pot Applebutter    (yields 2 pints)

3 1/4 lbs apples, peeled, cored & sliced
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 T ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 T vanilla extract

Place apple slices in crock pot.   In medium bowl, mix sugars, and spices.  Sprinkle dry mix over the apples and stir gently to coat apples and combine.

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Cook on low, covered, for 12 hours.

Stir in vanilla extract and puree with immersion blender until smooth.  For thicker applebutter, can cook on low another hour with lid ajar.

Cool and place in jars.  Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Tower o’ sprouts.

Look what I found at HEB.

We hit the grocery store early today with our Thanksgiving shopping list:  turkey: check….potatoes: check…green beans: check.  Then I spied this spire and couldn’t pass it up.  So we’ll have 2 green veggies on the table this year.  🙂 I love brussels sprouts and found this recipe from smittenkitchen.com earlier this year.   I tried it once…with pork chops i think, and it was delicious.

Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4

1 lb brussels sprouts
1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 T heavy cream
1 T dijon mustard (or more to taste)

Peel several of outer leaves off each sprout and halve lengthwise.  In a large, heavy 12-inch skillet heat butter and oil over moderate heat.  Place sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cook sprouts, without turning, until undersides are golden brown, about 5 minutes.  If sprouts don’t fit in one layer, brown them in batches, then add them all back to the pan, spreading them as flat as possible, before continuing with the shallots, wine, etc.

Add shallots, wine and stock.  Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low (for a gentle simmer), cover the pot and cook the sprouts until they are tender can be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the lid, and scoop out sprouts (leaving the sauce behind).  Add cream and simmer for two to three minutes, until slightly thickened.  Whisk in mustard.  Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary with more salt, pepper or Dijon.  Drizzle sauce over brussels sprouts and serve immediately.

Grill grub

Hibachi pie.

Monte whipped up a batch of his pizza doughs this afternoon.  Instead of our usual thin, thin crust in the oven on the pizza stone, he wanted to give it a try on the grill this time.   We’ve tried grilled pizza before… once we put a pizza stone on top of the grate in a Weber charcoal grill and tried, unsuccessfully, to cook a loaded pizza dough on top.  After that experiment, we ended up with 3 or 4 inedible pizzas that were black on the bottom and raw on top.  And, the pizza stone eventually broke in 2 from the heat.

This time, he had something else in mind.   We have a charcoal hibachi grill out back as well.  This time he put one of our cast iron grill plates on the hibachi, and put the pizza dough on top of that.  After turning it the dough once, he put sauce and cheese on top while the other side was grilling.   It only took a few minutes per side – and it turned out great.

Viva la pizza!