Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

This evening we had the family together for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration. We have pizza every Christmas Eve. I'm not sure when this tradition started. We've done it as far back as I can remember.

Then I put together our evening program around the reading of the Christmas story. We took turns reading and then stopped to sing Christmas carols in between the readings. It was probably my favorite part of the night.

After that the mayhem ensued as the munchkins opened up their presents.

However, I want to remember that the best part of the evening was listening to my family sing Silent Night around me, as I was playing the piano.

I wish you and your family a very beautiful Christmas. I leave you with these very poignant words:

Christmas is not a day or a season, but a condition of heart and mind.
If we love our neighbors as ourselves;
if in our riches we are poor in spirit and in our poverty we are rich in grace;
if our charity vaunteth not itself, but suffereth long and is kind;
if when our brother asks for a loaf, we give ourselves instead;if each day dawns in opportunity and sets in achievement, however small—
then every day is Christ’s day and Christmas is always near.

In Charles L. Wallis, ed., Words of Life (1966), 33

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Simply Fabulous Chocolate Orange Scones

So I went to Crackers for breakfast with some friends last week.  I ordered their cranberry orange scone and it was absolutely delicious - not too dry, not to sweet, and just the right amount of orange and cranberries.  I figured that I could give recreating the recipe a try.  However, rather than cranberries I thought that I would make it with my favorite pairing for orange...chocolate!

The best chocolate chips in the world are Ghiradelli's "Double Chocolate Bittersweet Chips".  You can get them from Costco.  America's Test Kitchen even rated them the best chips.  Great deep chocolate taste without that weird waxy underpinning that you often get in low-grade chocolate chips.

I pulled a "Simple Scone" recipe from USA WEEKENDcolumnist Pam Anderson on  Pretty basic.  Then I "meganized" it...

Here is the recipe for Simple Scrumptious Orange Chocolate Scones.

I'm happy to report that I'm not the only one that though they were delicious.  I took them into work and they were a HIT!!!  I shared some with my dad and he reported (via text) "that breakfast scone was the absolutely most delicious and heavenly pastry I have ever had. Bravo".  So this recipe is a keeper.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving's Good Eats - everything's better with garlic

Thanksgiving is about family and food, and more food, and more food.  This year we gathered with my dad's family at my uncle's house.  There were roughly 50 of us.  Everyone is given a food assignment so no one person has to make all the food.  I was assigned 15 lbs of potatoes.  I was disinclined to bring just a bunch of plain, forgettable mashed potatoes.  And when I posted my assignment on Facebook I got all kinds of helpful suggestions, several of which (from my Hawaiian family members) included, "ditch the potatoes and bring rice."

However, I decided to stick with tradition, but add my own little twist.  I roasted garlic and added it to PW's recipe for Creamy Mashed Potatoes (note:  I only used about half the cream cheese she recommended because it was getting a little too thin for my tastes.)  I added about 7 cloves of roasted garlic to 5 lbs of potatoes.  It turned our *FABULOUS*.  It was finger licking good...literally.  The crockpot with my garlic mashed potatoes was wiped clean.  Here's a shot of the garlic, just before I wrapped it up and roasted it. Sorry I didn't get one of the mashed potatoes, they went fast.  I would highly recommend this little trick.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Roasted Green Chilis and Chili Rellenos Casserole

The fresh produce co-op that I've been a part of for the past 2 1/2 years had green chilies and tomatoes for sale in last week's offering. I love green chilies and can't stand paying $2 for a tiny 2 oz jar. So I ordered a 25lb bag of green chilies and 25lbs of tomatoes.

I guess I didn't realize how much 25lbs really is. It was a WHOLE LOT of chilies, as you can tell.

I did a little research on how to roast chilies and Focus New Mexico's page had the best set of directions. I'll let you read them for yourself. However, I am going to share photos of how my chilies looked along the way and a few of the "Note to self..." moments that I had.

"Note to self number 1 ... leave the chilies whole. Don't try to clean them out." I cleaned out all but the chilies in this photo. I definitely wouldn't do that again. I thought it would save me a step at the end, but I found it was easier to "gut" the chilies after they were soft from roasting, then it was to cut them open and carve out their guts while they were still fresh.

"Note to self number 2 ... the blacker the better." Roast the whole darn pepper. The parts that didn't turn black were harder to peel.

"Note to self number 3 ... don't overestimate how long it will take to blacken the chili." I found that the chilies roasted a whole lot faster than I was expecting (I did burn a whole batch *opps*)

So all the labor paid off in the form of a DELICIOUS Chili Rellenos Casserole. It was soooooo wonderful, with the fresh roasted chilies. I usually use canned chilies, so if you're not willing to slave over a hot grill (it was 110 degrees outside while I was roasting), then canned chilies will also work.

Chile Rellenos Casserole
by The Mesquite Tree

  • 15 oz can whole green chilies
  • chili rellenos
  • 1lb Monterrey Jack cheese

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 TBS flour

  • 4 TBS butter

  • 12-oz can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9"x11" pan. Remove seeds from green chilies. Slice cheese into 1/4" slices. Layer chilies, then cheese in casserole dish. Sprinkle flour and butter on top, then add another layer of chilies and cheese.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and milk with wire whisk; pour over casserole.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with salsa.

*I'll save you the pain and agony and not post the nutritional information for a serving of this're welcome!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Peanut Beef Stir-Fry -- Monochromatic Goodness

I was looking for something different. I'm tired of the same-old-same old. So I started thinking about stir-fry on the way home from work. Once I got home I browsed through one of my favorite recipe sites -- -- and found a recipe for Peanut Beef Stir-Fry. Now the recipe didn't have any pictures, and I usually avoid any recipes without pictures, but it had a bunch of great reviews. I love peanut butter and so I decided to give it a try.

The recipe was super simple. I made a few substitutions, because I can't stand celery -- it's a whole stringy texture thing -- and I had a red pepper that I needed to use.

The finish product smelled amazing; however, it was very monochromatic - brown beef, with brown sauce and just a splash of color from the red peppers. To liven up the plate I steamed a few pea pods. Fortunately the Peanut Beef Stir-Fry tasted anything but monochromatic. I loved the subtle peanut/nutty flavor with the saltyness of the soy sauce. The peppers added just a small bite of sweetness. You've really got to try this recipe.

Peanut Beef Stir-Fry
by Rita Reifenstein

  • 5 tsp cornstarch

  • 1-14.5oz can beef broth

  • 2 TBS soy sauce

  • 3 TBS peanut butter (the original recipe calls for 2 but I added another, yum)

  • 1/2 tsp sugar

  • 1 lb. boneless beef sirloin steak, thinly sliced (I used "stir fry beef")

  • 1 c. sliced onions

  • 1 c. red bell pepper (the original recipe calls for celery, yuck)

  • 2 tsp. minced garlic (the original recipe calls for 1 tsp, not enough)

  • 2 TBS sesame oil (the original recipe calls for vegetable oil)

  • 1/4 tsp. sesame seed oil (the original recipe doesn't call for this, but I liked the additional enhanced nut flavor)

  1. In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, broth, soy sauce, peanut butter, sugar and sesame seed oil until smooth (I found it helped that I nuked the beef broth for a bit first, because it helped melt the peanut butter); set aside.

  2. In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry the beef, onion, peppers, and garlic in oil for 5-8 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.

  3. Stir the broth mixture and add to the pan. Bring to boil; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until sauce thickens.

  4. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

So my sister-in-law brought over some cookies a few months ago for a family dinner. This unassuming cookies looked like every other chocolate chip cookie I had ever eaten and so I casually helped myself to one after dinner. OH MY GOSH!! There was something absolutely unequivocally different about these cookies. There was nothing run-of-the-mill about these chocolate chip cookies.

"How can there possibly be anything that different about a chocolate chip cookie?" You ask.

"They're all pretty much the same." You Say.

I say, Nay, Nay.

These are not like any chocolate chip cookie you have ever eaten. They are warm and carmely tasting. The cookie itself actually stands out as the star, almost over-shadowing the chocolate.

I made a batch again today and decide that I just couldn't keep this recipe to myself any longer. The recipe actually comes from America's Test Kitchen. You may have seen this show on your local PBS station. It's a pretty darn good show.

Anyways, here's the pictures to entice you to try the recipe. Please note, these take more time to make and involve many more steps than your traditional c.c. cookie recipe. But it's worth it in the end.

I made small little cookies this time around, because I had to feed a bunch of people. However, I think these would be even better in the form of GIANT cookies.

These delicious bits of golden goodness bring back my conviction that chocolate chip cookies may be the best thing that ever happened to my mouth.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever by America's Test Kitchen - Recipe

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bolognese & Homemade Pasta

OK, so it's been FOREVER since I've posted. It's not that I haven't been cooking, it's just that I haven't been taking the time to record the experience. However, I decided to come back with a big splash... Pastor Ryan's Bolognese. I got this recipe from one of my favorite blogs -- Pioneer Woman. It is an AMAZING recipe and it makes a ton.

Tuesday night I made it and also made some homemade pasta to serve it over. The combination was killer. The freshness of homemade pasta is so refreshing and really supported the robustness of the Bolognese sauce. Friday, I recycled the leftover sauce into lasagna, yum.


Ryan’s Bolognese

1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 large red onion, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds ground beef (I used 1 lb ground beef and 1 lb sausage - delicious)
2 tablespoons oregano flakes
2 tablespoons dried basil flakes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 cups red wine (I don't drink wine so I used beef broth instead and it works great)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
1 cup milk
Fresh Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and cook for a few minutes. Make a well in the center of the mixture, then add in the ground beef. Cook for a few minutes until brown, gradually stirring it into the carrot mixture.

Throw in oregano and basil. Use fresh if you have it; if you don’t, it’s fine. When the meat is browned and combined with other ingredients, make another well. Add tomato paste and let it heat. Add garlic and stir to combine. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add red wine. Stir together. Add Worcestershire and stir. Add canned tomatoes.

Finally, pour in milk, stir, and let simmer for 30 minutes to 2 hours—however long you need.
Serve with pasta and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.