Posts Tagged ‘food’

Recipes + First Official Summer BBQ

We had a delicious BBQ for Memorial Day & tried out a bunch of new recipes. If you’re interested in summer fare, these might be for you. Note: My husband barbecued short ribs & sausage, and I prepped corn on the cob & potato halves (still trying & failing to get the delicious salty baked potato like Outback Steakhouse – my favorite place for potatoes). However, none of those are difficult / original / online recipes. And, if you can’t tell, I love The Pioneer Woman & Smitten Kitchen & cook from their recipes often.

Hits

Baked Beans – Wow! I already have a spicy baked beans recipe that I completely love, but sometimes sweet baked beans are just right. All four of us ate multiple helpings of these beans. They were seriously that good. I was kicking myself for halving the recipe, even though half the recipe makes more than four people should eat. This was definitely my favorite recipe of the night.

Key Lime Pie – This pie was relatively simple to make & absolutely delicious. It tasted like it had a lot more work put into it & balanced the right amount of tartness with the sweet. It was my favorite of all of the (four) desserts made. I used the rest of the whipped cream on the top (see: strawberry cake below) & it added a little creaminess, but I think it would be just fine without.

Strawberry Icebox Cake – The boys really liked this one, but I was just iffy on it. However, neither strawberries nor whipped cream are high on my list of favorite foods, so perhaps I am a bit biased. It all melds together as promised & is good. I think the chocolate on top was completely unnecessary, so feel free to omit.

S’mores Brownies – I have actually made these twice. The first time (last Monday), I followed the recipe to the letter & was disappointed by the marshmallows (too gooey, didn’t crisp on top) & the brownies being too cakey & not sweet enough (the graham cracker crust needs to be cut with some sweetness, in my opinion). This time, I substituted my current favorite brownie recipe (omitting the salt) & cut the squares into 1.5″ squares with half a large marshmallow in the center of each one. They were two-bite sized, which is about perfect (the crust is crumbly) & easy to cut since the marshmallows aren’t sticking together. Additionally, the sweetness of the brownies is just right. We used our hand torch (previously only used for creme brulee) & still didn’t quite get the caramelized consistency I wanted, but regardless, they were much better overall!

Misses

Banana Ice Cream – This one ingredient experiment DID work. You can make ice cream with just frozen bananas. However, it simply tastes like creamy bananas. We added some honey & peanut butter, but it was still only okay. If you’re looking for a way to get kids to eat bananas, this might be worth making. Otherwise, it dirties a food processor & is only marginal. It’s worth making once for the novelty, but I won’t repeat it.

Corn Bread – Maybe I am too accustomed to sweeter corn bread, but this one just tasted wrong to me. I didn’t like the lack of sweetness. I didn’t like the too-much shortening. Also, even though the batter was swimming in shortening, it still stuck to the pan & I baked it just under the recommended time & it was a bit too crispy for my taste. Now, we were playing Mexican Train Dominoes while waiting for this (the last piece of dinner) to finish, so somehow I might’ve messed up, but I’ll stick with my Marie Callendar’s mix. Even after four different types of homemade corn bread, only this one matches it for tastiness & the mix is so much simpler…

Thank you to the guys for being such patient taste testers & rankers of recipes.

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Food & Music = A Great Weekend

We went away for the weekend & escaped to wander around the bay area (a day each in Berkeley, Oakland & San Francisco). All of the food we had was deeeelicious.

  • Berkeley = Our favorite burger place ever – Barney’s! Their spicy, curly fries with ranch are amazing & the burgers are delicious too. There are locations all over the bay, so look around. They are definitely worth it. Also, technically we had dinner in Berkeley on Saturday night at La Note Provencal. The food was great, but they were oddly busy when we got there (to the tune of an hour wait when they said 30 minutes) & oddly empty when we left (four tables only). I guess 6pm is their rush, so avoid that time. Cute ambiance & tasty food though.
  • Oakland = BBQ! It’s hard to get BBQ sauce just right & Everett & Jones did! Their medium sauce was just the right blend of sweet & spicy, and their links were great!
  • San Francisco = I went to this bakery today & almost died. Everything we had was perfect! And, of course, no trip to the mission district is complete without ice cream.

Possibly the best part about those meals is that they were all reasonably priced. With drinks & tax & tip, no meal exceeded $20 per person & most came in closer to $10.

We went to the bay area to celebrate my husband & I having days off together (lamentably, a rare occurence) & because we had tickets to a couple of different shows. On Friday night, we saw Flight of the Conchords, and on Saturday night, we saw She & Him. The highlight of the FotC show was definitely when they asked the entire audience to stand up & dance to “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor.” People were screaming & bouncing & dancing. It was pretty contagiously exciting, especially Bret’s ridiculous dancing. They sort of just say whatever they want, which is amusing, if disjointed. She & Him ended their show with “I Put a Spell on You,” and it was just awesome. It was perfect for Zooey’s voice. This is a poor quality video, but I highly recommend it. Ignore the people frantically screaming. She really did nail it. I loved the band-less part of that show – when it was just the two of them. Awesome.

And, if that wasn’t enough, we’re barbecuing tomorrow in honor of having another day off together! Life is great.

The Sweetest Taste

Although I was fully prepared to pony up the $15 for Amuse Brunch tickets, my slow computer at school took forever reloading when they went up for sale & they were sold out in literally less than five minutes. Disappointed, I figured I’d try again next time. Then, Susan from Wild Yeast (the person / blog that linked to the San Francisco Food Wars website & the way I found out about it) had a giveaway of two tickets… and I won!

Now, delicious cooks making & serving gourmet bites of brunch to me is fabulous enough, but going for free? FANTASTIC. Sunday cannot come soon enough!

Pumpkin!

I had read about these pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins & thought they sounded delicious. When I woke up before my husband this morning, I knew that they’d be a perfect Sunday morning surprise.

They are absolutely delicious. I added 3.5c flour (if her measurements make you nervous) & they turned out perfectly. They are pretty chocolatey (a plus in my book!). Also, I cooked them a little less than the recommended time, but I think my oven might be running a bit hot. The only drawback (if it can be seen as such) is that they make many more than 12. I have almost half a bowl left, and I anticipate that I will make 20-24 rather large muffins.

In other good news, I tried the silicon muffin liners that people have raved about online (found some on sale for $1 & figured it was worth it + they make heart-shaped muffins!). I also had difficulties with popping them out when the muffins were hot, but absolutely no trouble when they had cooled. So, mixed review!

But ignore that & bake the muffins – tender & delicious!

Amazing Cookies

This is not a joke. DO make these cookies. They’re just right for winter – s’mores being absolutely perfect when it’s chilly outside & they’re not messy & won’t get all over your hands. I made two batches – one on Christmas Eve for my husband’s family & one a couple of days later for my family’s gathering. They received rave reviews at the four different parties they graced & they were annihilated at each gathering (except at the last one where I brought four times as many to insure there’d be enough).

Some people in the comments had trouble with the dough spreading, but I am almost positive that they didn’t refrigerate the dough for an hour as instructed. I was doing so much baking that this wasn’t a problem, but I get being impatient. I do recommend making sure you do that because mine were absolutely perfect.

Another little tip would be to use Symphony toffee bars to break up & put on top. Oh, man. DO THIS. I added a little sea salt to the top of one batch & they were my absolute favorites. Additionally, I regularly bake cookies 30 seconds – 2 minutes less than recommended, depending on the recipe. The times on these were spot on for me, but I put them back in for 1.5 minutes instead of 2 minutes after adding the marshmallows & chocolate, and my marshmallows didn’t spread like hers did. Just a tip…

Seriously though, if these won rave reviews from my eight-year-old nephews, both brothers-in-law, my sister-in-law’s boyfriend, grandparents, aunt & cousins, well… That’s a lot of endorsement! Try them out while the weather is still chilly enough to warrant it!

If you absolutely cannot click links (where there are photos, so do it!), here’s the recipe:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (I found this to be one package of graham crackers – not a box, but one of the individually wrapped packages, if you are too lazy to measure)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups miniature chocolate chips (any chips are fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 2 Hershey bars, chopped (and by 2 bars, I took that to mean jumbo bars & mine were very chocolate-y)
  1. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugars until fluffy.
  2. Mix in egg and vanilla until combined. Add the flour, graham crackers, salt, and baking soda, mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Refrigerate dough for about an hour. (Don’t skip this!)
  4. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, and remove from the oven. Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a few pieces of chocolate into each cookie. Return to the oven and bake an additional 2-3 minutes until fully cooked. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
  6. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Christmas Baking / Gifts for All

I sort of went crazy in the kitchen today. I made muddy buddies & s’mores cookies & Oreo truffles. I made mixes for oatmeal & chocolate chip & pecan cookies as well as curried lentil soup. I seriously made cheese straws exactly according to the directions, but they were horribly burned. I have enough to make tomorrow as well, and I might try them again at half the baking time.

I had some difficulties as my in-laws decided to do a gift swap this year instead of individual presents. That’s fine, but we had to come up with a bunch of $25 presents. The age range is from mid-20s to mid-70s with people everywhere in between. They don’t drink (alcohol being an easy & popular gift choice), and I was thoroughly flummoxed. Here’s what I ended up doing:

1: Everyone Loves Chocolate: homemade hot cocoa (on a stick!), a selection of each of the three cookies / truffles listed above, the movie Chocolat, and the mix for the cookies listed above.

2: Let’s Stay Home: a thick fleece blanket, microwave popcorn & a four-in-one DVD (Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, Ocean’s 13 & the original Ocean’s 11, something for everyone, I hoped!)

3. It’s Cold Outside, So Let’s Stay In: curried lentil soup mix (linked above), a recipe book for CrockPot meals & the new Norah Jones CD

4: Christmas Spirit: two movies – Elf & A Christmas Story, a box of microwave popcorn, a couple of candy canes, the hot cocoa on a stick mentioned earlier, a few Christmas cookies, a mix CD of Christmas songs

The first two were chosen by my mother-in-law (#1 & she loves chocolate, so I think it went over well) & my great-uncle-in-law (#2 & they liked the blanket & will probably like the movies, so that should be okay). I’ve never been so nervous that my gifts might not go over well! (Note: We have two gatherings with my in-laws, one on Christmas Eve with one side & one on Christmas Day with the other.)

My family’s gathering isn’t until Monday, but I’ll see my mother & older sister + her family tomorrow, and we’ll exchange gifts. I love watching people open presents. Have I mentioned that before?

Christmas is grand!

Current Loves

While scouting out Christmas presents for others, I find myself seeing a bunch of things online that I am particularly loving. Take a look.

I’ve seen these linked to all over the internet, and I am in love each time I see them. These personalized cards include a hand-painted illustration of you. They’re pricy but oh-so-adorable!

I wear my Toms so often that I’ve been looking into getting another pair. I adore the black glitter ones, but my current pair are black, so I am leaning toward these instead. So cute! If you haven’t read / heard about what they do over at Toms, you should read about it.

Terrarium ornaments!

Homemade advent calendars! I’ve seen them all over. I definitely did not make one this year, but it’s on my to-do list for the next season (or maybe we’ll do a modified “12-days of” one).

I have so many cookies bookmarked to make this season. I could bake a batch each day & still have more to try. Some tempting ones include: mini-ginger cookie sandwiches with cinnamon cream cheese filling (pictured above), brown sugar walnut shortbread, glazed maple cookies, lemon cornmeal shortbread cookies, pecan rochers & homemade Oreos!