Monday, December 2, 2013

Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars

Two Starbucks knock-offs in a row? YES.

Why? Because if I don't bake these things myself, I will go to Starbucks to look for all of these tasty treats, and then I will throw a hissy fit when I'm told they're sold out, discontinued, or gone until next season.

That would be most unbecoming, wouldn't it?

If you're at risk of a Starbucks hissy fit, or just in need of a holiday season sugar fix, go ahead and give these yummy bars a chance! The base is a chewy blondie, spiced with ginger and dotted with dried cranberries and white chocolate. Once it cools, you top it off with a zingy lemon frosting, some additional craisins, and just a drizzle of simple glaze.

You know what I love about Starbucks recipes? They seem like acceptable breakfast foods- even if they have more sugar than some cakes!

Cranberry bars for breakfast,
Cranberry bars for a snack,
I'll eat so many cranberry bars,
I might break my back.

But really- why do I only seem to put an apostrophe in 'Starbucks' on the picture, not the post?


Cranberry Bliss Bars

Batter:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped craisins (chopped and then measured, not measured and then chopped!)
  • 4 ounces white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F. 

Beat sugar and butter together until smooth. Add eggs, ginger, vanilla and salt. Beat until combined, then slowly add in flour and baking powder. Once batter is smooth, stir in craisins and white chocolate chips. 

Spread the batter evenly into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, then remove from oven and allow the cake to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tsp lemon juice (some orange zest and good quality orange juice acceptable as well)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Spread over cooled blondies and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped craisins. 

Drizzling Glaze
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 TB milk
  • 2 tsp shortening
Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle over frosted blondies with a squeeze bottle or a piping bag. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Is it the day after Thanksgiving?

Yes.

Should I have posted this recipe earlier in the week so you could all make these delicious treats for a Thanksgiving breakfast, or a Black Friday 3 a.m. waiting-in-line snack?

Probably.

But timely blogging just isn't my strong suit, people. Plus- these muffins are too scrumptious to only be made one or two days out of the year.

So grab some cream cheese and crack open that spare can of pumpkin, it's muffin time!

...which will probably lead to 'muffin top time'....




Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Preheat the oven to 350, and line a muffin tin with paper cups. You can lightly spritz the top of the muffin tin with cooking spray, as the muffins will rise, but this isn't necessary.

Sweet Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
Using an electric mixer or a very strong rubber scraper and some elbow grease, mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Cover the bowl and allow to chill in the fridge until baking time. (Note: I usually double my filling recipe because I always seem to run out.)


Candied Pumpkin Seeds (I didn't have any seeds on hand, and it was too cold to go out and get some, so I left these out. Don't judge.)
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB water
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 TB shelled, plain pumpkin seeds
Combine sugar, water and cinnamon in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir constantly for about 2 minutes- the water should have evaporated and the sugar crystalized. When the sugar begins to harden, immediately pour the seeds onto a parchment lined plate, separating any seeds that are clumped. Allow to cool completely. 


Muffin Batter
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs 
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl/KitchenAid, mix eggs, sugars, and vanilla together on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin and oil, then mix another 30 seconds. Add in the flour mixture and blend together for an additional 30 seconds, or until the batter is free of lumps. 

To Assemble:

Fill muffin cups to the top with the pumpkin batter. Grab the cream cheese filling from the fridge and scoop up approximately one tablespoon of filling. Roll gently into a ball, then press into the center of each muffin until mostly covered by the batter. Sprinkle a few of the candied pumpkin seeds on top.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely. You may need to run a knife lightly around the tops to remove the muffins from the tin. 

Leftovers can be stored in the freezer for pumpkin time, any time. Just defrost at room temp for 2 hours.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Freezer Burritos

I must confess: I love freezer food.

Frozen pizzas...
Frozen perogies... 
Frozen potstickers....
Other frozen foods that don't start with 'P'....

But freezer food is such a guilt fest that I'm not sure if it's worth it. 

The judgy look from the checkout lady at the store, the extensive ingredient list (half of which I can't pronounce), the ridiculous calorie count, and my inability to NOT eat an entire pizza in one sitting really puts a damper on the whole meal. 

What's a gal to do? 

Make her own freezer food, that's what!

These burritos are easy-peasy from beginning to end.


  •  5-7 pounds pulled pork (I use this recipe)
  • Beans of choice (see below for my Chipotle Black Beans)
  • Jar of salsa
  • Cheese (I like to use Velveeta in these because it reheats great and it's easy to portion out. Don't judge.)
  • Burrito flour tortillas (15-20 should do you right)
  • Aluminum foil
A few tips:

Start with cold/room temp ingredients. I make my pork and beans the day before and pull them out of the fridge (along with my tortillas) 30 minutes before I start. Warmed ingredients will lead to condensation, which will lead to soggy burritos upon reheating. Bleh.

Don't overfill. I generally use 1/3 cup meat, a spoonful of salsa, two soup spoons of beans and one slice of cheese. I'm able to fold up my burritos without the ingredients leaking out or breaking through the tortilla.

Line your wrapped burritos on a baking sheet and freeze them flat before you toss the in a freezer bag. 

When you're ready to eat, unwrap and heat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or place wrapped burrito in a 350 degree oven and bake 35-45 minutes, or until heated through. 

Fill, fold, foil and freeze. What could be easier?


Chipotle Black Beans:
  • 2 cans black beans: 1 drained, one undrained
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • pinch of allspice
Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and simmer on low for 20 minutes. 




Monday, November 4, 2013

Lazy Day Tea


There are few things that make me feel quite as cozy as a nice pot of tea.

Not a cup of tea, mind you. No- a whole pot.

And when I want a whole pot of tea, I want the whole shabang: teapot, cup, saucer, tea spoon, cream and sugar bowl.

Even if the sugar bowl is missing one of it's handles.


The secret to enjoying a pot of tea is to go cup by cup. Add the sugar (I prefer 1 lump per cup), pour the tea, stir in a spoonful of cream, and sip away peacefully.

Do not- I repeat, DO NOT try to mix your sugar and cream right into the teapot. This is not a pitcher of sangria or some mass produced swill to leave out on a self-serve bar. This is a tea service, by George, and you will appreciate the beauty and serenity of preparing one perfect cup after another!

Black tea, real sugar (perhaps infused with a bit of vanilla), and the heaviest of heavy cream.

In other words....


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Basic Makeup Favorites

I suppose after giving you a finger-wagging post on testing makeup, I should have promptly followed up with an actual makeup post.

I'm no makeup wiz, but I do think I've come a long way in a short while on the everyday makeup frontier.

My basics:




  1. Smashbox Photo Finish More Than Primer Blemish Control 
  2. Sheer Cover Base Perfector Primer
  3. Smashbox Studio Skin 15 Hour Wear Hydrating Foundation (1.1)
  4. Sheer Cover Duo Concealer (Light/Medium) 
  5. Cover Girl Clump Crusher Mascara
  6. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner
  7. Shiseido Perfect Foundation Brush 
  8. E.l.f. All Over Face Brush 
  9. E.l.f. High Definition Powder
  10. E.l.f. Makeup Mist and Set


A few notes:

Hey crazy lady- why two primers?

I love that the Smashbox primer has an acne treatment wrapped up in it, but if I use it all over my face I get oily and break out, which is quite the opposite of what I'm going for with that stuff. Plus- it's really expensive. I use the Sheer Cover primer all over, and use the Smashbox as a 'spot treatment' primer. Bonus: doubling up on the primer in problem areas helps my concealer blend in smoothly.

Can I get a shout out for Cover Girl?

I'm a mascara freak. I recently fell a little in love with the Benefit's 'Yes, They're Real' mascara, but a $20-something price tag for my lashes isn't really my cup of tea. After hearing great things about Clump Crusher, I skeptically picked some up....and wow. I'm a convert.

Stila must translate to 'STAY' in some language, right?

I used to pick up some cheapo liquid eye liner pens at the drugstore, and I'd usually end up having to reapply my eyeliner once or twice a day if I was going to be doing various things (work, appointments, dinners, etc...). Stila doesn't move. I put it on in the morning and have a few seconds to wipe away any out of place lines before it sets. I really want to go buy this stuff in a jewel blue shade for some fun lower lid lining.

E.l.f.: the ultimate beauty bargain.

I don't care what anybody says. E.l.f. is one of my favorite beauty brands because it's cheap. What does cheap mean? It means I can dig in my cupholder for drive-thru change, walk into Target, and leave with 10 different products to play with. I adore the HD powder, love the eyeliner pens as an emergency backup for traveling/purse makeup/etc, and have recently become addicted to the Shimmering Face Whip.

Stay tuned for more random beauty ramblings! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What I Regret

 It's funny.

I don't have a lot of regrets in life.

I've never found myself longing to change the past.

Even the most difficult days served a purpose and made me who I am today...so I would never regret those times.

What I do regret is the collateral damage, namely Phoebe, my former mini-dachshund.

In the midst of a hefty break-up and relocation, I had to give her up. She's with someone now who loves her just as much as I did, and for that I'm glad.

But I miss her little long nose.

The way she would borrow into my lap or refuse to sleep unless she was glued to my thigh under the covers.

Her stubborn personality and 'please forgive me and love me' eyes.

I miss my puppy.

Funny that that's one of my greatest regrets in life- right?

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Laziest Recipes Ever: Tomatillo Chicken Soup

We had a ridiculously long winter here in Minnesota.

Snow days in May kind of ridiculous.

Summer finally arrived and it's been gloriously hot and humid and full of road construction- as is our state's way with summer.

But guess what.

Fall.

is.

coming.

Woo! Yes- I'm one of those terribly cliche fall freaks.

I love:
1. The harvest air
2. The pumpkin overkill in drinks, baked goods, pastas, lotions, face masks, candles....
3. The cozy wardrobe and cute footwear (boots, moccasins, even clogs!)
4. How much better red wine, tea, and coffee all taste when it's chilly out

and I especially love......THAT IT'S SOUP SEASON, PEOPLE!

Ahem.

Truly, this soup is light and zesty enough that I could make it in the summer. It's still in the 70's here, so this is a perfect 'transitional' season soup to enough before we get into the days of chili, baked potato soup, and beef stew.

Bonus: it could give Sandra Lee a run for her 'semi-homemade' money.

Try it! And then tell Food Network you can fill in for ol' Sandy any day of the week.

Tomatillo Chicken Soup  

-1 whole rotisserie chicken
-1 bag mini-carrots, or 3 large carrots, diced
-1 large green bell pepper, diced
-4 cups chicken stock
-1 can tomatillos, roughly blended (including the clear juice)
-1 large can green enchilada sauce
-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
-1/2 package frozen egg noodles



1. Remove the skin from the chicken, then strip the meat from the bones. Using your fingers, shred meat into bite-size pieces.

2. In a large soup pot, combine chicken, vegetables, chicken stock, blended tomatillos, enchilada sauce, and the red pepper flakes.

3. Bring the soup to a boil before adding the frozen egg noodles. Reduce the pot to a simmer and cook 20-30 minutes until the noodles are tender, being sure to stir occasionally to keep the noodles from sticking/clumping.

4.Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.

Soup can simmer on low for up to an hour, or be added into a crockpot and set on warm/low for several hours.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Makeup PSA!

This has been quite the trying 7 days.

I made the mistake of getting what I consider a horrible haircut. In order to cope with my fugly locks, I did what any girl would do....

Retail therapy.

I invested in some fabulous Smashbox makeup from Sephora, but returned it when I realized it was oxidizing too orange for my ghostly complexion....in addition to making me break out.

The SA recommended I try the Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation (liquid, not powder). She put it on for me, but the 'wow' factor I had when I put on the Smashbox was definitely not there. Still, I figured that I should check out my face in natural light to see if it really did look better.

It took me 5 minutes to get home.

And then it took me 10 minutes to feel like my face was on fire.

Two face washes, a 30 minute sit with raw honey slathered on my face, and several hours later, my face finally began to stop burning.

Spot test your makeup, people!

I will admit- I have never, ever spot tested a single product in my life. That's about to change.

Here's what I've learned about the skincare, makeup buying process:

1. Good looking skin starts with good skin care.

I'm not talking about products for small pores and a blemish free face here. Good skin is all about nourishing your face/neck as a whole- not focusing on treating imperfections. Use gentle face washes (I personally use raw honey!) and a moisturizer (with or in addition to sunscreen!).

2. Kill with Kindness.

It might be tempting to squeeze, exfoliate, or otherwise chemically treat all of our little imperfections. Heck- I know better and I still can't help myself sometimes. However, it's important to realize that if your skin is bothered, the last thing it needs is to be irritated even more by harsh treatments. Continue to moisturize and gently cleanse. Spot treat sparingly and leave the rest up to the makeup.

3. Know your skin.

Turning steps 1 and 2 into a regular routine will help you understand your skin. Pay attention to how your skin retains moisture, how oily/where your skin seems most oily, if there is a pattern to break outs (certain times of the month, areas of the face) and how your skin responds to powders, liquids, etc.

4. Research different brands to see what the common Rant/Rave seems to be. 

Take any review with a grain of salt- something that made someone break out in cystic acne might be just fine for you because everybody's skin is different. Makeup Alley and /r/MakeUpAddiction are my common go-to spots.

5. Drugstore or Specialty Store?

There are great drugstore brands out there, so if you're willing to experiment and possibly end up with a few duds there's no better place to do it then the drugstore! However, I love the professional attention and amazing return policy of Sephora. Additionally, Sephora stores are happy to provide samples and even apply the makeup for you. They understand that finding the right shade/texture takes a lot of work for some people. I appreciate that.

6. Samples, Spot Testing and Experimenting

If you go to Sephora- get samples. If you're interested in a certain brand, I would recommend asking for samples in two shades so you can see what looks best. You can also compare coverages by getting samples of BB/CC creams, foundations, and liquid vs powder.

Make sure to look at your makeup outside in natural light! I never realized how orange one of my former foundations make me look in natural light until my mother was riding in a car with me and pointed it out. I was so used to how it looked indoors that I ignored the oompa-loompa staring back at me in the rear view mirror.

And like I said up top: Spot test your makeup! See how it looks on your jaw. If that seems fine, give it a go on a larger area of your face. If there's any irritation, itching, redness, or if something just doesn't feel right....stop. No point in destroying your skin with something meant to make it look better.

If you've found a sample you like and the spot test went well, go ahead and try out the makeup at full force. Try it without a primer, with a primer, applied with fingers/sponge/brush, set with a powder/spray or left alone....you want a good idea as to how the makeup will wear and if you have to change anything about how you usually apply.

7. Love it or Leave it

If everything looks and feels great, then go ahead and invest! Be sure to monitor your skin for the next 2-4 weeks just to make sure that everything is okay.

Most importantly- if your makeup doesn't make you feel better/prettier/confident, then don't wear it! Try something else. There are thousands of makeup options out there. It might take time to find the one that's best for you and that's just fine.

Good luck!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Biscoff No Bake Cookies

Yeah. We're on a cookie kick here.

In fact, I've now dedicated a whole Pinterest board to 'Cookies and Bars'.

Pretty big commitment for someone who's a fail whale when it comes to baking cookies.

But it's okay! I'm an awesome possum at no bake cookies, and now, I have another variety of oatmeally yumminess to add to my repertoire.


Biscoff. No bake. Cookies. Excuse me while I weep with joy.

Have you had Biscoff Spread? Think peanut butter, but made with cookies. 

And the tears of angels.

It's delicious smeared on apple slices. It's delicious on a spoon. It's delicious morning, night, and noon.

Sorry. I've had a lot of coffee today.

So, enough with the weird rhymes and onto the recipe!


Biscoff No Bake Cookies
adapted from Shugary Sweets/Cooking Classy
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats 
1. In a large sauce pan on medium heat, melt together butter, sugars, milk, salt and cinnamon, stirring frequently.

2. Bring mixture to a boil and allow to boil untouched for 45 seconds.

3. Whisk in Biscoff and vanilla, then remove the pan from the heat.

4. Fold in oats, stirring gently but quickly until fully coated.

5. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper and allow to cool thoroughly before enjoying.(Trust me- you'll want to allow the oats time to soften and take on all of that yummy sugary flavor.)









Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've finally found a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I love.

More importantly...I can actually make these.


See, when it comes to baking, cookies are my nemesis. They never turn quite right... too crunchy,  too bland, too under-baked...never a success.

This recipe restored my faith in baking cookies.  If I ever become a mother,  my children will know the joy of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

These cookies bake up big,  with a crunchy exterior and a chewy middle, and bonus! the recipe uses melted butter instead of softened butter,  so for those of us who rarely plan ahead (aka me) this truly is the perfect cookie recipe.

Give it a try!

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8¾ ounces)
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a  stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Pour the browned butter to a large bowl and stir the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into the hot browned butter until completely melted.

3. While the butter cools slightly, whisk together flour and baking soda in a separate bowl.

4. To the butter, add sugars, salt, and vanilla and whisk until fully combined. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk until the mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.

5. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking 2 more times until the mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.

6. Gently stir in the flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in the chocolate chips.

5. Scoop the dough into 8 even portions (balls should be about 3 tablespoons each) and arrange them 2 inches apart on the parchment lined baking sheet. (You'll have enough for 16 cookies/2 baking sheets)

6. Bake one sheet at a time, until the cookies are golden brown but still puffy, and the edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Place the baking sheet onto a wire rack and allow cookies to set 5-10 minutes before removing from baking sheet.

Store in an airtight container to preserve the crunchy, chewy, chocolately, toffee goodness.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dishwasher-proof Sharpie Mugs

I had pinned the Sharpie mug project on Pinterest some time ago, but I never wanted to try it after reading so many stories of disappointment.











The Sharpie would wash off in the dishwasher.

The Sharpie would wash off from a hand-rinse.

The Sharpie would wash off if it was looked at the wrong way.

Well. Maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. 






But then I found an 8 pack of metallic Sharpies on clearance for pocket change, and I knew that I had to find a way to make the Sharpie stay!

Teheh. I made a rhyme. 

Moving on....

Here's what you do!



Step One:
 Ignore my very dirty oven.

Step Two:
 Gather your supplies: a plain mug (cleaned, and perhaps given a wipe down with rubbing alcohol),  Sharpies in the color of choice, and a steady hand. (I missed that    last one, as you can tell from my  wonky lines....)

Step Three:
 Draw your design! There are endless possibilities here. Get creative!

Step Four:
 Place mugs in oven, and then turn your oven to 425 degrees and set a timer for 1/2 an hour. When  time is up, turn your oven off but keep the mugs inside until completely cooled.

Step Five:
 Allow mugs to sit for a day before washing.

Viola! Sharpie mugs with staying power!


I have the most wobbly hand in the world. Sigh....



 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The World's Most Moist Roast Chicken with the Crispiest Skin

 
I wish there was more to say about this chicken other than the following:
 
"Oh lordy."
"Oh wow."
"More."
"Give me more now."
"Why is the chicken gone already?"
"Make another."
 
But this is a straight-forward roast chicken that doesn't need all of the regular culinary description fluff. The flavor is pure, the meat is moist, the skin is potato chip crisp.
 
No 'elements of rosemary and notes of thyme'.
 
No 'subtle spice and just a hint of sweetness'.
 
Just damn good chicken flavor.
 
If you knew what this chicken tasted like, you would make it tonight.
 
You should make it tonight.
 
Though...if your oven is dirty, it might smoke up your house something awful, but that just means you can disarm your smoke detectors and enjoy drinks out on the patio while dinner is in the oven!
 
Simple Roast Chicken - by Barbara Kafka
 
Follow these directions precisely and, as my sister would say, 'error on the side of caution with doneness'. To cut down on the smokiness, I like to cover the bottom of the baking dish with sliced red potatoes. The juices and fat from the chicken, couples with a generous sprinkle of salt and black pepper, make for some delicious potatoes. They'll get rather soft, so scrape them all into a bowl and mash lightly for a side dish of rustic smashed potatoes!
 
5- to 6-pound chicken at room temperature, wing tips removed
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1. Place rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to 500°F (or for convection, reduce to 450°F).
    2. Remove the fat from the tail and crop end of the chicken.                
    3. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the lemon, garlic, and butter, if using. Season the cavity and skin with salt and pepper.
    4. Place the chicken in a 12 x 8 x 1 1/2-inch roasting pan breast side up. Put in the oven legs first and roast 50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear. After the first 10 minutes, move the chicken with a wooden spoon or spatula to keep it from sticking.
    5. Remove the chicken to a platter by placing a large wooden spoon into the tail end and balancing the chicken with a kitchen spoon pressed against the crop end. As you lift the chicken, carefully tilt it over the roasting pan so that all the juices run out and into the pan.
    Optional: Pour off or spoon out excess fat from the roasting pan and put the roasting pan on top of the stove. Add one cup stock or other liquid and bring the contents of the pan to a boil, while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Let reduce by half. Serve the sauce over the chicken or, for crisp skin, in a sauceboat. 

    Saturday, July 20, 2013

    The Laziest Recipes Ever: Blue Cheese Crostinis

    This recipe is simple and straightforward,  both in preparation and in flavor.  As such,  I will spare you my usual ramblings and get right down to business.

    The fact that it's 7 a.m. on a Saturday and I haven't had my coffee yet might also be partially to thank for my bluntness....



    Blue Cheese Crostinis
    •Good quality blue cheese
    •Sliced and slightly crushed hazelnuts
    •Honey
    •Baguette,  sliced into 2-bite rounds and lightly toasted

    To each toasted round, add a few crumbles of blue cheese and a spinkling of hazelnuts. Drizzle a generous amount of honey over the top and be amazed by the flavor combination.

    I'm not trying to fool you here,  people!  Something magical happens when you combine these simple ingredients.  Give it a try!


    Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    Spicy Rosa Chicken Pasta

    I've come to realize that I've been getting a little....

    Chunky.

    Ugh. Everyone else gets skinny in the summer- they're out and about swimming,  playing beach volleyball,  rollerblading and what-have-you... and what am I doing?

    I'm asking if I can get more butter for my sweet corn as I wipe BBQ sauce from my chin.
    So I've started to try and do better.  Smoothies,  apples,  almonds,  and all that jazz.

    But tonight I needed pasta.  White,  refined pasta.  No whole wheat this time around.  Just delicious noodles slathered in sauce.



    Rosa sauce.

    (For those unaware,  Rosa sauce is a mix of marinara and alfredo that has been personally stirred to perfection by the gods.)

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    DIY Ice Cream- without the machine!- Cookies and Cream

    I came across a dangerous blog post on Kevin & Amanda...

    ...Homemade Ice Cream....

    ....without an ice cream machine....

    Oh boy.

    I used to make the ice/salt/plastic bag and shake kind of ice cream when I was younger. It was yummy, but the amount of effort and the occasional tear in the bag that resulted in super salty ice cream just didn't make it a worthwhile venture for regular homemade ice cream. K&A's recipe, on the other hand, is almost too effortless. Like...."I could probably stock an entire walk-in freezer in an afternoon" effortless.

    I decided to start with a simple Cookies and Cream (aka mini-Oreos).

    I then had to sign a legal document stating that I would only eat a few spoonfuls a day, and that I would not make another batch until this one was finished.

    Try it with whatever mix-ins you're craving, or check out Kevin & Amanda's post for some recommendations- their Krispy Kreme Glazed Donut Ice Cream is next on my list.

    Cookies and Cream without the Machine


    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    Cocktail Hour!

    I've stumbled across a dangerous mix.

    I decided to share the recipe for this tasty concoction in order to prevent myself from downing two of these babies back-to-back.

    The original recipe called this drink 'Leeches'. That's a gross name for such a delicious drink, but at the moment I'm having trouble coming up with a replacement. Maybe if I make another, inspiration will strike....

    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    Saying 'Thank You'

    I'm in the midst of a lengthy project at work. In order for it to succeed, I need everyone in my department to attempt to participate...something that is proving to be an uphill battle.


    Thankfully, a few brave souls stepped up to the challenge and really went above and beyond. We're having a department meeting tomorrow, and I decided to acknowledge these kick-ass colleagues.

    (And hey- if that also happens to light a fire under a few seats, I won't be complaining....)


    I made a some chocolate chip cookies, wrapped them up in cellophane, and attached a little note of gratitude. Quick, cute, and a small token of my appreciation to the people who make my job a little easier.


    Now get off the interwebs and go say thanks to someone!



    Sunday, June 9, 2013

    Return of the Pink Cup

    I love my pink cup.


    It's held many a delicious thing.


    It manages to look picturesque, even next to a pack of empty throat lozenges.









    And it's the perfect vessel for my favorite smoothie...


    Saturday, June 8, 2013

    The Laziest Recipes Ever: Toasted Ravioli

    I should share with you the story of my first Toasted Ravioli.

    It started with some serious dehydration after fencing practice in college.

    Dehydration stupidly quenched with red wine.

    Lots of red wine.

    And followed by a 3 a.m. craving for something Italian-y.

    Which led us to remember that a friend had gifted a bag of straight-from-St. Louis toasted ravioli to our freezer.

    Man. It was a long time until I could even think about toasted ravioli after that night....

    But toasted ravioli is one of those perfect 'social appetizer'- ya' know, one of those dishes that you can put on the coffee table while the game is on or conversation is hoppin', and it doesn't disrupt the flow like other appetizers of it's caliber- waiting to use the spoon for the artichoke dip, anyone?


    Thursday, June 6, 2013

    Graduation is Grrrrrrrreat!

    My little brother and sister had their high school graduation bash this past weekend. Despite a week of dreary weather, Sunday managed to be bright and sunny for their party.

    Don't worry- the gloom promptly came back. Somewhere, a super villain is laughing maliciously and vowing that summer will never come to Minnesota.

    Anyway. Shopping for girls is easy. Shopping for boys can be tricky.

    I wanted to get the Bro something that was a little personalized, but still useful. He has a great sense of humor for utilizing joke gifts- one year, he wore the Christmas tuxedo speedo for the Polar Plunge!

    I decided I would get him something that would certainly go to good use for a male college freshman: food.

    I remember being in college and rejoicing over late-morning classes. I could sleep in, and the only price I had to pay was missing the dining hall hours. No biggie- I would just head to the campus café and buy a snack, or wait until lunch to use my meal plan. That would have worked so well, but I failed to take into account three things:

    1. Campus cafes charge a ridiculous amount of money for minimal options and small portions.

    2. I did not have a ridiculous amount of money in my bank account to afford the café prices on a daily or weekly basis.

    3. I probably could have made it through my first class and on to lunch....if I hadn't schedule my classes in a whole continuous block from 10:00-3:00.

    I don't want my dear Bro to suffer the same fate- especially because this is a kid who regularly has two or three oversized bowls of cereal each morning.

    Behold!

    The Cereal-gram:


    It reads:

    "Now that you're about to begin your adult LIFE, it's time for some advice...

    Don't be too much of a FROOT LOOP...

    Or the kind of person who TRIX people just for KIX...

    Keep your LUCKY CHARMS close...

    And remember- you're the TOTAL package!

    But cerealsly- always be prepared..."


    If I hadn't been recovering from illness, I might have made it a bit more colorful and whatnot, but I think it turned out okay for being half-sedated and woozy on top of already being craft-impaired on a good day.

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    Minnesota Wine: Flower Valley Vineyard


    “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” – Galileo Galilei

    Nestled in the bluffs of the Mississippi Valley, you’ll find a quiet little piece of land that seems more suited for an Italian countryside. Congratulations, you’ve found Flower Valley Vineyard- a remarkable winery in Red Wing, Minnesota that is producing some of the most intriguing wines this chick has ever had the pleasure of sipping.

    In 2005, this family owned farm enjoyed it’s first harvest- a process that took only 45 minutes by hand. The harvest now takes four weeks (still all by hand with the help of community volunteers), with yields close to 40,000 pounds of grapes annually. Flower Valley tends to upwards of at least seven different types of vines- including another mutation of the Frontenac dubbed the Frontenac Blanc (one of four vineyards to have produced this grape, which they generously gifted to the University of Minnesota).

    The tasting area opened last September, and if you’re a wine-lover in Minnesota you’ll do yourself a favor and stop in on a Saturday afternoon, or plan ahead and treat yourself and your friends to a private session hosted by the lovely Mary.  




    Recommendations:

    2012 Blend (‘Joyce’s Blend’)

                    A first impression of oak is subtly cut by a fresh, grassy note- almost reminiscent of the scent of sun-warmed wood. The hint of vanilla that touches the tongue with the first sip is short-lived, followed promptly by a refreshing pineapple that rounds into something smooth, yet bright.

    Frontenac Gris, 2012

                    This Riesling style white is a curious delight of succulent fresh strawberry and savory smoke. The exciting strawberry scent would rival that of a fresh picked berry, and the smoky undertones that follow on the finish make this wine the perfect companion for a bit of prosciutto.

    Marquette, 2011

                    A luscious Pinot Noir style red, the Marquette 2011 is tannin-rich and oak soaked to perfection. A cold slate and sharp pepper backbite are polished with black currant and berry and bound together with a sliver of smoke. Mary joked that this is a ‘three sip’ wine. On the first sip, your tongue will say ‘What did you do to me?’, the second sip: ‘I kind of like this…’, and the third: ‘Oh….I really like this’.

    She was spot on. I bought two bottles.   

    Friday, May 31, 2013

    Sunny for the First Time in a Week? Of Course I'm Sick...

    A brief apology for being such a habitual blog slacker. I don't mean to be...I get busy with work, with moving, with being sick, etc....and my poor blog ends up like the bunch of green onions stuffed at the back of my veggie drawer: neglected and withered. Forgive me, internet?

    Confession: I do not do well with illness. 

    I was never one of those lucky kids with a crippling stomach flu that kept them out of school for a week. If I told my mom I thought I had strep throat, she told me to gargle with salt water and get outside before I missed the bus. If I coughed until I was red in the face, my mom would hand me a dose of sickly-sweet cough syrup and tell me to hurry up and just drink it before I missed the bus.

    (Cough syrup is my nemesis. I still won't take it. The day Nyquil and Dayquil capsules were released, I wept with joy...at least until I tried to open one of those blister packs. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO A SICK PERSON?!)

    If my mom deviated from her 'tough it up' mentality and let me stay home sick, there was no lunch and video games and a story in bed a la The Princess Bride. No, if we were well enough to do anything but sleep, then we were well enough to at least do the dishes. Or dust. Bathroom bound? Great! Scrub the floor around the toilet while you're in there.

    Looking back, my mother was a wise woman. School trumped housework: she taught me to learn how to function when I'm not feeling well.

     But sometimes you have to throw in the towel. Sorry, Ma. 

    I am pathetically propped up on the couch today, battling walking pneumonia, and ear infection, and a sinus infection. I have no intention of scrubbing toilets.  

    Friday, May 10, 2013

    Mmmm.....Bread!

    I'm a carb-o-holic.

    I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't eat bread.

    Pita bread. Sourdough. Naan. French bread. French toast. Buttery toast. Toasty toast.

    Well, maybe not that last one so much...but I think you get my point: I love bread, and now with Artisan Bread in 5's fool-proof methods, I love to make it!

    Check it:

    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    A Note On Food

    I started to write my column for work, but I realized that perhaps I was getting a bit too cynical for a fluff piece. Still....I think it is half-way worth sharing.


    Food.

    It’s a simple word. A simple idea: Food is fuel for our bodies.

    But that thought is old hat now, isn’t it? Food has become a philosophy, not a fundamental.

    It’s a hobby.

    A passion.

    A career.

    An indulgence.

    An enemy.

    We bravely battle an obesity epidemic with billions of dollar spent on pills, trainers, lipo and tummy tucks- saying things like ‘real women have curves’ while we lust after the body of some ‘skinny bitch’, (never mind if she has to endure an eating disorder to maintain it).

    Our stomachs churn if our boneless, skinless chicken breast is undercooked, but our appetite remains unaffected by the image of a bony, skinny, underweight child. That kid is the problem of some third world country, not the good ol’ U S of A.

    Food is fast becoming a form of judgment.

    We used to scoff at the woman using the salad fork for her entrée…now we sneer at the woman eating anything but a salad.

    Food has become controversial. The new bourgeois is the farmer who wants to turn a profit, who uses modern technology to keep up with our demands instead of working the land with his hands.

    We talk about the food revolution- how my choice to buy only locally raised, handpicked produce and free range beef from the co-op makes me more enlightened than the dumb schmucks who hardly think twice about the mass produced, genetically modified corn they pick up from the grocery store and serve to their family.

    .....and that's all I had before I realized the black hole that was forming.

    Food is a difficult topic for me to get a handle on. I'm from a farming family that is living in an anti-'farming' pro-'farm' era. This culture is really no different than any other 'supply & demand' guilt trip in America- we want what we want and we want it now. We'll condemn the supplier to no end and demand that they change their ways, but we don't want our prices to increase, our supplies to deplete, or our routines to change in any way that might inconvenience us.

    That cycle isn't exclusive to food production, either. Let's examine food consumption. No sugar, no carbs, no dairy, no gluten, no meat....but we want everything to taste as if none of that was missing. We say NO to genetically modified food that grows bigger produce, and yet- we hardly bat an eye at the chemically modified crap we consume every day: artificial sweeteners, preservatives, food dyes, etc etc the list goes on. Sure, we complain about those things and we feign disgust at the thought of these things...but all those thoughts are out the door when we're in the drive-thru, at the concession stand, or out to dinner.

    Food has turned into a no-win situation. Growing, preparing, consuming....there's nothing simple about any of that anymore. 

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    The Laziest Recipes Ever: Ham and Cheese Stuffed Pretzels

    Is there anything better than a soft pretzel?

    Warm dough...

    Cinnamon coated with dipping icing....

    Or flecked with salt and paired with cheese sauce...

    Forget shopping- soft pretzels are the reason to visit the mall!

    But sometimes you live in a hippie-tastic town that doesn't really believe in commercial cliches like 'pretzel vendors and shopping malls'. No, we're much more into gluten-free veggie wraps and yarn boutiques. We scoff in disgust at 'cheese sauce', unless you mean locally-produced fondue from organic goat cheese.

    Oofta. Pretentiousness is exhausting.

    Good thing I can whip up these babies to restore my constitution:





    Ready for this?

    Ham and Cheese Stuffed Pretzels
    Method adapted from 'Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake!'

    • 4 Rhodes Texas Rolls (in the frozen section of the grocery store)
    • 1 cup diced ham, or 16 slices deli meat 
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar 
    Heat oven to 400.
    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and a plate with a paper towel.
    Bring 1 quart of water to a boil.
    Allow rolls to thaw and double in size. Cut each roll in half.
    • Working one at a time, gently stretch a piece of dough into a flat disk- be careful not to stretch too thin so as to tear the dough!
    • In the center of the disk, place 1-2 tablespoons ham (or 2 pieces sliced deli meat) and 1-2 tablespoons of cheddar. 
    • Fold the dough in half, pinching ends together to make a gently formed tube shape. 
    When water is boiling, add 1/4 cup baking soda. Once dissolved, drop stuffed dough into the boiling water. After 45 seconds, flip dough and allow to cook for another 45 seconds before removing to the paper towel lined plate to drain for a moment before placing on the parchment paper/baking sheet. 

    Bake pretzels 15-20 minutes, or until the pretzels are a rich golden brown color. Don't worry if some of your pretzel bundles ooze a bit of cheese- they'll still be delicious! I like to grab a butter knife and nudge any escaped filling back into/onto the pretzels a few minutes before they're due to come out of the oven.

    Brush lightly with butter and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt as desired. I like to serve these with a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of spicy brown mustard and mayonnaise- just trust me here, it tastes fabulous as a dipping sauce for these lovelies! 




    Monday, March 25, 2013

    Because I Like Pretending I Know About Fitness...

    There's nothing wrong with fat free.

    Or sugar free.

    Or sodium free.

    Yes, there's nothing wrong with cardboard flavored healthy alternatives. But never fear, healthy snackers! With diet-friendly chocolaty granola bars, you can satisfy your sweet tooth and maintain your back-packing, rock-climbing, marathon running physique!

    Just kidding. Have you seen the sugar/sodium count on most of those things? I suppose when they amputate your foot due to diabetes-related issues, the companies that make those granola bars will technically be keeping their promise to help you drop the pounds.

    But if you'd like to keep your foot, here is a cheap, homemade alternative to the meal/snack bar money-pit.



    The great thing about these bars is that you can control the sugar content based on the brands/ingredients you want use.

    These bars are also seriously filling. A 2 x 2 square lasts me well into the afternoon.

    -2 cups quick cooking oatmeal (not cooked, mind you)
    -1 cup milled flax seed
    -1 cup honey
    -1 cup natural peanut butter
    -1 cup protein powder (I use vanilla flavored powder, though chocolate might be good too!)
    Optional: 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
    Optional: 1/2 cup craisins

    If you don't want a crazy arm work-out, warm up your honey and peanut butter just slightly. Mix all ingredients together and press into a 9 x 9 or 9 x 13 pan, depending on how thick you'd like your bars. Cover and allow to sit for a few hours, preferably overnight. Wrap individual portions in plastic wrap, or just leave the bars in the pan and slice as needed. Enjoy!


    Saturday, March 2, 2013

    Brewty and the Yeast: Part 2


    Shhh......

    Do you hear that?

    That's the sound of beer. Beer that has matured and is begging to be bottled.

    Who am I to refuse?







    While filling beer bottles may look like happy work, there were several things that had to be done first.

    Cleaning and sanitizing our bottles, for example:


    Most people prefer their beer without chunky bits, so thoroughly cleaning your bottles is very important.

    It's also important to feed your brewing yeast. Those little buggers have been stuck in a brew keg for the better part of a month- they're probably pretty hungry. What better treat can you think of than warm sugar water? Mmmmm....




    And for a little extra bubbly boost...


    Now that you've spent the better half of your day cleaning and cooking for your yeast, it's time to help them move into their new home.

    Pour.


    Cap.


    Bam.

















    Saturday, February 23, 2013

    Kitchen Equipment Bedrock

    How has it taken me so long to reunite with ol' Ironsides?











    I'm not referring to Oliver Cromwell.









    Or the HMS Britannia.









    No- not even the USS Constitution.












    I love me some cast iron skillet. Do you own one? The obvious answer should be yes. Do you use it? Once again the answer should be yes- how could it not be!

    Let's all take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is 10 pounds of searing heat:



    Oh yes....cast iron burrito perfection. 



    (Appreciate, also, that I had to take a single bite of my delicious burrito and then spend 5 minutes trying to finagle a photo before being allowed to devour my spicy, meaty, cheesy manna.) 


    Saturday, February 16, 2013

    The Laziest Recipes Ever: Biscuit Donuts

    I have a few recipes in my arsenal that I'm embarrassed by.

    They're quick.
    They're yummy.
    They're easy.

    But seeing as how they're basically methods of dressing up box mixes and heat-to-eat items, they're hardly worthy of being called a 'recipe'.

    However, Pinterest has positively exploded with these kinds of edibles, and as a frequent pinner I can't seem to escape the descriptions of "EASIEST THING EVER USING STORE-BOUGHT DOUGH!" "SIMPLEST RECIPE MADE WITH BOX MIX- SOOO GOOD!" for recipes with names like "Garbage Bread", "Slutty Brownies" and "White Trash Dip".

    Sometimes, I'd like to get on my soapbox with my homemade wontons and shake my head at the 'semi home-made' methods....but it's hard to climb up on a box when I'm stuffing my face with things like this and this.

    Add to that list these lovelies, and I'm pretty much part of the 'slutty-white trash-garbage' cult:




    Biscuit Donuts:

    1 tube refrigerator biscuit dough (not flaky/layered!)

    Oil (for frying- so vegetable, peanut or coconut are good options)

    1 stick butter, melted

    1 cup cinnamon/sugar mix


    Heat oil in a dutch oven, wok, or large pan over medium heat.

    Remove the biscuits from the tube. Cut each biscuit into quarters for 'donut holes', or punch out the middle of each donut using a shot glass/small cookie cutter for traditional donuts.

    Test the oil temperature by dropping a small amount of biscuit dough in the pot: bubbles should quickly form around the dough.

    When the oil is hot enough, beginning frying your donuts. Allow the underside to turn golden brown (~2-3 minutes) before flipping to the other side (~2 minutes).

    Place donuts on paper-towels and allow to drain/cool for a minute. Dip donuts in melted butter, and then toss in the cinnamon/sugar mix. (Frostings, glazes, or powdered sugar dustings are also acceptable). Serve immediately.

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    How Did I Not Think of This Sooner? Grocery List

    grocery list
    photo via Food52


    I love grocery shopping.

    Meditating, decompressing, self-reflection, cleansing....whatever you do with through that stuff, I do through grocery shopping.

    Which is maybe why it takes me an average of two hours before I check out.




    Of course for normal people, grocery shopping has a much more obvious purpose. We check the cupboards, jot down a list, and head off to replenish our larders. Simple enough, eh?

    But if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself with a stack of new recipes that you've been meaning to try, and upon discovering that you don't have the random ingredients necessary on hand, you'll either A. sigh and go back to the grocery store or B. sigh and toss the recipe into the 'another time' pile.

    I came across a post on Food52 that addressed just this very conundrum- glad to know I'm not the only unorganized schmuck when it comes to making a proper grocery list!

    This method is ideal for when you're planning a big meal or menus for the week. It's fastest to do it on a computer, but seeing as I don't have a printer at home I just resort to the good ol' pen and paper ways of yesteryear....

    Step 1 - Create Headings 

    Make headings for the respective departments (i.e. Produce, Meat, Frozen, Aisle, etc...) Sometimes when I'm feelin' real type-A, I'll break them down into sub-categories (Meat: Poultry, Beef, Pork, Lunch Meat/Breakfast Meat or Aisle: Cereal, Canned, Dry Baking Goods, etc..) Whatever floats your organizational boat!

    Step 2 - Fill in the headings

    I begin with my 'replenish items' first....things like 'cereal' that wouldn't be part of a recipe, or 'flour' if I know I'm running low.

    Then take all of those recipes you've been meaning to try and copy/paste their ingredient lists directly into each category, only omitting items that you know you won't need.

    Step 3 - Condense your list

    Now go back over your list, combining repeated recipe items into one overall quantity.

    Example:

    Poultry
        4 pounds bone/skin chicken thighs
        2 pounds bone/skin chicken thighs
        4 pounds bone/skin chicken thighs
        Becomes: 10 pounds bone/skin chicken thighs

    Maybe it's just me- but I was a little confused the first time I read through this method...and then it suddenly clicked and I felt like a moron for not having thought of this sooner. Imagine- no more guessing how many pounds you meant when you scribbled 'butter' on your list, or what kind of cut 'pork' is supposed to be!

    Better yet- it's kind of a foolproof shopping list to send someone else to the store with...


    Photo credit and article reference: Kristen Miglore, Food52 

    Wednesday, January 30, 2013

    Brewty and the Yeast

    Check that title. I'm so clever....

    But really, let's get serious. Or at least as serious as I can be expected to be on a blog post regarding homebrewing and a punny Disney title.

    Anyway.

    My sister and brother-in-law gave 'the man' a home brew kit for Christmas. It came with a basic starter brew that will be ready for consumption this weekend. I, of course, would prefer to sample, evaluate, and review the first brew before jumping into a second batch. What if we crack open a beer to find that it's too sweet? Too fermented? Not fermented enough? Sludgy?

    ...okay, maybe 'sludgy' seems like an extreme outcome...but then again, we've never brewed before so how would we know! Which is why I wanted to leave a window of trial-and-error, experimentation-what-have-you...

    But he was so excited about brewing again...

    ...and he bought the ingredients for the White House Honey Ale...

    ...and he's just too wonderful to say 'no' to....

    So we spent our Sunday like any good 'Murican-- brewing the White House beer recipe.

    Brewing is kind of an unattractive process. For instance, this picture makes me think of swirling around a gym sock in dirty water. Thirsty yet?


    And this one.....have I used the word 'sludgy' too much yet?


    That's Gold Malt Extract. I'm sure it provides a specific, essential beer-making function...but the man isn't home yet so I can't ask him, and I'm too lazy to google that right now. I wish I would have taken a picture of adding the hops. That took the mix from 'gym sock water?' to 'sludgy?' to 'swamp water?'


    This liquid isn't 'beer' yet. At this early stage, it's called 'wort', which more or less reminds me of 'Wart', which sort of makes me want to call our brew 'Pellinore' or 'Grummursum'...

    Obscure reference there. If you got it, you're either my older sister or just as big a weirdo as I am. Cheers either way!