Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hi faithful readers, I have great news! This blog has moved on to a bigger and better site. Check out the new digs:

Instead of using Google to subscribe, I'm now using a larger website to host my blog that allows anyone to subscribe simply by typing their email into the "Subscribe" box on the right. You should automatically get an email confirmation and anytime I update this blog ... you'll get an email to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing here and wish me luck at my next virtual blog home ;)
Mangia! Mangia!

Chocolate Chip Cookies, made with love!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

These cookies were definitely made with love. I always say that. This apple cobbler? Made with love. Oh, even Buffalo Chicken Dip can be made with love. To me, when you make something with love, you put your heart, soul, mind and body into it. I imagine my thoughts as powdered sugar, sifted into something sweet like icing. Or my frustrations kneaded and pounded into fluffy dough for bread. Oh, and of course, some laughter sprinkled on top of fresh baked muffins for some extra love.

See, for some people jogging a few miles or singing in the shower is their "think" time. For others it's constant prayer. While I love a good prayer session with My Man ... ahem, God... when I need "me" time I turn to my pots, pans and my trusty 80's apron. I set my phone aside, turn up the music in the next room and submerge myself in measurements, chopping, sifting, stirring, slicing and of course tasting. I talk to myself too! Oh to be a fly on the wall at my house! Ha! I'm telling you, I always feel better once I taste the batter of a new cake or see golden brown cookies raise perfectly after spending just the right amount of time under the hot lamps of my oven. No matter how I'm feeling that day, I know being in the kitchen will produce a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. Perhaps it's all that I've stated above but I'd also like to think My Man and I get to spend some quality time together in the kitchen. Sometimes, before I know it, in the sounds of a beating mixer or tick of my kitchen timer, whatever answer I was initially seeking in my heart is revealed. I believe it's because My Man knows I'm not the best listener so he speaks to me in my element. Which is of course, my kitchen. ;) Now do you get it? Do you get why I say my food is made with love?

Some of you may think my nickname for God is irreverent. Nothing could be further from the truth! I call God and Jesus "My Men or My Man" because when I visited my brother in Russia a few years ago we met a Russian girl who tried to explain to us how to go into a Russian Orthodox Cathedral with a candle and pray. She knew we were Christian, so we wouldn't necessarily be praying to all the Saints in the Cathedral. But, we wanted to experience something spiritual. So, she grabbed two candles, pointed at Jesus and said "Go pray to your Man." It was the funniest and cutest way of referencing Jesus I've ever heard. My brother and I will forever talk about praying to our Man, and of course, we do it in our best Russian accents. Join us in the laughter and prayer to Our Man, it's a cherished memory I'm sharing with you. With love. ;)

This is my brother and I before praying to our Man.

And this, is a terrible picture of a picture, but nevertheless, our Man.

Oh, I'm SUCH a sap! Okay, I'll move on to the chocolate chip cookie recipe I am sharing with you. Picky Pants loves chocolate chip cookies, perhaps more than he loves me. (How dare he?!) So, since it's our anniversary week, I thought I'd surprise him with his favorite thing in the whole world: warm from the oven, ooey, gooey, chocolate chip cookies. Now, you all know by now if I'm going to make something and blog about it, it's probably a new recipe. This blog post is no different. I have made my Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe for years, but my friend and fellow blogger enticed me with her recipe. Have you heard of anyone putting their cookie dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours or so before baking them? I have and I remember reading a lot about it a few months ago. I'm not sure why I haven't tried it until now, but it seems the secret to this recipe is simply refrigerating the cookie dough for a bit before baking. If you're like me, it's actually not so simple because I'm a sucker for cookie dough. I can't keep it in my freezer because I'll find an excuse to break off a piece and eat it for dinner ... or lunch ... or breakfast. Do you see why I work out so much now? ;)

Here's the recipe from Erin's blog
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Stick unsalted butter
1 Large egg
1 TSP Vanilla
1/2 TSP Baking Soda
1 1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 TSP Salt or 1/2 TSP Flaky Sea Salt
1 1/s C Choc. Chips

1. Beat Sugars and butter together until smooth. Mix in egg, vanilla and baking soda.
2. Stir together flour and salt then mix into batter. Mix in Chocolate chips.
3. Press the dough into the bottom of the bowl, press plastic wrap to dough and make sure to get all the air out. Sit in refrigerator for 36 - 48 hours.
4. Scoop cookie dough to 2 tbsp balls
5. Bake 18 minutes, 300 degrees

The cookies turned out fantastic, especially because they were made with love ;)
Sit and enjoy your family today and Mangia! Mangia!

Hola de Espana!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hola! I'm back from Spain safely and with much to tell! I will start by bragging on my girl RW and myself. We chose to order EVERYTHING from the Spanish menu even though each waiter brought us the English version. I'm not sure how, but everyone knew we weren't from anywhere but the good 'ol US of A. Is that a compliment?! Not sure ... Anyway, we were glad to pick and choose the words out of the menu we knew and most the time happily surprised at what came to the table, especially after a glass of wine or two. =) It forced us to learn a lot of the language and I think the Spanish people appreciated us trying to learn too. (As badly as we may have sounded trying to speak it). Actually, I have a confession to make: RW knows way more Espanol than I do and if I were there by myself I'm pretty sure I would have gotten on the train to Siberia accidentally or missed the train all together. Yes, we all know what a scatter brain I can be.

My thing is food, we all know this. So, we went to the San Miguel Food market in Madrid which was great! If you can imagine an upscale food flea market, that's exactly what it looked like. Huge glass windows surround the entire building giving passersby a glimpse of the succulent food inside. It would lure me in anyway. We took a few pictures but the prettiest ones were the fruita. I haven't met a fruit I don't like and in Spain it was no different! Have you heard of an Higo? Pronounced I-go ... silent "H." I'm not sure if I'll do it justice by explaining: the Higo is small. You peel the skin down like a banana even though it's circular in shape. The inside has a few seeds but they're tiny and barely noticeable. These babies are juicy and taste like a mixture of many tropical fruits. See, I told you I wouldn't do it justice.

Moving on to Pardon Pimientos. I believe it's translated "green pepper" but I also think the word "spicy" gets lost in translation. When we were in Barcelona we went to an awesome Tapas place. I saw a man across the restaurant eating a plate of broiled peppers sprinkled with salt. I had to get my hands on them, I love spicy food, plus I'm a sucker for anything as pretty as these shiny, small tamales! (They're not really tamales) I ate half the plate, they were delicious!

I had just arrived in Madrid and of course barely slept on the plane. RW and I walked around and explored our new surroundings for a while and stopped at a little cafe where it seemed we were too early for lunch. Remember when I told you we screamed "Americans?" Well, I'm pretty sure it was noon on the dot and Spaniards don't eat lunch until 1:30pm or later. Need I mention the slow service we received or how I pretended to eat the bush behind my chair? A 10 hour plane ride can make a sister hungry, ok!? All kidding aside, we were pleasantly surprised when we ordered from the menu. This is the sandwich I ordered from the menu that read : Bocadillo Especial. I had no idea what was on it and frankly at that point didn't care. When it came out looking like this:

I was happy. By the way, in Spain they either serve everything with fries or eggs. It's their 'thang' I suppose. We both gave this sandwich two thumbs up!

Back to reality. It's almost fall here in Bowling Green, has anyone noticed? Fall is my favorite time of year and most always I'm urging the calendar to hit September first so I can break out my pumpkin throw pillow and fall decor, but, not this year. I'm actually very sad about summer coming to a close. =( Sorry to be a downer, but I tried to ring in the fall-like weather with a fall-like dish I found from Better Recipes. The flavors in this dish are so ... opposite. The spicy sausage mixed with the sweet maple syrup really gave the meat a kick of it's own kind. Don't skimp on the rubbed Sage, it's big flavor really enhances the meat and onion mixture. Acorn squash is sweet and versatile, you can make it taste like anything you want. (Squash Pizza Dough, anyone?)

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 Medium Acorn Squash, halved and seeds removed
1 LB pork sausage (I used HOT)
1 Small onion, chopped
1 TBSP Rubbed Sage
1/4 C Maple Syrup (I believe you could use less!)

1. Place the squash, cut side down in a shallow baking dish or pan. Add 1/2 C water and bake at 350 degrees 30-40 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile brown the sausage (stirring frequently to loosen) and add chopped onion and sage. Cook until tender.
2. When squash is finished remove from oven. Add maple syrup to sausage mix and spoon into the squash halves. Serves 4.

Have a great week, Don't forget to ENJOY and Mangia! Mangia! xxoo

Double Apple Bundle

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Have I mentioned yet I'm the self-proclaimed President of my Book Club? Oh how I love to curl up with a good book, I could read for hours and Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but I actually do! When I'm bored I cook or read, then I have to hit the gym because I've cooked everything I've read and eaten everything I've cooked! (LOL!)

My Book Club meets once a month and when it's your turn to host you also get to pick the book. Last month I chose "Redeeming Love" By Francene Rivers. Don't worry, I will not give you a short synopsis of the book because obviously this is a food blog but I will tell you it's a great book with many wonderful messages. Check it out.

I made a few things for book club but the only one I'll blog about is the Double Apple Bundle. It's a cinch to make and it's very pretty. It will be great for the fall and even better for apple-pie lovers. When I say this, I'm saying it with a smile on my face: do you know what a pain it is to make an apple pie from scratch? Talk about making something with LOVE! That's why I cheat and make this Double Apple Bundle because it tastes like an apple pie,it's adorable and super easy. However, I can't wait to spend a little time in the kitchen this fall and make an ooey-gooey-cinnamony-doughy-apply-pie-Y. When I do, I promise pics and a post. For now, here's an easy dessert anyone will enjoy. It's delish!

Double Apple Bundle

2 IGA Piecrusts
3 Cups Golden Delicious Apples, sliced (Granny Smith are good too!)
Cinnamon and or Pumpkin Pie Spice to taste

1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup White Sugar
1 Stick Butter
2 Cups Water

1. Peel and chop apples. 3 cups is about 3 apples, depending on how large. You can always eyeball it and eat the leftover chunks.
2. Grease a large baking pan, 8 X 8 works great. Unroll the pie crusts. Spread them out and divide apples among the pie crusts.
3. Sprinkle with spice.
4. Jelly-roll the crusts and seal the ends. Flip the pie crusts over so the smooth surface is facing up. Take a knife and slice the bundles a few times on top so they can breathe when baked.
5. Combine everything in for the sauce in a sauce pan, bring to a slight boil then pour over apple bundles.
6. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Serve with ice cream or by itself. Mangia! Mangia!
PS This is also good right out of the fridge for breakfast!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I want to get this blog post up before my favorite time of the year starts. Ahhh,Fall. Pretty soon pumpkins, gourds and bright colored leaves will adorn each tabletop. I can't wait. I hope you can use these helpful tips as you begin to plan Fall, Christmas and Thanksgiving parties and dinners.

Name cards on a dining table can actually be casual and creative. I never even thought about using them until this week. We had company and I wanted to create a festive atmosphere that matched the food I made. The idea came from a wonderful website and magazine in which I shall soon be subscribing. Style at Home. Heard of it? It's great! I only want to link you to truly inspiring websites with the hopes that I've given you enough good tips (and good laughs) that you'll come back to my blog for more. Without further ado, let's discuss name card/place card holders.

For dinner with guests who may not know each other or for a fun conversation starter, get creative with placement ideas. I used letter brads for scrapbooking and poked holes into limes to make names. Here's mine: How cute is that? Sorry for the poor quality picture, but you know I take these with my Iphone. Maybe some day I'll get a good camera.

You could use pears, apples, pumpkins, squash ... the list is endless depending on what you're serving.

Since it's still summer, my cherries took center stage in my food. So, I used limes and cherries to decorate too. Take a look at the vase filler I got at Target for 4.99. Fake Cherries and apples give the clear glass globe a red hue and an old lime candle I had stuck in my cabinet was the perfect pairing to create a lime/cherry theme. Take a look at place mats and chargers ... they're also inexpensive at 1.99 a piece!

Now, I'm not saying these are the cutest ideas in the world, but it sure helped me in a pinch. I searched all over for cute place card holders and was glad to have found these ideas. If you're a wine drinker, wouldn't it be fun to slit open a cork and stick a piece of paper in between with a name on it? Genius. Not my idea, just sharing the love.

XXOO Mangia! Mangia!

Cherry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin and then some

Cherry and Onion Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Disclaimer: This meal did NOT come without a few phone calls to Mom and Dad for emergency help. And, I still have all 10 fingers, but only by the wrinkle on my thuckle. Note: According to Urban Dictionary your thuckle is your thumb knuckle. But I can sincerely say it was a success and the best news about it, I'll share my mistakes and what I learned so your meal can be even better than mine! I'll walk you through it.

Picky Pants and I had 2 other couples over for dinner and while I'm normally a buffet-type-hostess, this was not THAT kind of dinner. It wasn't fancy-schmancy by any means but, yes, I did do place cards!! Have you read that post yet? Boy were they CUTE!! Okay! Food now, puh-leeze!

The Menu:
Cherry and Onion Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Summer Salad (with cherries, of course)
Asparagus with Toasted Pine Nuts
Homemade Flat Bread
Pasta Salad

The Occasion:
Picky Pants and I are switching churches.
In any small Bible-Belt-Sort-Of-A-Town, your Pastor and his Wife come to dinner if you invite them. Well, this 'ol girl from the suburbs of 'the ATL' never expected the Pastor of a 6,000 some member church to come to our house for dinner! Well, he did! So did his wife and two other great friends. We are so blessed. For the record, this dinner meant more than just entertaining and showing off my culinary skills, or lack of ... but, for the sake of this food blog, we'll stick to the point at hand which is, of course, food, babies, food!

Always looking for a chance to try a new recipe, I knew exactly which one I'd make for this group of people. (Insert taunting voice of my mother "I told you to never try new recipes on people.") I have ear marked several recipes from Oh-You-Guessed-It: Fine Cooking Magazine to try the next time we have company, so I jumped at the chance to make this succulent Cherry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin while it's still summer! It's not my recipe, so I can rave all I want about it, I only followed the directions.. thanks Fine Cooking for the awesome tenderloin!

A couple of notes about this recipe before I get all business-like and cut-copy-and-paste the recipe from the website. ;)
1. If you're ever making a stuffed chicken breast or pork tenderloin, get a meat mallet. Yes, you can certainly use a frying pan, but trust me, it will make life easier.
2. You must, must, must use kitchen twine at one-inch intervals. Your 'stuff' will fall out if not, so take it from me, do it!
3. This recipe looks complicated because there's a lot of ingredients. Don't skimp! FYI 6 TBSP of freshly squeezed orange juice is about all you're going to get out of just one orange and then you zest the top layer for a kick in the cherry mixture. It's worth squeezing it yourself and not leaving out the zesty goodness of the orange.
4. Use a cheese grater to zest your orange. Keep your knuckles away from the sharp edges though ... yes, that's why I'm walking around with not one ... not two ... but three Band-aids around my right thuckle.
5. Butterflying any piece of meat is kind of like being good at basketball. The more you do it, the better you get. Start with chicken breast and work your way up to a tenderloin. Here's a helpful hint though: Holding the knife horizontal to the cutting board, slit the tenderloin lengthwise. Don't cut all the way through to the other side, but just far enough that you can open it like a book. Another helpful hint: yours won't look like the pictures either ... mine didn't but the end result was still beautiful. ;)
6. I did my own version of gravy. I followed the recipe until the end and I used the drippings from the cooked tenderloin to flavor it up. Ehh, a little fattening, but wonderful.
Happy Cooking!

Serves 6

Cherry and Onion stuffed pork tenderloin

2 lb (or larger) Pork Tenderloin

3 TBS Oilive OIl
1 1/2 Medium onions, thinly sliced
6 TBS freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 Cups fresh sweet cherries (about 8 oz)
Kosher Salt and Pepper
1/8 TSP ground cloves (you can totally omit these and won't miss 'em)
1/2 Cup dry white wine (you can just use more chicken broth if you want)
1 C lower-salt chicken broth (one can will be enough if you use broth instead od win)
1 TSP fresh rosemary (I wish I had used fresh Rosemary, the dried stuff didn't get as soft in the gravy as I would have liked)
2 TBS. Cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Kitchen Twine
Meat Mallett

1. Heat 1 TBS olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and light golden, 10 - 15 minutes. Add the orange juice, vinegar, sugar and orange zest, reduce the heat to low, cover and continue to cook until the onions are very soft, 15-20 minutes more. Uncover and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes more. Add the cherries and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool to room temp.

2. Heat the oven to 425. Meanwhile, butterfly the pork by slitting each tenderloin lengthwise just far enough that it opens like a book to make a flat piece. Place the pork between two pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper and pound gently with a meat mallett to flatten it to a 3/8-inch thickness. In a small bowl, mix 1 TBS of olive oil and ground cloves and 1/4 TSP black pepper.

Rub the mixture on both sides of the pork and season generously with salt.

3. Divide and spread the cherry mixture evenly over the tenderloins and roll them back to their original shape. Tie them with kitchen twine at 1 inch intervals.

4. Heat the remaining 1 TBS olive oil in same skillet as before over medium high heat. Brown the pork on all sides until golden, 5-6 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a tenderloin reads 145, 10 - 12 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and tent with foil.
5. Set the skillet over medium high heat, add the wine and deglaze the pan by scraping up the cooked bits with a wooden spoon. Add chicken broth and rosemary, bring to a boil and reduce by half 2-3 mintes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the butter once piece at a time, letting each melt before adding the next. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

**When you take the pork out of the oven, there's juice in the bottom, pour it into your gravy mix, stir and let it sit.

Remove the strings from the pork and slice it into 3/4 inch thick slices. Drizzle sauce over and serve warm.

Asparagus Vinaigrette
2 Pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed
3 TBS Olive Oil
2 TBS Lemon Jice
2 TSP Dijon mustard
1/2 TSP pepper
1/4 TSP Salt
4 TBSO Toasted Breadcrumbs (pine nuts work too)
6 cherry tomatoes, halved

Did you know using a potato peeler on the ends of asparagus once trimmed makes them more tender? Marinate the asparagus in this vinaigrette until ready to cook Pour contents of entire bowl into sauté pan. When done, sprinkle toasted pine nuts and cherry halves on top of asparagus. Beautiful!

Summer Salad (Inspired by Griff's Deli in Bowling Green, KY)

Adjust to your taste and how many you're serving
Green Leaf Lettuce
Feta Cheese
Chopped Cherries
Balsalmic Vinaigrette from store

Flat Bread
How many times can I serve this? Yup, you guessed it. I made the flat bread a few weeks ago, froze it and re-baked it to serve when I have company. It tasted just the same as it did fresh out of the oven. Certainly worth the time spent in the kitchen when I know I'm going to have fresh bread for guests without having to make it that day! Check out my post on it.

Enjoy, Mangia! Mangia!

Tank's Steak Sandwiches

We invited friends over last week for dinner (I know, I'm late getting a blog post up, what's wrong with me?) and lucky for me, they cooked! What a treat! Don't get me wrong, you know how much I love to entertain, but with my trip to Spain on the horizon and other parties to plan, I was glad to let someone else do the cooking!

Meet Tank.

Need I say more? You know I never use real names when blogging about other people (Have you met Picky Pants?) so, I'm glad this cook already came with a pre-determined nick-name: We love Tank and his wonderful cooking. His wife volunteered his famous Steak Sandwiches and Even-More-Famous-Guacamole last week for dinner. OMG I'm drooling just by typing the words. All I can say is: try them. Tonight! As you'll see from the list of ingredients, there's not much to it! Great news, right? Well, there may not be many ingredients to grab at the store, but the specialty comes in how you prepare these juicy sandwiches. No worries, all explained below.

Tank's Steak Sandwiches
Serves 4 (adjust proportions if needed, of course)
1 lb. flat iron steak
2-3 red, yellow, orange or green bell peppers (we used all colors)
6-8 Yukon Gold potatoes, 2 potatoes a person (cut into "fingers")
Hoagie Rolls
Provolone Cheese
Salt Pepper
Canola Oil

Mix together a bit of Canola Oil, Salt and Pepper and rub all over steak, front and back. Grill on medium to high heat about 5 minutes each side or to preferred temperature. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes. When slicing, go against the grain with a very sharp knife and slice it so thin it's almost shaved. The thin strips of meat on your sandwich are what creates the perfect texture. You don't want a hunk of meat you have to chew for 10 minutes before swallowing! Eww! See how thin and pretty Tank's steak looks?

While you're grilling, (or in my case while Tank was grilling) I sliced up the peppers and onions after he roasted them on the grill for a few minutes. Cover your peppers in oil and set them on the grill for a few minutes each side, until almost blackened and a bit soft. Peel the outer layer and begin slicing.

* Or, if you want to sauté them in a pan, slice and sauté in Olive Oil until tender. Keep warm and set aside.

Slice Potatoes into large chunky "fingers." Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Cover with foil and grill. Juicy Potato fries, baby, yum!

Brush Olive Oil over Hoagie's, open faced and broil for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.

Place Provolone on hot bread, steak, peppers and take a big, juicy bite. Mangia! Mangia! So good!

Too bad I had already stuffed myself with Tank's Guac I only had 1/2 of his wonderful steak sandwich!! I'm telling you, best Guac I've ever had. Try it.

Tank's Guac, in his own words:
Serves: a Hell of a lot

8 Ripe avocados
1/2 C Cilantro
2 Jalapeño Peppers, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 Chopped Medium red onion
Drizzle of olive oil
Teaspoon ground Cumin
Salt and course pepper

1. Slice avocado lengthwise and around the pit. Spoon around the edges to get a clean half of the avocado out of its' shell. Discard the pit. Mash the avocado into chunky bits in a bowl. Mix in ingredients. Taste. Savor. Adjust where needed.

Have a great week, Mangia! Mangia!

Next Post: Cherry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

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