Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chicken Salad Club & Baby Spinach Sandwich

One of Charming's go-to lunches is a chicken salad sandwich...which is comforting and great on its own, but I just wanted to dress it up a little bit for him one day. So I decided that adding a little bit of bacon always dresses up a sammy pretty well...

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Destruction Zone 3 ~ When FLARP! Attacks

I remember getting this ooey-gooey, slimy substance out of one of those quarter machines when I was about 8 years old. It didn't go by the name FLARP! back then, but it smells the same, has the same texture and is strangely amusing to play with. When Charming & I did our shopping for just a couple trinkets for the kiddles for Valentine's Day, he came across this little cup of FLARP! and just had to get it for the girls. It says for ages 3+, so that meant that Rose was in the clear to play with we thought.

View complete posting: Destruction Zone 3 ~ When FLARP! Attacks

Full of Love Fortune Cookies

Having something that is just a little bit unexpected is always nice…and when I came across this recipe in 2008 I knew that it would be used for special occassions. So a big “THANK YOU!” goes out to WOMAN’S WORLD for their Chinese New Year & Valentine’s Day publication in 2008.

These fortune cookies are not quite the same as those you can order pre-decorated...but they definately do not lack in flavor. And quite honestly, they are incredibly easy to make. (servings: 10-16 cookies depending on the size of your tablespoons)
So here's how I did it....

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Destructoin Zone 2 ~ The Peaks of Mt. Countertop

Just when I think that things are running smoothly and my day is going to be a little less crazy than the day before, my girls prove my thoughts to be completely wrong. Yesterday it was an exploding neck pillow...I'm still finding those little Styrofoam balls under mattresses, under dressers, in just goes on and on.

Today there was a new Destruction Zone...this time it moved to the kitchen. I had pulled out a package of confectioner's sugar to use on some of the Kiddie Veggie Brownies I had made. Silly me, I thought that I could just leave that package on the counter for literally 2 minutes without something happening. Boy was I wrong.

View complete posting: Destruction Zone 2 ~ The Peaks of Mt. Countertop

Breakfast Melts

I’m not a big eggs & bacon kinda gal for breakfast, but every once in a while it sounds good to start the day with some E&B. My two little darlings like to change-up breakfast from time to time too. So I thought that I’d share my quick breakfast melts as a good morning option. It’s cheaper than going to a burger joint and faster than waiting in line…so why not?

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Destruction Zone 1 ~ Styrofoam Ball Slide

This particular day I was completely exhausted and looked forward to the 1-2 hours I would get as relief when my kiddles’ nap time came around. Oh if that were only the case…how sweet that would have been. But not this day. Oh no, this day nap time would bring a whole new surprise…and project.

As I settle in to write my Prosciutto Wrapped Hot Dogs, I hear Rose gasp which is immediately followed with, ”Oh No!”, over the monitor. This does not bode well.

View complete posting: Destruction Zone 1 ~ Styrofoam Ball Slide

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl vs. Julie & Julia

I'll "rah-rah" for my Charming's team (the Seattle Seahawks) or for my little brother's team (the Vikings, basically because I'm part Viking)...but other than that, I honestly could care less about The Super Bowl. It's a time to set out some munchies, perhaps a few footbal shaped cookies...and head to something else. And honestly, to me it's just another game played by grown-up little boys who get paid to stay in shape...if you are a football fan, my apologies as I don't want to set anyone off, but then again I feel that way about basically all sports that carry high priced contracts. I can handle the games at a stadium or at a hockey rink...ah, but that's a whole other topic of conversation...
So, after returning home from church, I rushed to dress and get a rack of pork ribs into the oven so that Charming would have something savory to chew on. I say "chew" because honestly, what man wants to just nibble on ribs? Oh no, they chew, chomp and suck the meat right off of the bone. It's not a very pretty sight, but it is the truth. Although I must say that the two times (yes, only two) that I have made ribs, they have fallen right off of the bone. Woohoo for me! Couple that with our favorite BBQ sauce (Sweet Lumpy's Original BBQ Sauce) and I have one very happy hubby. Anyway, I figured that these would bring delight to my wonderful hubby and would allow me to slink away to watch anything other than football this afternoon. After getting the ribs into their resting place for the next 2 1/2 hours, Grace and I headed off to run some errands and spend some Mommy & daughter time. (Rose elected to stay home and play PBSkids games on the computer) I love this time, especially if she's not yelling and screaming at me as we make our way through a store or two. And today, today was a wonderful time of just being silly and goofy as we made our way through WalMart...there were a few things that we had to get to complete the snacking table before kick-off time and Grace had her eye on some Valentine's Day goodies. So, as we made our way down several aisles and viewed some of the bakery's wares (Grace loves looking at all of the cakes on display) it occurred to me that although I had heard the rave reviews, I had never actually taken the time to watch Julie & Julia. *gasp!* Oh yes, I must admit that this lover of cooking and baking, who had grown-up watching Julia Child with my Momma, had yet to view this particular movie. At that point I decided that this was the perfect day to do just that...and had my fingers crossed that the RedBox at the front of the store had one solitary copy waiting for me to take home. Just in case I wasn't a fan of it, I didn't want to put out the money for my own copy just yet. And to my delight it did...have just one copy! The copy of Julie & Julia was placed into my purse. It would have to wait just a little bit longer...Grace wanted donuts from our favorite donut shop, DoughBoys Donuts. We went in...I tried to get our selection of goodies for everyone completed as quickly as possible and, of course, Grace had to look at every donut and evaluate if it was the one she wanted or if chocolate with chocolate icing and sprinkles was going to dominate the day. (the chocolate cake donut with chocolate icing and sprinkles won) When I got home I proceeded to get all of the other little goodies ready and out for snacking during the game. Then the girls got set-up with games on the computer and their Leapster...and Mommy proceeded to begin the tale of Julie & Julia. And immediately I became swept away into Meryl Streep's characterization of Julia Child. She captured Julia so well that I did not see Meryl, I only saw Julia. It was amazing to see her walking the streets of Paris...I found myself wishing that I could have just followed her as she did all of her shopping. The enjoyment she had for every ingredient made me laugh...mostly because it was a mirror of myself when I find some new ingredient or food, or come across some wonderful kitchen gadget that is not yet in my possession. Let me just stop right here and say if, for some reason or another, you have not seen this all means, rent it and be prepared to be amused. The writing and direction for it...brilliant. The acting...even more so. Even Charming (who ventured in after the game) found humor in it and ended up enjoying it. His favorite scene...the lobsters & the boiling pot. My favorite I have to pick just one? The determination of Julia as she masters chopping onions or the lobsters or the de-boning of the duck...I love them all. For those of you who do not know me personally, the de-boning of anything is a huge item for me...there is a mental issue that I have with anything with skin or bone. (Charming is blessed that I love him so much to deal with pork ribs) Oh, did I fail to mention that it took me about 5 1/2 hours to actually get through the movie? Never put it past a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old to thwart the idea of watching a movie from beginning to end without constant interruption...even when they are entertained with some of their favorite things. Never before has Grace pulled for my constant attention as she played her PBSkids games...or has Rose constantly attempted to use me as a human playground. By the time the Super Bowl was over, I was only about an hour into the movie and rather frustrated that the pause button was having to constantly be pushed. And now, my bedroom was the choice place of congregation for all of my little family. (although everyone but Charming was in there to begin with anyway) Grace was on the computer, Rose was still attempting to make a playground out of my bed and myself, and now Charming was joining the group to get on his laptop. So much for the "Me Time" that I was shooting for. Does that even exist once motherhood has come into play? Oh well, this is what family life is like...and at least my precious girls find humor in anything that explodes, splatters or that their Daddy & I laugh at. (even Rose found the lobster scene amusing) And I have been blessed with two little darlings who love to "help" me in the kitchen. (even though their help is usually quite a mess) And as the directives for attention from Grace and the goofiness of Rose continue, 8:30p crept upon us and the Pause button was hit once again for our bedtime rituals. And I began to wonder if I would ever finish getting through this movie...but I was still loving every minute of it and, therefore, I was not going to abandon ship! In the end, I truely feel that I had the better time of the day....and Julie reminded me of exactly what I am going through in this endeavour into the world of blogging...and I have been inspired to go even further and seek-out some of Julia Child's cookbooks to learn what I can of her techniques. I even found Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History right after I got the kiddles to bed. From which I learned an interesting tidbit: Sixteen baking sheets were stored vertically in slots next to the dishwasher. Who, other than Julia Child, would have 16 baking sheets in their kitchen?! I love this fact...for no particular reason, I love it. If you're a fan of Julie & Julia, then you'll probably love going through the Smithsonian's site as I did...all sorts of little tidbits to discover there!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Prosciutto Dogs

Hot dogs are great and all, but I really like mine dressed-up a bit. And Charming is always a happy man when I bring a plate of these dogs out to the table. There’s just something about meat that’s wrapped with meat…it makes men happy. While these are dressed with provolone cheese and crisped bacon, you can top the dogs with whatever you like.

So, super easy...Just for garnishing, I take 4 slices of bacon, halve them and get to sizzling in a skillet. If I don't want any bacon for garnish one night, then I just pour 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into the skillet.

While the bacon is sizzling, I start with some really good beef franks. (My family prefers Hebrew National's Beef Franks)

Then I carefully separate slices of prosciutto so that I have equal amounts of slices to hot dogs. You need one slice of prosciutto per frank...unless you get some of the thicker or longer franks, then two slices of prosciutto will be needed.

Prosciutto meets frank...I lay the prosciutto down and begin rolling the frank on a slight angle.

Continue rolling until the entire frank is wrapped in our lovely prosciutto. Then grab another and begin rolling again.

Remove the bacon and set it aside until later. Remove some of the rendered bacon fat allowing just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.

Time to get those franks into the skillet. (I'm getting hungry)

Allow the prosciutto to crisp-up on each takes only about 2-3 minutes per side. 

Keep rolling the franks onto the uncooked sides until all sides are beautifully crispy & slightly browned. Don't these just make you want to grab one right out of the skillet and take a big bite? 

Oh yeah....time to deal with our buns. Regular buns are fine, usually I would recommend that whole wheat buns be used...

but this time I'm going with some cheesy breadsticks from the bakery. I cut each breadsticks in half and then split it down the middle.
Perfect for holding our prosciutto franks! It just needs a little bit of a slice of provolone cheese!
Place our very hot dog onto the cheese and then dress it with some mustard.
Remember that bacon I did in the beginning? Well with a quick chop job, bacon bits are ready to be the ultimate topping for this hot dog.
Now that's a dog that deserves to be admired...then devoured quickly!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cheesy Toasted Polenta with Mushrooms

I have never braved making polenta before…kind of how risotto still makes me nervous. The thought of a full pot of something that could be inedible just really causes me to shy away from attempting it. 
But then, when I see Chefs prepare it on Food Network, and just how effortlessly they do, it stirs up this incredible desire to just go for it. So I did! And here’s the recipe that resulted from that “go for it” attitude.
This really is an incredibly easy way to make polenta, and once you make it you realize just how very easy it really is to make. This is actually one recipe of which I am the only fan of...simply due to the texture. My hubby and kiddles don't like the texture of certain foods, like cream of wheat and apparently polenta. But, I have found another way to enjoy cornmeal other than corn least for myself.
I start by prepping my mushrooms. Grab a paper towel and start brushing off the dirt on the mushrooms. Usually I go ahead and just run them under water and pat them off...I know, that's exactly what you're not supposed to do, but I'm just being honest. In this instance, since we'll be tossing these into hot oil and butter, there is no way that I am going to put any water into that skillet. 
I slice my mushrooms from top to stem...such pretty slices
and then give them a rough chop them into smaller pieces.
Okay, time to attack the onion. I hate when I forget to use my little trick...snatched from Rachel Ray. (Thanks Rachel!) Place the onion in the freezer for about 15 minutes...this helps keep the fumes from releasing when you slice or chop an onion. Anyway, take the onion and remove the first layer of the onion. 

Get a good hold on the onion and then slice vertically...
turn 90 degrees on its side and slice vertically again. 

Then make sliced across the vertical slices...resulting in diced onion!
Take a medium skillet and place it onto a burner over high heat. Pour in some extra virgin oil and a pat of butter.
Allow the butter to melt completely.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onions to the skillet and allow to cook until they are soft.
Time to get my mushrooms into the skillet with the onions. 
As the mushrooms cook, they begin to brown and the whole skillet is filled with a wonderful sauce.
This time I pull out the chardonnay, basically because chardonnay is what I had on hand. 
And then I hit it with a little bit of the white wine.
Then quickly grab my fresh basil and Italian parsley, give them a quick rinse and a few pats with a paper towel.

These beautiful herbs are now ready to face the chopping the chopping squad.
Stir the fresh herbs into the onions and mushrooms. Just a quick stir, nothing lengthy.
Then remove it from the heat and let it sit until later.
In a large saucepan, bring water and chicken broth to a boil. When water/broth comes to a boil, add 1 Tbsp. of sea salt.
Now for the polenta itself. While waiting for water & broth to boil, take a small skillet or sauté pan and heat over high heat.
Add polenta and toast until lightly golden brown.
Reduce heat to low and slowly whisk the polenta into the broth.
Exchange my whisk for a wooden spoon to frequently stir the polenta until it thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan.
Stir in some grated asiago cheese...oh yeah, some of the good stuff.
Add my mushroom mixture to the polenta and give it a stir to get everything well incorporated.
Add some fresh ground pepper...I like the multi-peppercorn in my pepper mill. It gives it a bit more subtle peppery taste. 
Then a little bit of sea salt.
Time to serve it up and enjoy some comfort food!
Cheesy Toasted Polenta with Mushrooms
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
For Mushrooms
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Butter, unsalted
1/4 whole Red Onion, diced
8 oz. Package of Mushrooms (Cremini or Shitake), chopped
1 cup Dry White Wine
Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp. Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped
For Polenta
2 cups Water
2 - 14 oz. cans Swanson's Chicken Broth - Low Sodium
1 1/2 cups Polenta
1/2 cup Grated Asiago Cheese (or Parmesan Cheese)
Clean mushrooms prior to chopping. Brush lightly with a damp cloth or paper towel. Do Not Rinse Off.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over high heat. Add onions and cook until they become soft.
Reduce heat to medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook until they become golden brown.
Add wine and increase heat to high. Allow it to cook until it is completely reduced.
Once wine has reduced, season the onions and mushrooms with salt & pepper.
Add parsley and basil, then remove from heat and set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring water and chicken broth to a boil. When water/broth comes to a boil, add 1 Tbsp. of sea salt.
While waiting for water & broth to boil, take a small skillet or sauté pan and heat over high heat. Add polenta and toast until lightly golden brown. Remove from heat.
Reduce heat to low under the saucepan and slowly whisk in the polenta.
Use a wooden spoon to frequently stir the polenta until it thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan.
Add mushroom mixture and cheese to the polenta.
Taste and season with sea salt & pepper to taste.
 If polenta becomes too thick, just add a little bit of water. Remove from heat.
Then plate and serve!
Great with grilled chicken, beef or pork...especially Italian dishes.