Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Seeing a Trend

Well, first of all, it seems my one year ‘blogiversary’ has come and gone. So, happy belated birthday to MSandS. Remind me to bake a cake… or something…

So last night, O2 decided that what she just HAD TO HAVE was frozen cookie dough dipped in chocolate.


And sure enough, a short time later I found her in the kitchen whipping up a batch of these. You might notice a marked resemblance to this middle of the night candy-making binge. I sense a trend here.

I never got to sample any of these last night, and it will be interesting to see if they made it through the day.

I’ll keep you posted.

Chocolate Covered Cookie Dough Pops

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs water
2 cups flour
¾ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup chocolate for melting (whatever you prefer)
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs half & half

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla, water, flour, and chocolate chips until well blended. Roll dough into bite-sized balls. Place on a lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

Combine chocolate, butter and half & half in a small bowl. Place in microwave and cook on high for 1 minute. Allow to sit in microwave with door closed for 30 seconds to one minute. Remove and stir until mixture is smooth (add a bit more of the cream if necessary). Remove dough balls from freezer and skewer with toothpicks to hold. Dip in chocolate mixture and return to pan. Return to freezer until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes. Store in resealable plastic bags.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Burger Bliss

At some point, I totally gave up on my little garden. Blame it on our funky summer, or the tree that fell into my yard and never allowed much sun to get through even when there WAS sun, or blame it on my seeming inability to grow things. Whatever it was, the proceeds from my little garden plot were almost nil. I mean, I failed at zucchini. How does ANYONE fail at zucchini???

I am most bummed about my tomato plants, two of which have finally started to bear fruit, even though it’s now too cool for them to get very far. But I was so looking forward to mountains of tomatoes - so much of a bounty that I’d have plenty to use green.

We are HUGE fried green tomato fans in my house.

I did have a very nice co-worker bring me a bag of green tomatoes, which I used several times before they started to ripen too much to use in that capacity. I had them hanging in a bag on my kitchen door, and I had kind of forgotten about them. Last weekend I was going to throw the bag out and then noticed that not only were the tomatoes still fine, they had ripened. So here I was with a bag of about 6 tomatoes that were going to spoil if I didn’t do something with them in fairly short order.

So I decided to make some jam.

I had also received a few poblanos from another co-worker, and I had also picked up some really nice pepper bacon, so the makings of a plan began to form. I went to work on my little concoction, and the next night decided to test drive it on something really basic - a burger.

So, armed with some good quality ground beef, ciabatta rolls and my tomato jam, I whipped up a batch of my standard dry rub, cooked the burgers to a satisfying medium doneness and slathered them with the tomato jam.

Happiness ensued.

Spicy Tomato Bacon Jam

5 strips good quality, thick-cut bacon, cut into a fine dice
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
4 large beefsteak tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup apple juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 medium sized poblano chile, seeded and minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cloves

In a large saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until cooked through and beginning to crisp. Add onions and garlic. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes until onions have cooked through. Add tomatoes and chiles. Cook for a few more minutes until tomatoes begin to break down. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and allow to cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool in pan and then transfer to jars or covered plastic containers (will make about 2 or 3 cups of jam. Keep in fridge or freezer.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Frugal Fridays - Bringing on Fall Weather

With Fall officially upon us (although, to be honest, it really doesn’t feel much different than June), I wanted something quick and hearty that would make use of what was left of a rotisserie chicken I had picked up for another meal (someday I’ll actually post about roasted chicken, which is easy and SOO much better than store-bought - but that actually requires a time span of several hours to prep and cook - something I’ve been in very short supply of lately).

Anyway, I taught my first couponing class last night, and it put me in the mood to tie in a recipe with something I brought up in class, mainly, cooking with what you have on hand.

I do usually have a can or two of enchilada sauce on hand, and chicken stock, whether homemade or store bought, is another staple of mine. The rest of this dish was basically put together with leftovers.

Now, I realize that most people probably don’t keep masa in their pantries. Don’t feel like you need to run out and buy a full bag of the stuff, either, unless you plan on tackling homemade tortillas (which I do at some point) or tamales (Carley and I already have a tentative plan in the works for this). You can actually find this in the bulk section of a lot of stores. Throw a small scoop in a bag, and not only will you have it on hand for this recipe, but it also is a great way to tighten up chili, and it gives a nice undertone of flavor as well. If you don’t have masa, and don’t want to pick any up, I imagine you could do pretty well boiling a potato (russet) until soft and then mashing it really well and adding it to the soup.

Top this with a little sour cream, and in the spirit of using up leftovers, try baking some leftover tortillas until crisp, or tossing in the remainders of that bag of chips you have sitting on the shelf.

You know who you are.

Enchilada Soup

2 - 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cans chicken stock (or about 1 qt homemade)
1 cup masa harina
3 cups water, divided
1 cup enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (or a mixture of Cheddar and Monterey Jack is great, too)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic until onions are translucent. Pour in chicken broth. Add chicken and broth to the pot.

In a bowl, whisk together masa harina and 2 cups of water until well blended. Pour into pot with remaining 1 cup water, enchilada sauce, Cheddar, salt, chili powder and cumin. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until thickened.


Sour cream
Tortilla chips/strips

Cost Breakdown:

This one’s a little tough for me to pin down because I already had everything on hand. Even the enchilada sauce was left over from making enchiladas and then freezing what I didn’t use. So in other words, I didn’t spend anything running out and buying stuff. But if I had to sit down and figure out the total, I’m guessing it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 - $10 total. And this makes a lot of soup - about 8 serving’s worth.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Showers and Showers

I knew September was going to be insane, but it truly seemed to go by in a blink of an eye. So cliché, but so true. Many doctor visits, multiple catering jobs, endless car juggling and two baby showers, not to mention trying to get a nursery in order and launching our annual fundraiser at work to buy coats for local school kids.

Needless to say, most of the cooking I did last month was not for me and mine. We ate what I was feeding everyone else.

But it was all good, everyone survived, and here it is October. And insta-Fall here in Oregon. Not two weeks ago we were all complaining marveling at our late September temperatures in the mid to upper 80s. This week it’s raining, and I think we’ll be lucky to hit 60. But I’m not complaining. This is, after all, my favorite time of the year.

I did manage to snap a few frantic pictures and will be sharing those in upcoming posts. For now, I thought I’d share the culmination of our busy month with some photos of O2’s second baby shower. She had one thrown by friends at the theater, and we had it outside in the park. Weather was beautiful. A week later we had another thrown by her best friend, and hosted by a dear friend of mine, as a ‘school friends and family’ kind of a thing (and luckily indoors as it was much chillier, and a little gloomy looking outside).

I wanted to keep the buffet fairly small and simple. Probably a good thing as we had about a third of the people we were expecting. One of my biggest peeves is people who say they’re going to attend something and then never bother to show. They seem to have zero understanding of the time and expense that is put forth on their behalf.

Anyway, I’ll save that rant for another time.

So, the buffet…

These little guys just HAD to make an appearance again, only this time they were sporting binkies and bottles…

We had some really simple umbrellas (as a nod to our ‘showers’), made from Babybel cheese and bendy straws…

I put together another fruit tureen since it was so popular at the first shower, and also a little baby buggy filled with fresh fruit…

And since I needed all of 2 pretzel rods to make the trees for the first shower cake, I opted to use the rest of them here, dip them in white chocolate and roll them in sprinkles…

Rounding out the buffet were cucumber rounds topped with a smoked salmon spread that O2 put together, as well as little canapés topped with the chicken salad recipe I stole borrowed from C after our last ‘dinner extravaganza’ (which I realize I have yet to share). We also had jalapeno popper dip and chips at the mom-to-be’s request. And E made a blue punch that we could float a little duck family in.

And since the cake itself was so popular at the first shower, I thought I’d just make the spice cake portion of it again for this shower, but this time turn it into cupcakes topped with little animal faces, which I have to say were just a blast to make. Fondant is like adult play-doh, I swear.

Spiced Cake
adapted from

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk

Sift all dry ingredients (except for sugar) onto a piece of waxed paper, or into a bowl. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350º. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Cream together at high speed about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Alternate adding dry ingredients and the sour cream and milk until everything is incorporated.

Line 2 cupcake pans with liners (24 regular sized). Spoon batter into liners about ¾ of the way full. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting (I used a cream cheese frosting).