Monday, June 27, 2011

Yard Workin' and Puppy Watchin'

Summer seems to have finally arrived here in Oregon. I had every intention of launching Phase 2 of my back patio project (the only thing out there when I moved in was a concrete pad and a whole lot of weeds), but life has intervened, and I’ve decided to keep it very simple.  So, I've put in a small garden and am just generally trying to maintain what was put in last summer.

I suppose I would have been wise to put together a hearty breakfast before sweating over yard and garden work for several hours, but breakfast just really isn’t my thing. So I made scones instead. I happened to still have a few cans of organic pumpkin in the pantry, and before long I had a spice-scented house that even got O2 out of bed before 10 am.

Spiced Glazed Pumpkin Scones

2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp ginger
6 Tbs cold butter
½ cup canned pumpkin
3 Tbs milk
1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 Tbs melted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 - 2 Tbs milk
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves

Preheat the oven to 425º.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly.

Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the pumpkin, milk and egg. Gently whisk the wet ingredients with a fork, then slowly incorporate the dry ingredients. Use hands to form the dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface, forming it into a 1-inch thick circle. Use a large knife to cut into 12 wedges of equal size. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until light brown. Allow to cool.

To make glaze, combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, adding the milk last (start out with 1 Tbs and add more until it is of the desired consistency). Drizzle over scones.

* * *

G & C have welcomed a new member into their family. It’s this precious girl, Josie…

In addition to two full-time jobs and their new sleep-stealer (house training a puppy is not for the faint of heart), they are also remodeling their kitchen AND Carley has just started rehearsal for a new show.

Crazy, crazy people. I think that’s why I love them so much. We suffer from the same form of insanity.

Anyway, O2 and I offered to hang out for the afternoon to keep an eye on Puppy and make sure she got her potty breaks, and I offered to put together dinner, thus freeing them up a bit to work on staining the 40 cabinet pieces they have in their garage.

Did I use the word crazy???

I’m not sure we gave them a lot of bang for their buck in the puppy-sitting department since shortly after we arrived, Miss Josie passed out near the dining table and only woke briefly… once. G & C assured me this was NOT the norm.

Always eager to experiment on my friends (heh heh), I put together some new dishes, as well as a few standbys. We had barbecued pork ribs, corn on the cob, an Asian savoy cabbage slaw, some roasted baby potatoes and a new cornbread recipe I was auditioning.

You’ll have to excuse the rather boring photo, but there wasn’t a lot of time between the cutting of the bread and the devouring of said bread (mostly by O2) to warrant a photo shoot.

Don’t let the rather thick batter make you nervous. I almost added more buttermilk to it, but it turned out just fine as is.

Jalapeno Zucchini Cornbread

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup buttermilk
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 medium jalapeno, finely minced
1 cup flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup cornmeal

Heat oven to 350 º. Use the butter wrapper to lightly grease a 8” square glass baking dish.

Combine melted butter, eggs and buttermilk in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Mix in zucchini and jalapeno. On a sheet of waxed paper, or in another bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Add to the wet ingredients and stir together, just until blended (remember, the mixture will be thick). Pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake in center of oven until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 - 60 minutes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oldies but Goodies

I love trying out new recipes or coming up with recipes on my own. But having a repertoire of quick to prepare standards can be just as satisfying.

O2 and I were doing the vehicle trade-off thing again last night, and I wanted to put together something fast. I had already roasted a turkey breast the previous night (which neither of my kids will eat), and as I did a quick run through the store on the way home, I decided to make some polenta (which she loves) and some kind of veggie. Cauliflower happened to be on sale, and I knew I had some bell peppers at home already, so I decided to toss it all in the oven to roast and then make my favorite Romesco to tie it all together.

Cauliflower’s never been something I get terribly excited about. But this was a good way to prepare it. And the almonds in the sauce (which, by the way, was a much more satisfying color this time around thanks to RED bell peppers instead of yellow) complimented the roasted flavor of the vegetable nicely.

I used this basic polenta recipe, except that I omitted the mozzarella and added 2 oz of cream cheese. I also roasted a head of garlic and added about half of the bulb to it as well.

On a side note, the romesco also went very well with the turkey.  :-))

Roasted Cauliflower

1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets (or a bag of florets if that’s how you roll)
2 - 3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400º. Spread cauliflower evenly over a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast about 20 - 30 minutes until cauliflower is tender and beginning to turn golden.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Elves in the Kitchen

I remember late one night not too many years ago being awakened out of a sound sleep and having that feeling that ‘something just doesn’t seem quite… right’. This was quickly followed by a moment of panic thinking that the house was on fire because I definitely smelled… something.

Turns out it was O1 and O2 having the first of many Midnight Summertime Crèpe-making Extravaganzas. These eventually became their little bonding ritual and my only reservation (once these little sessions of theirs no longer resulted in my bolting awake in a panic) was facing a kitchen that was only ‘sort of’ put back together afterwards.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m no stranger to walking into the kitchen in the morning and seeing evidence of various late-night culinary endeavors.

And maybe it was because last week was a REALLY long week, which had followed another REALLY long week, or maybe my head just wasn’t in the right place, because when I walked into my PRISTINE kitchen and spotted a tray of these…

all I could manage was… confusion.

I wondered if maybe I had made them and just promptly forgot (told you it had been a long week)? But no, upon closer inspection, these seemed too peanut butter-y to have been made by me. I’m not much of a peanut butter fan.

Turns out O2 had a craving for peanut butter and chocolate and decided to dive right in and make a batch of Buckeyes.

And then wash all of the dishes, countertops, etc.

Excuse me while I go check her temperature. While you’re waiting, you might want to whip up a batch of your own, because judging from how quickly they disappeared, they must have been pretty tasty.

Even if they were full of peanut butter.


1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cups (1 stick) butter (if you're using unsalted, you might want to add a dash)
1 tsp vanilla
1 (16 oz.) box powdered sugar
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs vegetable shortening

Combine first four ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, using clean hands to mix, if desired. Roll into balls (1-2 teaspoons) and place on a waxed-paper lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until cold set.

Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a bowl in the microwave (30 seconds to 1 minute at a time - be careful not to burn). Put balls on a toothpick and dunk 3/4 of the way into the melted chocolate.  Remove toothpick and refrigerate again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mini Rant

So, confession time…

There is something that my children do that never fails to heartily annoy me. It usually starts with some kind of discussion about how there is ‘no food in the house’. Mind you, I am an avid coupon shopper/stockpiler, and I’m pretty sure in the event of a nuclear disaster, I can feed my family a minimum of 3 months with what I have on hand. But apparently all of that food is just not ‘right’ for the recent grad, at least. And now that O1 is staying with us for a few months until she gets a new place, I find her going through cabinets and sighing in disappointment from time to time as well.

Anyway, I digress…

So, the discussion continues with me asking what they would like me to pick up for them the next time I’m at the grocery store. Several weeks ago, the unanimous answer given by both of them was ‘bananas’.

Me, I’m not much of a banana fan. But the girls have always seemed to like them. So being the dutiful mother I am, I naturally picked up a bunch for them and brought them home.

Where they sat.

And sat.

And sat.

{irritated Mommy face}

So there I was with, quite literally, a bunch of bananas that were going brown and soft. And since I had been unhappy with the last banana bread recipe I auditioned, I started hunting around for recipes on the net. I was pretty open to anything, but I knew I wanted them to have butter and buttermilk in them.

I finally ran across a recipe on Two Peas and their Pod and rather than retyping it here, I’m just going to post the link.

‘Cuz I didn’t do a damn thing to change it. And it was really, really good.

I won’t tell you that it made my eyes roll back in the back of my head or anything. I mean, come on. It’s BANANA BREAD. But it was moist and flavorful.

And gone almost immediately.

Problem solved.

Buttermilk Banana Bread (from Two Peas and their Pod).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Grad and Post #100

I have been terribly lax with my posts as of late. Mostly it has to do with the planning and executing of a graduation party for this one:

Offspring 2 received her high school diploma one year ahead of schedule, and we commemorated the occasion with a summer back yard get together for a few friends and family members. And there, of course was food. Lots and lots of food.

I was thankful to have a few friends volunteer to bring food as well, and we had some amazing veggie and fruit offerings as well as some Vietnamese Chicken Spring Rolls that Carley brought. Yum.

There was a kids table full of various kid friendly snacks, as well as the obligatory penguins, which even donned graduation caps for the occasion (and which I neglected to get any photos of).

Along with various vehicles for the transportation of dip-like substances from plate to mouth and other small munchies, there were the following:

Jalapeno Popper Dip
7 Layer Taco Dip

Pigs in a Blanket (Li’l Smokies baked in puff pastry with a bit of Dijon)
BBQ Chicken Quesadillas (BBQ sauce, chicken, Cheddar and green onion)
Mini pizzas with pesto and shrimp or sun-dried tomato tapenade and shrimp

Moroccan Spiced Chickpeas (ok, just go with me here…)

Moroccan Spiced Chickpeas

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained thoroughly
1 Tbs olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp allspice

Heat oven to 400º. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spread drained chickpeas evenly out on pan. Drizzle with olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle evenly over chickpeas. Using a spoon, move the chickpeas around on the pan until they are evenly coated with the spice mixture. Place in oven and bake for about 40 minutes.

* * *

I also made a quick bunch of Quinoa Filled Lettuce Cups. All this really amounted to was cooking the quinoa with a little bit of garlic and lemon zest, cooling it, and then adding chopped dried apricots, Kalamata olives and Pepitas (pumpkin seeds). I used just enough store-bought balsamic vinegar dressing to get it to clump together a bit and then spooned it into lettuce leaves. Easy peasy.

For the dessert spread I included a batch of caramel corn, some mini key lime tarts, which never got dressed with their pretty little lime toppers,

and this cookie ‘cake’, which seemed to be the biggest hit of the party (thank you, Martha Stewart):

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs light corn syrup
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbs milk
1 Tbs vanilla
3/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips

1 8 oz tub mascarpone cheese
3 cups whipping cream
3 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs liqueur (I used Frangelico)

1 cup chocolate shavings

Preheat oven to 375º. Cream butter with sugars and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl. Add egg, milk and vanilla and stir until thoroughly combined. Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix thoroughly. Stir in mini chocolate chips.

Drop onto cookie sheet, keeping the dough about the size of a rounded teaspoon. Bake for 8 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Cool on wire rack.

When cookies are completely cool to the touch, make filling.

Add mascarpone to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for about a minute on medium-high. Add the whipping cream and beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and liqueur. Continue beating just until stiff peaks form.

Place one layer of cookies on a serving platter in a circle. Place a couple of the cookies in the center. Spoon about 1 cup of the mascarpone mixture over the top and spread evenly over cookies, almost to the edge. Add another layer of cookies and continue, ending with a layer of the mascarpone. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Add chocolate shavings before serving.

The cookies will soften overnight, and you can cut just like a cake.

* * *

I’d like to give you a report on how the ‘cake’ tasted, but I never got any of it. Maybe I was too busy playing hostess, or maybe I was too traumatized at the idea of my youngest being college bound. Either way, I guess I’ll take the emptied and scraped dish as a good sign…