Saturday, October 1, 2016
Our neighborhood had our first Halloween party which was a great event that I hope we do again each year. On an open day sometime before Halloween, we held an informal "parade" up and down the block with all the children dressed up in their Halloween costumes. Neighbors participated by passing out candy from their driveways (but this is optional if you thinking about staging a Halloween parade), and then we all gathered in our backyards for a bunch of great fall food and games in the beautiful Michigan fall weather. Honestly, any reason to get into Halloween costumes again is a great idea!
I made a delicious mulled cider in the crockpot usinga gallon or two of fresh Michigan apple cider and cinnamon sticks, star anise, and whole cloves, and a sliced orange. This was great for kids but adults as well, as we had awesome choices to spike the mulled cider - you can use anything you have on hand, cinnamon vodka, bourbon, cointreau, spiced rum, ginger liqueur, delicious! Needless to say there wasn't any cider left over. Costco sells the heat-proof paper cups which are very handy for serving hot drinks to a crowd.
I wanted to make a dessert that would be fun for the kids but easy to make, even though I know there's no shortage of sugar during the Halloween season. I just couldn't help myself after looking at all the cute ideas online. We covered peanut butter "Nutter Butter" cookies with white chocolate and put ghostly eyes and "boo" mouths on them. We also made simple chocolate chip cookies with a prominent chocolate chip placed right on top before baking. When you take them out of the oven and the chips are still melty, use a toothpick to draw spider legs coming from the one chocolate chip on top. Simple and cute!
Our party consisted of a potluck and other fun treats I remember having were apple slice dipping station with various dips (caramel, peanut butter, etc) and toppings (sprinkles, nuts, chocolate chips), popcorn, cupcakes, doughnuts, chips, veggies/dip, cheese/crackers, and all your typical yummy snack food. We had several fun games for the kids - bobbing for doughnuts (doughnuts hanging from strings and the kids need to eat them with their hands behind their backs), pinata, yard games like giant jenga, bean bag/corn hole game, hot potato (using a pumpkin), arts and crafts, etc. Your local grocery store has tons of tiny pumpkins that are great for table decorations (and helps keep table cloths down). What a fun party theme, hope you all have a happy halloween in your neighborhood!
Thankfully we had beautiful weather for our event because the last 5 years straight have been cold/rainy on Halloween night! Hope you have a sunny Halloween celebration at your house!
Friday, September 2, 2016
Our family loves breakfast. Probably the most universally loved meal in this house - who doesn't want a big stack of steamy pancakes with maple syrup dripping down the sides in the morning? When your breakfast (or anytime) cravings are for something sweet, but you are in a pancake funk (using Bisquik or something), try this recipe which has become my favorite pancake recipe. It really only takes a few extra steps past using Bisquik but the payoff is worth it. Plus the kids get a kick out of helping add the extra ingredients.
I found the original recipe on AllRecipes and if you follow those instructions, it is a little tedious and makes a bunch of dirty dishes. I have simplified it (and the results are no less than delicious) for you below. Do you have a favorite pancake or breakfast recipe? Let me know in the comments and we'll try it out! I have tried a few "fancy" waffle recipes and did not find the end product to be worth the hassle, unlike these amazing pancakes.
Perfect Fluffy Pancakes
Adapted from original from AllRecipes.com
In a 2 cup sized measuring cup, add:
1 1/2 cups milk
4 Tbsp vinegar
It's important to add the vinegar to the milk before doing anything else, let sit for a few minutes - buttermilk will be the result.
Then, plug in your pancake griddle to heat it up.
Meanwhile whisk in a bowl the dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
4 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter in the microwave carefully
After 5 minutes, the buttermilk should be curdled.
Add to the buttermilk mixture:
splash of vanilla
(it should all fit in the 2 cup measuring cup, no need to dirty additional bowls)
Dump the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and pour in the melted butter.
Mix gently to combine the ingredients but careful not to overdo it.
There you have it - when your griddle is ready to go, either spray on some cooking spray or we always use butter to grease the griddle. Pour over your pancake batter and away you go - delicious pancakes are on their way to a plate near you!
Saturday, August 27, 2016
My lovely neighbor tipped me off to a hip cocktail ingredient - St. Germain (Elderflower liqueur). She said she loved it with vodka and grapefruit juice in a Bichon Frisè (no, not the white puffy poodle). Yum! Shortly thereafter I was able to find St. Germain (there are also other cheaper brands of elderflower liqueur which are worth checking out) and the floral sweet nectar was immediately a favorite of mine. Now I see St. Germain everywhere - my Kroger carries it, Costco was giving away a mini bottle when you bought a bottle of Bombay - so probably it's not new to everyone else, but I am excited to have found it.
One great use for St. Germain is in a white sangria. I had a few opportunities to make a batch of sangria for a party this summer. Using St. Germain in sangria is a must.try.now situation, it adds floral punch that really makes the drink special. The first time I made it, it was so good, that I toted a bottle of St Germain all the way around Lake Michigan on a road trip "in case I needed to spring into action and make a batch of sangria." The opportunity did arise and no drops of sangria were left behind. This version of white sangria is called Sangria Flora due to the wonderful addition of elderflower liqueur. You can substitute any fruits that you'd like to try, I'm pretty sure it will be wonderful no matter what you try.
1 bottle Pinot Grigio
1 1/2 cups St. Germain/elderflower liqueur
2 peaches, sliced thinly
handful of strawberries, sliced
1 cup raspberries
1 orange halved and sliced thinly
Mix all ingredients together and for bonus flavor: let the flavors marry overnight.
Serve over ice.
My second fabulous must-try cocktail using St. Germain is the Grapefruit Buck. It's kind of like a moscow mule-meets-bichon frisè. We were out on a fabulous fancy dinner at the Capital Grille for our 10 year anniversary when I saw the Grapefruit Buck on their menu. I'm in love with any drink that has ginger and this was described as "Absolute ruby red vodka, elderflower liqueuer, ginger beer, and lime." It was delightfully refreshing, a little spicy and tart, a little sweet - delicious! This was easy to replicate at home and another fabulous drink to put into a copper mule mug (although the pale pink color is perfectly attractive for a glass). I didn't have ruby red vodka so I improvised:
Enjoy these elderflower delights!
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I haven't found a Chef John recipe that I haven't liked. I had never heard of this dish, but apparently it's a common vietnamese dish, and I just happened to have all of the ingredients on hand. I loved it so much that I made it the following week as well, so yummy! It's a very sweet dish but the salty tang of the soy sauce, fish sauce and vinegar balances it out and it's super yummy, great over rice. It was nice to try something easy and a little different, and it was doable for a weeknight meal for sure.
Definitely watch the video, besides being entertaining, there are some good tips from Chef John about how to make this dish. The second time I made it, I used a little less water, if any, to decrease the time it took for the sauce to reduce.
Chef John's Caramel Chicken on Allrecipes.com
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
We love that Achatz Michigan Four Berry Pie that you can get here locally in the metro Detroit area. For Thanksgiving as well as this past Valentine's day, I have worked out my best copy cat version of this delicious combination of cherries, raspberries, strawberries(*) and blueberries.
(*)I have yet to try the exact berry combination that Achatz uses (Michigan tart cherries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries) but I've done this twice with sweet cherry/rasp/blue and sweet cherry/rasp/blue/strawberries -- try any berry you like and just keep the quantities the same. This won't disappoint! Next time I will try to remember blackberries, not strawberries! Maybe I can add both and top Achatz by having a Michigan 5-Berry Pie.. especially if I could source them all from Michigan (not happening here in the winter time though!)
First, I use my favorite pie crust recipe (because it's easy and delicious) - Fool Proof Pie Crust Recipe. This makes a double pie crust, so just save the other crust for another pie later by popping the extra crust disc in the freezer, then put in the fridge for a day or so before you plan to roll it out. Also, feel free to use a store-bought pie crust - talk about easy!
Next, I use my favorite streusel topping - Mrs. Kostyra's Streusel recipe from Martha Stewart which goes great with a mixed berry tart or pie.
1 cup flour
1/4 c brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cut into tiny squares
Mix the streusel ingredients and break up the butter using your hands or a pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly and when you squeeze it it kind of keeps shape.
Finally, we have the Cherry Berry Filling -
1 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup tapioca
pinch of salt
2 cups or 1 package of frozen sweet cherries, thawed and drained
1 1/2 cups raspberries
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries (or blackberries or more of the previously mentioned berries)
1 teaspoon flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out your pie crust and fold over to carefully place into your pie tin and pat it in and trim edges, crimp edges, however you like your pies to look. I used a fork this time on the edges and I saved extra dough to cut out hearts for the Valentine's day theme. Other times I have just folded the extra dough over to make a thick rustic edge which is delicious.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon flour and 1 teaspoon sugar in the crust shell and then tap out carefully.
Mix 1 cup sugar and tapioca and pinch of salt together in one bowl.
Rinse/mix all the cherries and berries together and sprinkle with the sugar tapioca mix and carefully stir to combine.
Pour the cherry berry mix into the prepared pie crust and then sprinkle with the streusel topping.
If using extra pie crust scrapes for decorations, roll out into hearts/etc and place on top of the streusel.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees with a square of foil placed loosely on top for 30 minutes. Check throughout baking time to make sure it is not browning too quickly. If pie filling is not bubbling on edges and topping isn't browned enough, remove foil for an additional 10-15 minutes baking time if needed, checking frequently so that the topping doesn't get overly browned.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
I first found this recipe when eating low carb and looking for new dinner ideas. It is ridiculously good, I made it twice in a row on back to back nights because the second night we were having people over and I couldn't get that soup out of my mind. It's absolutely guest-worthy and if you love your carbs, serve it with some crusty bread (Like the NY Times no-knead rustic bread) and butter on the side or toss in some tiny noodles. Or serve it as a lovely soup course before your dinner. The brown butter and sage -- it's just so delicious. You'll love this easy weeknight soup!
Brown Butter Mushroom Soup with Sage (Low Carb too!)As seen on the All Day I Dream About Food blog.
6 tbsp butter2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped1 lb mushrooms, sliced4 cups vegetable or chicken stockSalt and pepper to taste1/2 cup heavy cream
In a large pot, heat butter over medium heat until it begins to brown and turns fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage and cook one minute more.Add mushrooms and stir to coat, then saute until mushrooms are tender and lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.Stir in stock and bring to a simmer. Cook 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to food processor or blender (I used my stick immersible blender which I love and makes this so easy!). Blend until smooth.Return to pot and stir in cream. Serve immediately.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Cinnamon Apple Waffles
adapted from MrBreakfast's Apple Waffles
2 cups flour
3 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla
1 large apple, finely diced
Wisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in one bowl. Separate the eggs - eggwhites in your kitchenaid mixer with the whip attachment (or bowl you plan to use for whipping), and the egg yolks in a separate bowl (Yes, I know, three bowls have to get dirty and for that I apologize profusely).
While the mixer is whipping up the eggwhites on high speed (goal is stiff peaks) and your waffle iron is heating up, wisk the egg yolks and add in the milk and stir to combine. Then mix the yolk/milk mixture in with the dry mixture, and don't overmix. Stir in vegetable oil, cinnamon, vanilla and fold in the stiff eggwhites. Carefully stir in the diced apple (I used a large granny smith and it was quite nice having a tart contrast with the sweet maple syrup).
Scoop into your waffle iron (I spray mine first to avoid sticking), and cook until your preference (The Husband likes soft and I like crispy waffles!) Enjoy with pure maple syrup or a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
I hope you enjoy, these were really delicious - they look whole wheat/healthy too but it's just the cinnamon. ;)
Well, it's well into the fall season here in Michigan and I have finally broken the long streak of no baking at our house (really have been good over here!) to do a few things this week. I made several things for The Husband to take up to opening day of Deer Camp - a few new recipes which I think turned out great: World's Best Lasagna from AllRecipes.com, Dutch Apple Pie With Oatmeal Streusel from AllRecipes.com, Martha Stewart's Muffaletta, and Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos.
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Based on one of my favorite sources for recipes, Chef John at Food Wishes, we had a great beef stew last night. I followed his method except first fried about a half pound of bacon and set the bacon aside to add in later. Then, I browned the seasoned beef really well and I started with 6 lbs of fresh trimmed beef chuck. I put the heat on high and even my super huge nonstick pot could get some of the beef a nice golden crust - that's what you want, brown yummy goodness! The butcher man at Kroger was really nice to cut me fresh roasts from the back since they only had one in the meat case. Then he gave me a free 50 gas pts for my "inconvenience".. what a nice guy!
After I browned the big chunks of chuck beef, I dumped the bacon grease out (leaving the browned goodness stuck to the bottom of my pot) and added fresh olive oil. Then, I threw the roughly chopped 2 onions, a package of carrots chopped into large pieces, and a package of celery hearts chopped into large pieces. I browned all of the veggies for a good while until they were golden browned on some sides. I think I learned that step from Pioneer Woman - she browned her carrots and such before a pot roast. Since all my portions are larger, you can see I was making a double batch in a giant pot, and I am glad I did because honestly there wasn't that much leftover - probably not enough to freeze, I think we will easily eat it in a day or two.
After the veggies were browned (season with S&P to taste), I started the wine portion of Chef John's instructions - I put in 2 cups of wine (didn't double it but then added another cup later to cook down so I'd recommend at least 3 cups to start). I added 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, chopped, too. I let the veggies and wine cook until the wine was reduced to half. Then I added 3 cups of beef stock and the rest of the ingredients - a bundle of fresh thyme, some bay leaves, a good bunch of halved mushrooms, a tablespoon of flour and instead of more flour, I used 1 packet of onion soup mix. I put the top on and let it simmer for 1.5 hours. I checked it a few times and realized I could add the rest of my beef stock carton (the 4th cup) and another cup of wine, and it was still plenty of time to cook all that liquid down. By the time it was 1.5 hours in, and time to take the top off, there was hardly and liquid but enough to keep going and the meat was starting to get tender - I added the crumbled bacon in. By the end of 2 hours, everything was perfect. Since I was low on liquid, I finished the stew with about a half stick of salted butter which made it pretty awesome. Since we don't usually eat potatoes, I served the stew with mashed/pureed buttery creamy cauliflower with chopped green onions mixed in. The Husband said "this is one of your best". We typically eat low carb but a bit of soup mix or 1 table spoon of flower (6g carbs) doesn't affect us negatively and really made a big difference in the velvety glaze at the end -- instead of soft meat/veggies sitting in brown water. I love Chef John's recipes - so far each one has been excellent. I love his videos and listening to his cheerful and humorous description of how to do the recipes. What a cool job he has! I hope you try his Beef Merlot, it's wonderful!
Here is Chef John's original recipe. I didn't take a picture but the end product looks just like his except mine had halved mushrooms and crumbled bacon throughout as well. Next time I might try some tomato paste in there but not sure - it was so good as is!