Monday, April 27, 2015

Thank You Notes, Handmade by Toddler (& Mom)

First of all, many congrats to Jaisa who dropped some big news ever-so-casually in last week's post!  I'm basically over the moon and can't stop texting her about it at all hours of the day and night.  I'm just hoping she will share the Instagram picture that she and Charlie used to announce it to their friends... so darling.

Speaking of darling, let's get back to my two year old son.  Smooth transition?  No?  Moving on...

After his second birthday party, Will had a whole lot of thank you notes to get in the mail.  Like last year, I wanted to have him involved in the making of the cards and, like last year, I had a lot of finger paint laying around.  We kicked it up a notch this year, though...


It helps that Will is actually VERY into finger painting now.  I'm not that into it myself and always make excuses for why we shouldn't (it's a huge mess!  it's more hassle than it's worth!  the paints say non-toxic but they're probably loaded with all sorts of sneaky carcinogens!) but a few minutes in it's always apparent that Will is having a blast and it's totally worth it.  Also he isn't eating it, so it could be worse for him, I'm sure.


I let him go nuts on a huge sheet of white paper (Ikea paper roll FTW) and when it had dried the next day, used a heart-shaped stamper cutter ("I can't believe we own that thing.  Its ONLY function is to cut out heart shapes?!" -Jesse) to get some hearts we could use on thank you cards.


Gluesticked onto blank cards, the hearts were the perfect combination of THANK YOU/I LOVE YOU/I'M SORRY THESE WENT OUT A WEEK LATER THAN I HAD PLANNED.  Everyone got handwritten notes and a bit of Will art.


Easy peasy and totally kid friendly.  These could also work as a set of stationery for the grandmothers in your life... Mother's Day is coming!

I want Will to be a thank you note writer when he grows up, so starting early is key.  Thanks again to Will's awesome friends and family... check your mailboxes!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tart Cherry Lemon Bars

DESSERT.  My new favorite thing.  Crazy, I know, I know.  But ever since I got pregnant (SURPRISE) I'm obsessed with sweets.  It's bizarre really.  I am also obsessed with sour things - key lime pie for example.  Can't get enough of it.  Right around Easter I was craving (literally, this time) lemon bars.  I went a little rogue and added tart cherry juice concentrate to the recipe and it came out awesome.  I nearly ate the whole pan.  Oopsies. 


The crust is flakey and buttery and just balances so perfect with the tart, yet sweet filling.  I was a little scared of what would happen to the color when it baked, but it came out this pretty peach color.  Yay. 


 
I used this recipe for the lemon bars and then I added the tart cherry juice concentrate.  I began by making the filling, which is just flour, eggs, lemon juice, and sugar.  I made sure to strain the lemon juice so I didn't miss any seeds.  It can happen. 


These eggs were so fresh.  Nice and bright.  PS - look at my cool nail polish.  Obsessed.


The next step is where I demonstrate my inability to follow directions creativity.  My massage therapist recently told me about tart cherry juice.  It's the worlds most potent antioxidant and is a natural pain reliever.  Something that comes in handy when you have crazy pregnancy headaches.  The concentrate works awesome in smoothies, over yogurt, or even squirted into a dessert impulsively.  It's VERY tart - almost a combination of cherries and lemons.  I added two tablespoons.  Yummmyyyy.


The crust is super easy.  You just mix butter, flour, and a few pinches of sea salt (since I use unsalted butter) and then par bake it for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven until it turns slightly golden brown.


 

Pour the filling on top, pray to the dessert gods that you measured everything right, and then pop it back in the oven for another 20 minutes until the filling sets.


Lemon bars come out sort of weird looking on top after they bake - the color comes out a little uneven so adding a dusting of powdered sugar is the way to go.  Make sure they cool completely, however, or else the powdered sugar will melt the second it hits the bars.


I am so sad these are gone.  I am dying to make more and now that I think of it, I have all of the ingredients.  I know what I'm having for lunch...:)

Here's the recipe, adapted from Allrecipes.com

Crust:
1 Cup of Butter, Softened
1/2 Cup of White Sugar
2 Cups of Flour

Filling:
4 Eggs
1-1/2 Cups of White Sugar
1/4 Cup of Flour
2 Lemons, Juiced
2 Tbs of Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend all of the crust ingredients - it's easiest if you use your hands.  Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden. In another bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together and pour over par baked crust.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes.  Let them cool completely.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving and enjoy!

Stay hungry!



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mexican Corn Salad

GUYS.  We're back.  It's been awhile. I know, I know.  Sorry about that.  Hopefully you missed us as much as we missed you.  We have lots of cool homey and hungry posts to catch up on...including this one.  If you love corn (or even remotely like it) this recipe is for you and my veggie loving friend Caitlin.  I cheated and used canned sweet corn (whatever, it's fine) and it came out super awesome and took me a total of 10 minutes to throw together. BOOM.  Back at it. 

We were invited to an Easter lunch on Sunday and after cooking all of my usual Easter staples on Saturday, I wanted to make something a little different to bring.  Enter: cool, crunchy, creamy, spicy, and refreshing Mexican Corn Salad.  Perfect as a spring or summer side dish, if I don't say so myself. 


It's super easy to make. Diced red onions, green onions, jalapenos, canned sweet corn (or fresh if you are impressive and have time like that), feta, and finished with a light, bright creamy lime dressing. It's more authentic to use cotija cheese, but I thought feta was a little lighter and a little tangier.  I'm also obsessed with feta right now.  So there's that.


After tossing all of the ingredients together, let it chill in the fridge for about two hours.  The flavors all come together and create this spicy and sweet awesomeness.  Damn.  I wish we had leftovers.


Here's the recipe!

5 Cans Whole Kernel Sweet Corn (15 oz Cans), drained well 
1/2 to 1 Jalapeno, seeds removed and diced 
1/4 Cup of Red Onion, diced 
1/4 Cup of Green Onions, diced 
1/3 Cup of Crumbled Feta 
1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise 
1/2 Cup of Sour Cream 
Juice from 1 Lime 
1/4 Tsp Kosher Salt*

Mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, and lime juice and then incorporate to the rest of the ingredients.  Let chill in the fridge for two hours before serving.  The dressing sets at the bottom, so toss again before serving and serve cold.

*I went really easy on the salt since it was going to be served with salty Easter ham.  Season to your tastes.

Stay hungry!

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Bulldozer Cake for Two Year Old Will

Well hello there!  It's been a while and a lot is new.  A lot like... I have a two year old!  These days Will is a happy little guy who loves his family, his frog blanket, splashing in puddles, and construction vehicles.  Especially construction vehicles.  So for his second birthday, we went all out with the construction theme.



We used Will's many trucks for decor and serving, but my favorite part of the theme was the bulldozer cake I made at 5:30 AM the morning of the party (what?  I woke up excited!).

Most of the bulldozer cakes I found on Pinterest were cakes shaped like bulldozers (I don't have the time or skill for that), so I cheated and used one of Will's toys (scrubbed down with Lysol wipes, then soap and hot water).  The cake itself is two layers of standard yellow cake frosted with chocolate frosting.  Once the base was done, it was time to add even more calories.


I coated the cake in crushed Oreos ("dirt") and then scattered some rocks (aka Snickers and Butterfinger bites).


I created a big pile of rocks for in front of the 'dozer out of Oreos, chocolate frosting, and candy chunks (Jaisa, avert your eyes if you're on one of those skinny recipe kicks).


Will was obsessed with the "bullzozer cake" and it was DELICIOUS.  Seriously, candy on Oreos on frosting on cake is the most delicious, decadent combination ever.

This was mostly a family party so we didn't have a ton of Will's little buddies around, but considering how well it went over with a bunch of grownups and older cousins, I feel confident saying that this would be a huge hit on the toddler party scene.

Aftermath:


After-aftermath (not pictured): me standing in front of the fridge tonight finishing off the last of this cake

Happy birthday to Willbo!  Here's to the terrible tasty twos!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lavender Scones

A long, long time ago, I posted about my best friend Lauren's Mom's (aka Julie Mom's) lavender scones.  I'm OBSESSED WITH THEM.  I love them so much I can't even tell you.  Not too long ago, I welcomed an exciting treat in the mail - Julie Mom had sent me my own box of lavender scones!!! GET OUT OF HERE I said.  I've been rationing them out like a Civil War soldier at Gettysburg.  I still have a couple left but not for long.  I want them to last forever.


Thanks Julie Mom for my amazing, delicious gift.  I love them so much I just had to share them with you guys.

Here's the recipe!

3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
3⁄4 cup (1 1⁄2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2 -inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons dried lavender buds (more or less, depending upon availability)
1 cup chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large 
bowl. Ad butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix 
in lavender buds. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form. 
Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to bind dough, about 4 
turns. Form dough into 1-inch thick round. Cut out using 2 1⁄2” round biscuit cutter. 
Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until top of scones are golden brown, about 15 minutes. 
Let stand on baking sheet 10 minutes. Serve scones warm or at room temperature.

Stay hungry! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Baked Spaghetti Pie

****RECIPE UPDATE*** - I made this recipe differently this weekend and it came out way more delicious.  See below for revised recipe. 

Salt & Pepper
1 Lb of Spaghetti 
1 Lb of Pancetta, diced
3/4 Cup Freshly Grated Pecorino Ramano 
3/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan 
3/4 Cup Mozzarella, Shredded 
1 1/4 Cups Heavy Whipping cream
3 Tbs Butter 
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped 
8 Eggs, whisked
3 Tbs of Vegetable Oil 

Cook your spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente - 8 - 9 minutes or to the instructions on the box.  Rinse with cold water and let pasta dry for 20 or so minutes in the strainer. Move the pasta around with your hands while cooling so it stays nice and loose. Chop the pancetta and cook in a little olive oil until nice and crispy.  Drain the oil and set aside to cool.  Give the pancetta a rough chop. Heat butter up in skillet over low heat and add garlic.  Saute over very low heat until garlic starts to turn translucent - about two minutes.  Do not overcook garlic - you don't want any color on it at all.  Add cream to the pan.  Continue to heat over medium low heat.  Add pecorino ramano.  Add LOTS of black pepper.  Continue to heat cream for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until cheese begins to melt.  Remove from heat and cool - about 15 minutes.  Add mozzarella and add parmesan to cooled cream mixture.  Stir.  Add pancetta to eggs.  Mix.  Pour in pasta and mix everything together with your hands.  Add cream mixture.  Season with salt and more pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Heat a skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes with 3 tbs of vegetable oil.  Add pasta mixture and turn heat down to medium low. Press down with your hands.  Let it cook for 4 minutes without touching it.  Get a spatula and run the spatula around the edges.  Lift underneath and check - if it's golden brown get the spatula and run underneath the pasta and lift very gently.  If the pasta isn't golden brown or sticks, let it cook for another 2-3 minutes or so.  Don't rush it.  Put a cutting board that's been misted with a little Pam or rubbed with oil on top of the spaghetti and flip so you can get the other side crusty.  While the pasta is on the board, add another TBS of oil to the pan and let it heat up over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add pasta and cook for 1 minute.  Without flipping, place pasta in pan in 350 degree oven for 6 minutes.  Remove and let rest for 30 minutes before serving.  Serve at room temperature with a little tomato sauce or as is.

________________________


During our recent trip to Italy, we had a lot of good food.  I mean...a lot.  We went to Positano as well as Rome.  It was some of the best food I had in my life.  

You know when you eat something that you expect will be good but it turns out to be absolutely outstanding?  That was this...the baked spaghetti pie (or whatever they actually call it) in Positano. While we were heading out of town, I went to get a scoop (or four cough cough) of gelati, but then I spotted...this.  I took a hairpin turn on my way to deliciousness.  You should have seen Charlie's face when I came out of the crowded store with this instead of my usual Italian sweet treat.  Here's an actual pic of the spaghetti pie... 


Ever since we got back, Charlie and I have talked about it.  OMG remember that crazy spaghetti cheesy meat thing we had in Positano?  We should try to make it.  We really should.  Well...we finally did.  And it came out great. 


If I don't mind saying so myself. 


Italians use guanciale in lots of recipes.  It's cured pork jowel - think of a saltier and fattier bacon.  It's amazing.  We had it all over Rome in carbonara and other popular pasta dishes gives creamy pastas an extra salty porky kick.  It's only available at specialty stores, so you can easily substitute pancetta, which is what I did.  I asked the deli counter to cut me 1 lb at setting 20 (you'll end up with 5 large, thick disks) and then I just gave it a rough chop.


Brown the pancetta in a little olive oil until nice and golden brown.  About 15 minutes or so over medium high heat.   This is what you want.  Make a little extra because you'll have "casualties."  You have to taste it...ya know...for poison.



While it's browning up, shred yo' cheese. Charlie the cheese thief was roaming around.  Hide yo' cheese, hide yo' wife.  Sorry.  Anyway, I'm not totally sure what cheese they used in Italy, but I went with a mix of provolone and parmesan.  I just asked the deli counter to give me a 3/4 lb block of provolone, which I then just shredded at home.  TA DAAA.  


This is one of my Mom's tricks...Sargento's Artisan Parmesan.  This is the only Parmesan in the history of Parmesan that really melts well.  Luckily, it comes shredded.


Next, whisk up 8 eggs.


Ok - onto the pasta.  You want to cook the spaghetti al dente in salted water (follow box instructions...I cooked mine for 9 mins). Strain and let cool for about 20 minutes.  Next, rinse with cold water and loosen with your hand and then let dry in the strainer for another 10 minutes.  You don't want to work with super hot pasta because it will scramble the eggs and if you let it cool as is, it would form a big block...so rinsing with a little water will help it stay nice and loose.  You can also use left over spaghetti.  I never ever have left over spaghetti...ever...but if you do great and you're probably skinny.  Double great.


Once the pancetta has crisped up and cooled, mix it with both cheeses and the egg....


...like so.


Next, add your pasta.  Get up in there with your hands...you want to make sure everything is well incorporated.


I enlisted Charlie's help because the next few stages are a little complicated.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a generous drizzle of light oil (vegetable, canola, whatever).  Add the pasta mixture.  You will hear it sizzle.  That's what you want.


Press the pasta firmly down.  Now...pay attention.  This next step is important.  Lower the heat down to medium low.  LEAVE THE PASTA and don't touch it for 4 minutes.  Once the 4 minutes is up, get a spatula and run it around the edges to remove the pasta from the sides.  Next, gently run the spatula under the pasta and lift ever so carefully.  If it's golden brown, continue to run the spatula under different areas, and lift.  If the pasta gives you a hard time, let it cook for another two minutes and try again.  Don't force it.  You'll know when a nice brown crust has formed and it's time to move on to the next step.


This thing was HEAV-AY so Charlie had to help me flip it.  He got a wooden cutting board and sprayed it with a little Pam so the pasta wouldn't stick to the board.  He then put the cutting board on top of the spaghetti and flipped it over.  I would have photographed it but I was too busy yelling and micromanaging the situation.


Once the pasta is out and onto the board, place the pan back onto the heat and add some more oil.  Let the oil heat up for 1-2 minutes and then slide the pasta back in.  Let the other side cook for about 1 minute and then place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 6 minutes.


Remove it and let it cool for a minimum of 30 minutes.  If you can wait that long.  I waited for 25 minutes.   Oh boy. Check it.  Check it good.



mmm...


I was very proud of myself with this one.  I think I high fived Charlie more than twice.  Ok maybe four times.


Here's the recipe!

Salt & Pepper
1 Lb of Spaghetti 
1 Lb of Pancetta 
1 Lb of Provolone, Shredded (or four cups shredded)
1 Cup Parmesan, Shredded 
8 Eggs, whisked
3 Tbs of Vegetable Oil 

Cook your spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente - 8 - 9 minutes or to the instructions on the box.  Rinse with cold water and let pasta dry for 20 or so minutes in the strainer. Move the pasta around with your hands while cooling so it stays nice and loose. Chop the pancetta and cook in a little olive oil until nice and crispy.  Drain the oil and set aside to cool.  Add pancetta to eggs and cheese.  Mix.  Pour in pasta and mix everything together with your hands.  Season with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes with 3 tbs of vegetable oil.  Add pasta mixture and turn heat down to medium low. Press down with your hands.  Let it cook for 4 minutes without touching it.  Get a spatula and run the spatula around the edges.  Lift underneath and check - if it's golden brown get the spatula and run underneath the pasta and lift very gently.  If the pasta isn't golden brown or sticks, let it cook for another 2-3 minutes or so.  Don't rush it.  Put a cutting board that's been misted with a little Pam or rubbed with oil on top of the spaghetti and flip so you can get the other side crusty.  While the pasta is on the board, add another TBS of oil to the pan and let it heat up over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add pasta and cook for 1 minute.  Without flipping, place pasta in pan in 350 degree oven for 6 minutes.  Remove and let rest for 30 minutes before serving.  Serve at room temperature with a little tomato sauce or as is.

Stay hungry! 


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Minnesota State Fair

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS.  I MADE IT.  I MADE IT TO THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR.  So after about ten years of being with Charlie and unsuccessfully timing our visits to Minnesota, we just so happened to be in town so we went and I ate everything.  Well not everything.  Probably only about 1% of what the fair had to offer, but we did our research and the 1% we did have was absolutely outstanding.  Ready?  Are you ready?  Hold on to your corn husks. 

So we started early.  Like 8:30 early and we bee lined for the bacon wrapped turkey leg from Texas Steak Out.  Words can not describe how delicious this was.  Even though we were diligently trying to pace ourselves, we nearly polished this off.  It was first smoked and then wrapped with bacon and grilled and then kept warm on top of a bed of onions.  I can't even handle it.  



The Corn Roast is famous at the Minnesota State Fair.  They roast super sweet, tender corn in the husks, peel it back, dip it (legit DIP IT) in butter and then let you season it with S&P.  It was amazing. Exactly what you'd expect sweet, in season corn to taste like.


So...those of you that are familiar with the fair know that they serve everything you can imagine on a stick.  Like everything.  I can do without the deep fried Oreo on a stick, or the meatloaf dinner on a stick, but there was no denying that Big Fat Bacon's bacon on a stick was meant for me.  It was cooked PERFECTLY.  Thick cut, salty, crispy, but not too crispy...and they give you chocolate to drizzle on it.  Sounds weird but it wassssssnnnn't.  I die.  For bacon.  I die for bacon a stick.



So these Australian potatoes were not part of the plan.  But we couldn't help ourselves.  They looked so crazy good and different.  They are sliced potatoes, battered and deep fried and topped with cheese or ranch sauce (or both plus bacon if you're me and Charlie).  We also added some dark malt vinegar that was life changing.  I think the camera lens is cloudy from my greasy little finger prints. 


So you guys know that I like sweets but they have to be really over the top crazy special for me to have more than a couple of bites.  Let me put it this way.  I was mowing this - Minneaple Pie's deep fried pumpkin pie with cinnamon ice cream.  This wasn't just good because it was deep fried.  The crust was super duper flaky and the pumpkin filling was sweet but not too sweet and the ICE CREAM. I can't.  If I didn't pack my suitcase to the absolute MAX I would have smuggled three of these home with me.



Yawn. Cheese curds.  Actually...I shouldn't say yawn.  In light of all of the other fantastic and unique food we had, the Minnesota State Fair staple - battered dipped and deep fried cheese curds - were amazing.  I've just had them before.


Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies were everything I dreamed of and more.  They were lovingly and magically made and piled high for us to enjoy.  Ok - so funny story.  We were nearing the end of our food tour and I couldn't bare to throw these out but I literally could not eat another bite.  Well not literally because I ordered a Dole Whip after (see below).  Anyway, we wrapped several napkins around the top and then fashioned them with a hair elastic to seal the cookies in the cone.  My hair looked INSANE but I didn't care.


Ah, Dole Whip.  How I love thee.  They ran out of the vanilla swirl, so I was left with just the pineapple portion but I just had to have it.  The only other place I have EVER seen Dole Whip is at Disney next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. So I had to.  I just had to.


This is a picture of me after the food tour.


Just kidding.  I didn't take a nap.  We visited the animal barns.  The deep enjoyment I got from this sheep is just embarrassing.  I keep looking at this picture and just cracking up.  I mean OBVIOUSLY sheep wear blankets to keep them clean. 



Here I am thoroughly enjoying my first fair visit.  So little time so many places to visit and try.  I'll be back, fair - I'll be back!


Stay hungry!