Friday, December 16, 2011

Wine and Cake....the BEST combination!!

I received a recipe today and have it on very good authority that it ROCKS....and I trust this source, cause...it's one of my "kids"! I'm so glad and proud that they love to cook, that they take risks, experiment and are never afraid to try. I was SO ashamed to see that it'd been SIX MONTHS since I last blogged here. Maybe my New Year's Resolution for 2012 (and you KNOW how I hate those dang things!) will be to keep up with my blogs better. Time will tell..

Anywayyyyyyy, it's a week before Christmas. Holiday baking has begun...I've made six batches of cookies myself and will be making more tonight and tomorrow. This particular recipe is for a cake, so I will be waiting until Christmas Eve to make it...it sounds fun, festive and deeeeelicious!! Oh and pretty....which is nice for a holiday table, to bust out the REALLY great looking dessert at the end.

Love to my Amy for providing this recipe (she used it for her hubby's holiday party and I'm guessing it got great reviews). Recipe sounds easy as well, which is great for this time of year...to have something that's festive, but easy. I'm posting this recipe exactly as it came to me, with all of the tips that were included. Happy Holidays to ya'll!!

Blackberry Wine Bundt Cake:

1 box white cake mix
2 boxes (3 oz. each) of Blackberry or Blackberry Fusion Jello
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 c. blackberry wine (I used Manischewitz. It's cheap and it works just fine. Get it at Publix or Walmart)
2 c. confectioner's (powdered) sugar

Directions:
Pour cake mix and both boxes of Jello into a large mixing bowl.
Pour in the cup of oil, one cup of the wine, and all 4 eggs.
Mix on low speed for one minute then scrape down the sides and bottom of mixing bowl with a spatula.
Then mix 2 more minutes at medium speed
Pour into Bundt Pan
Bake for 30-35 minutes, check for doneness with toothpick and continue to bake as necessary until done.
Let cake cool. Place a plate over the Bundt pan and invert to allow cake to release from the Bundt pan and onto the plate for glazing.

Glaze:
In a 2 quart (approximately) bowl, pour in the 2 cups of confectioner's sugar. add the 1/4 c. wine a little at a time while mixing with a whisk or a fork until well blended and mixture is smooth.
Drizzle onto top of cake with a spoon.

**Amy's notes: The bake time was nowhere near enough for mine. At 30 minutes it was not even close to done. I checked it after another 10 minutes, and then another 8 minutes and it was perfectly done then, so a total of 48 minutes for me. It'll just depend on your oven. Also, I needed a splash more wine for the glaze then it called for.

So happy holiday baking. Hope your holidays are filled with family, love, joy, and tranquility.

Quote: "Somehow, not only for Christmas but all the long year through, the joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you. And the more you spend in blessing the poor and lonely and sad, the more of your heart's possessing returns to you glad." John Greenleaf Whittier.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day Fantastics

Last night it was just going to be Dan and I for dinner so we decided to crank up the Weber grill (well, HE decided to crank it up....I'm not good a charcoal fires) and cook some chicken wings...it was going to be the first time we ever did them this way...and so we were both a bit apprehensive. I marinated the wings in about 1/4 to 1/2 c of olive oil, juice from half a fresh lemon, some sea salt, pepper, and our "house seasoning"...Everglades, for a couple hours beforehand. If you can't find Everglades in your supermarket, feel free to put any spices you wish into the oil and lemon juice...in fact you can do this with any type of chicken, really...it doesn't have to be just wings.

When the grill was good and hot (and a thunder and lightening storm was approaching, lol) we put the wings onto the grill. Be careful, the oil and the lemon in the marinate causes them to flame up REALLY badly when you first put them on there...use tongs with long handles. Turning them often until they were about finished Dan "painted" half of them with barbecue sauce and then the other half of the wings he took off, tossed in a bowl of Buffalo Wing sauce and then returned to the grill. We cooked them for a few minutes more and then removed them. They were FABULOUS!! I like them SO much more this way then deep fried....the smokey flavor of the grill just enhances the flavor of the wings so much more and it's a lot more convenient than deep frying...where you can only cook so many wings at a time in the fryer...so Dan was always invariably still cooking while I was eating. This was much nicer...we got to sit down to the meal TOGETHER....and it TASTED BETTER!! I know I'm betraying "The South" here by saying that a food actually tasted better cooked some way other than deep frying...but I can't help it...these were fantastic. The marinade is very important in the process though, as it makes the chicken more moist. Another idea for grilling chicken is to take a whole chicken and cut it in half right down the middle...removing the backbone. Place it on the grill...skin side down and place an aluminum foil wrapped brick over the top while grilling. You'll end up with really nice, moist chicken with super crispy skin. You can add barbecue sauce to this also, if you'd like. If you pair this with potato salad (our fav it Publix "Southern Style"---much easier and faster to make...and cheaper too with the current price of potatoes on the rise almost as fast as gas) and some freshly sliced tomatoes (best if you can pick it from your garden and slice it right up!) and this is one summer meal (or Father's Day meal) that Dad will LOVE and will result in little fuss, and little muss (easy cleanups are AWESOME!)

Today's food quote: "I'm a man. Men cook outside. Women make the three-bean salad. That's the way it is and always has been, since the first settlers of Levittown. That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. If this wasn't firmly understood, you'd never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies and things on the front..."
William Geist, ‘New York Times Magazine’

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pronto Pesto

As I mentioned in a previous blog...I have a TON of basil growing in my backyard herb garden. So MUCH so that I'm once again extending the invitation to anyone who may need some to stop by. In searching for recipes and ways to USE my basil, I came across this one....and it is delicious. An interesting "twist" is that it uses no olive oil in it (although I used some just because I felt "funny" not doing it) Give it a try for a nice cool dish for these VERY hot and dry days we're having. Served with a nice green salad and some crusty bread it is a FANTASTIC summer meal. And if you need some fresh basil, come on down!

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce

1/2 c. Chicken Broth
1 c. packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. grated Parmesan Cheese (freshly grated is going to make a HUGE difference here...but if you can't, you can always use the kind in a can)
1/2 of a 16 ox package of spaghetti, cooked and drained (about 4 cups)

Place the broth, basil, garlic and cheese into a blender or food processor. Cover and blend until the mixture is smooth. Place the basil mixture and spaghetti into a bowl and toss to coat. Serves 4


Today's food quote: "Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
Federico Fellini

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Bounty

When we made "Fiesta Karis" the other night, I held back some of the chicken. I'd like to note for those of you who READ the "Fiesta Karis" blog that this makes a "goodly amount" of food...we ate off of it for 2 nights and I froze a small amount of it, for use as a dip for Dan and I during a "movie date night" at home. But as I said before...that stuff is GOOD and it's already calling to me from it's spot in the freezer.

But I digress. Today I took the 1/2 chicken that I had left and threw it into a pot with some water (I always use bottled water when I make things like this...but that's just my personal preference). I then went out to my garden and gathered the following: basil (by the way...if you NEED some of this, PLEASE come by...I have TONS of it growing in the back yard!!), dill, onions, cilantro, garlic, carrots, and tomatoes. I took celery from my fridge and a couple potatoes from the pantry basket...added salt and pepper and (in the words of Emeril Lagasse) BAM! dinner was on the stove. I'll be adding some of the leftover Mexican rice from the "Fiesta Karis" evenings later today and making some buttermilk biscuits to go along with. Also my personal preference, but thanks to an old friend in California I always throw a half a lemon into my chicken "soup" whenever I make it. It gives it a wonderful "sunshiny" flavor.

Hope you have a backyard garden (or even a porch garden)so that you can enjoy the wonderful flavors and aromas that gardening and growing your own food can offer...not to mention the SAVINGS!! Potatoes were $7.99 for ten pounds at Publix last week...when I do some "rotation" out there I think I'm going to plant myself some!!

Enjoy your harvest...and your dinner. Bon Appetit!

Today's food quote: Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans. ~Marcelene Cox (so Lord...could ya PLEASE send a shower for MY green beans? Thanks, love...me)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is it a casserole? a dip? a tortilla filler? It's "Fiesta Karis!"

Dinner was early tonight because Dan just got home from work and has to go back there in about 12 hours. So I decided to try a recipe that Karis had given me while she was home for Cassie's graduation. This stuff is SO good, that Dan and I spent dinner talking about all the different ways it could be used....for a party dip; served with chips....wrapped in tortillas, put in a casserole and covered with cheddar jack cheese and put in the oven until it browned and "crisped up"....just suffice to say this stuff is REALLY GOOD!!! So here goes....have "Fiesta Karis" for your next meal or party.


Fiesta Karis
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 jar salsa (your choice as to what kind and how much "heat")
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 package cream cheese

Coat the chicken breasts in the taco seasonings and place in the bottom of a crock pot. Add the salsa, corn and black beans...cook on low all day. About 30 minutes before serving...add the brick of cream cheese; once it's melted stir in. Serve with rice and/or tortillas (or chips)

I love it when my kids come up with recipes and share them with me. It proves to me that they're not afraid to try recipes on their own, and that they like them enough to share them with me. Karis is a phenomenal cook...and this recipe proves it. Once you've made it, if you want to vary it just a bit, then I think you could even substitute cubed beef (cooking it all day in the crock pot would make the meat REALLY tender) or ground beef (like taco meet...I would, however, probably cook the ground beef IN the taco seasoning, as you would for regular tacos, if I was going to do that)

Today's food quote: “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” James Beard (1903-1985)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A little late for "Cinco de Mayo" but still "bueno"

So tonight we made fajitas on the grill. I decided I was going to introduce my husband to one of my old "California" standbys, and he hasn't stopped raving since. He told me I DEFINITELY needed to post this here. So here goes...it was known as "taco topping" but I guess (if you listen to Dan) it pretty much tastes good on fajitas as well...and makes a great dip for taco chips!

Cilantro
Purple onion
Tomato
Sour Cream
Salt & Pepper
Salsa,Cheese, Jalapenos (0ptional)

(all these vegetables need to be fresh...canned or frozen will NOT do)

Chop the cilantro, purple onion, tomato (and jalapenos if you like them) very fine. I use my food processor, and just chop it all up together. Mix sour cream into the "greenery" until smooth...like a dip consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. If you'd like to add a bit of salsa and some shredded cheddar cheese, you can do so at this time. Then a spoonful of this will go into your fajita (or taco) or you can dip tortilla chips into it. Leftover grilled tortillas make some GREAT dipping chips!

If you're going to make this as a dip, for instance for a party, I would suggest making two bowls, one with salsa and one without...and just using the cheese as a "garnish" on top of the dish...along with maybe some chopped avocado.

Good luck....!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holiday Brunch

So Easter will be here in just a few days. Easter Baskets, egg hunts, church services and the lot can make for one very hectic morning. Our girls are older, so baskets have pretty much become a thing of the past, and our older kids won't be home this year so I'm excited that I'm getting taken OUT for breakfast! However, if you want to prepare a beautiful breakfast or brunch for your family (and maybe a couple of guests) here's a great idea from an inspiration of mine, Miss Paula Deen.

Brunch Stuffed Peppers

4 yellow bell peppers
1 c. frozen country style hash browns, thawed
1/2 (16 oz) package of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 large eggs
3/4 c. whole milk
1/2 c. biscuit mix
1/4 c. sour cream
2 T. chopped green onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Remove the top 1/2 inch of each pepper. Discard tops and seeds (OR...you can save the tops for use in a salad or stir fry later and PLANT the seeds!! lol). Arrange the peppers, cut side up in an 8x8 inch glass baking dish. Fill the bottom of each pepper evenly with hash browns and bacon. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cheese, milk, baking mix, sour cream, green onions, salt and pepper. Whisk until combined. Evenly distribute the egg mixture into each pepper. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out dry...about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, garnish with cheese and serve immediately.

This recipe is similar to one my daughter-in-law, Melissa, makes. She hollows out Chicago style rolls and fills them with a mixture quite like this one...tops them with cheese and bakes. She does scramble her eggs prior to putting them into the rolls, but recommends that you leave them on the "runny" side because they'll cook more inside the oven. Also, these would only need a few minutes to cook...maybe 5-7 minutes.

Today's food quote: "Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Lewis Carroll

Friday, March 4, 2011

Let them eat cake.....

Although the two cakes I received for my recent birthday were both vanilla with buttercreme icing; a deep love of mine thanks to the buttercreme icing (THANK you, Publix!!) my two favorite cakes are actually Pound Cake and Angel Food. Interesting since neither of them has "frosting"...but I think it's because of the POSSIBILITIES of a pound or Angel Food cake...you can top them with anything you want....fruit, glaze, whipped cream, just anything you can think of...or even nothing at all.

Today I made Paula Deen's Sour Cream Pound Cake. I was so anxious to TRY this recipe that I made it with MARGARINE instead of butter...and it STILL tasted DEEELICIOUS!! (To be fair, I THOUGHT I had butter in the fridge...turns out I didn't) Together with nice fresh blackberries, it's going to top off my dinner tonight...and I cannot wait!!

Paula Deen's Sour Cream Pound Cake

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter (or, as I've found out, margarine!)
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together. Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated. Sift the baking soda and flour together. Add to the creamed mixture alternating with the eggs, beating in each egg 1 at a time. Add vanilla

Pour the mixture into a greased AND floured loaf pan. Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

SUPER easy and SUPER delicious, if you have other topping ideas, please feel free to share them with me!

Today's food quote: “Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
Jim Davis, 'Garfield'

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's Party time!!!!!!!

I love to give parties...love to have friends over, and as a family we love to "celebrate"; whether it's holiday or birthdays (this weekend is "Roxannepalooza"..."Dannypalooza" will be here before you know it!!)


Entertaining on a budget can be hard....you want to go "all out" but your budget (and good sense) tell you not to. Honestly....if you're getting together with family, or close friends...they aren't expecting you to break the bank...good food, family, friends are enough and having these things doesn't mean you have to go broke. Shop for bargains at the store..check the clearance aisles...have your friends each bring an ingredient and as they arrive put their contribution in a dish on the counter. When everyone's arrived you can then have a pizza, omelet, frittata, or fondue party. If it's a morning get-together, you can even do a waffle bar!!

Use what you already own. Pretend you have no money in your account and look around your house for ideas. You can use cut flowers from your own garden for decoration. Party favors can even be sample items you've either gotten free in the mail, or previously bought at a Dollar Store or Target's "One Spot" (two of MY personal favorite places!!) Be flexible in what you are serving, don't stress, don't be afraid to ask for help and you can have a lot of fun getting together with those you love!

Here's a couple ideas for some nice "get together" snacks

Creamy Greek Feta Dip
1/2 c. low fat Greek Yogurt
1/2 c. reduced fat (or you can use regular) mayonnaise
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 tsp chopped fresh dill (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp white or black pepper.

Serve with crudites, crackers, or pita chips.

Mini Fruit "Tartlets"

Cookie Base (to save time, you can use a plain flat butter cookie..but if you want to completely do it yourself, here's the recipe)
2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 large egg plus another large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Topping:
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar
1 11 oz jar of lemon curd (you can find this in the "ethnic (or foreign) food section of your local store)
2 pints assorted fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and kiwifruit
1/2 c. apricot jam

Make cookies: Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Beat butter and sugar until light; 2 minutes. Beat in egg, yolk and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture. Knead into a ball. Divide in half, form into disks. Wrap each in plastic and chill for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 in thickness. Cut into 2 inch rounds. Transfer to baking sheets, leave 1 inch between cookies. Gather scraps and re-roll and cut out more cookies. Repeat with second disk. Bake cookies until edges are golden, 12 minutes. Let cool.

Make topping: Beat cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Sir 1/3 of whipped cream into lemon curd to lighten. Fold in remaining whipped cream. Keep chilled. Just before serving, top each cookie with a teaspoonful of lemon mixture. Divide fruit among tarts. Melt jam in a pan over medium heat. Add 1 T. of water, stir until liquid. Strain. Dab apricot mixture over fruit.

One of my most favorite things to have on hand for parties is a dish of "M&M's". Here's some fun facts on this VERY fun food:

M&M's were invented in 1940.

For 11 years, from 1976 to 1987, there were no red M&Ms.

Blue M&Ms were introduced in 1995.

There are 340 million M&M's produced daily.

M&Ms were taken along on the first space shuttle voyage in 1982. M&Ms are also part of the permanent space food exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute's National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC.

Estimated amount of glucose used by an adult human brain each day, expressed in M&Ms: 250.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Roasted Chicken...Sunday Dinner

I love roasting a whole chicken (even though chicken is one of my LEAST favorite meats, seriously, I'm not that fond of most poultry in general) because just the act of getting it ready is comforting to me, and at the same time, an art form. My husband accuses me of all but giving the chicken a "bubble bath" and asks if I offer it a glass of wine afterwards (seriously...he knows better...there's never any wine left here!!) In any case, I am fastidious about making sure the chicken is clean, clean, CLEAN...but when I am finished this is how best to get one ready to result in one TASTY dinner.

For the average size roasting chicken I take one lemon and halve it, also cut one half of an onion in half again. I salt and pepper the inside of the chicken then place it into the "Dutch Oven"....(my Dutch Oven is SO old...I think Our Blessed Mother roasted chickens for Jesus inside of it)I place the lemon and the onions inside of the cavity. I take one stick of softened unsalted butter and mix it with some chopped chives and scallions...I then lift the skin on the breast area away from the meat and put some of this butter in between the space...using the back of a spoon to spread it out. I insert some of the butter into both cavity ends and then deposit the leftover bits in the indentations of the drumsticks and the wings. I place fresh thyme around the top of the chicken, and salt and pepper it again. I generously squirt the top of the chicken with grainy, spicy mustard and use a knive to spread it around. I use a rack in my Dutch Oven to keep the bird up off the bottom...but this is optional. Add some vegetables if you like, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, small onions, root vegetables work the best...stash a garlic clove here and there if desired.

Put the cover on the Dutch Oven...or if you're using a low roasting pan cover with foil. Place in a 350 oven and roast for at least an hour. The finished internal temperature of a chicken (for this you'll need to insert a meat thermometer into the meatiest portion of the bird) needs to be 165 degrees. When the chicken begins to approach this, remove the cover so that the outside can brown and the skin can become "crispy" I like my chicken to basically "fall off the bone" but this is a matter of personal preference. As long as the internal temperature is 165 and the juices are running clear, it's technically done.

We enjoy ours with yellow rice...then any leftover rice can be combined with leftover chicken, maybe some of the leftover vegetables and pan drippings to become Chicken with Rice Soup for the Monday night meal.

Buon Appetito! (I'm perfecting my Italian)

Today's food quote: “Happy and successful cooking doesn't rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life.” Georges Blanc, ‘Ma Cuisine des Saisons’

Friday, February 18, 2011

Love your home, love your life

I profusely apologize for not blogging in such a long time....I just realized that the last time I blogged here it was the day before Thanksgiving!! Hope you had an opportunity to spend the Christmas holidays with your families and friends, and do some holiday baking. We had all four kids here for Christmas, which also included our newest member of the "family", Cassie's boyfriend Scott. Sadly, Christine could not get enough time off, so Karis had to come alone, but was able to spend a wonderful amount of time with us. Couple all of that with some medical "issues" around the first of the year and I guess that's my best excuse for being AWOL.

I've realized in the last month or so, how fortunate I am. I have a wonderful, hard working husband, some awesome kids, a nice house and am able to cook great meals and share them with ya'll. I am able to spend some wonderful time with some pretty fabulous friends. I may not travel the world in reality, but I can travel the world in my kitchen, and make food to share with friends and family. I may not have a lot of money to eat out, but I can make and share foods that warm the heart and soul. I can even relax with a good book and a nice hot cup of tea all by myself. I love my home...and I love my life.

My husband cooked for me tonight. He made a romantic dinner and we ate by candlelight, just the two of us, out by the pool. I'm going to share his shrimp recipe....experiment with it, tweak it and make it your "own"....share it with someone you love.

Dan's Grilled "Thai" Shrimp

1/2 lb uncooked shrimp (the ones we bought had the shells on, but you could just as easily by the ones with the shells already off--you need to remove than anyway prior to cooking them...unfortunately the ones with the shells taken off are sometimes "pricier". Your call. Just make sure the tails are on and they are UNcooked)
1 1/2 c. (or one can) of coconut milk
6 scallions, chopped
4 T. chopped cilantro
Zest and juice of one lime
salt and pepper

Combine milk, scallions, cilantro, lime juice and zest, salt and pepper together in a bowl. After removing the shrimp's shells (if you've bought them with them on) immerse them into the mixture and let soak for one hour.

Make sure your grill is HOT....use two long skewers (if these skewers are wood, you will need to soak them in water for about an hour, a good idea is to soak them while your shrimp are marinating) Thread the shrimp onto the skewers, inserting the skewer through the meatiest part of the body.

Place skewers onto the hot grill...grill for no longer than 5 minutes (shrimp cook quickly) turning once.

Serve with melted butter, or my favorite "dipping sauce" Publix brand "Mango Poppyseed Dressing" (I swear, I put this stuff on EVERYTHING!!)

Enjoy, have fun, make moments and memories. We're having some beautiful weather right now, (at least here in Florida) hope you're able to spend some time outside.

Today's food quote: "Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress." Charles Pierre Monselet, French author (1825-1888)