S’Mores Cups

1044799_10200800140237298_1115234710_nThis is my son, Michael.
Mike.
Boy.
Or…as I lovingly call him…the Little Jerk.

I’d like to share him with you today.

I talked to him a couple of days ago, and asked him if it would be ok if I wrote a little something about him. He knows that I talk smack about him quite often in my posts, and usually it’s about him talking smack about me! I told him that sometimes I worry that the people who really don’t know me, or know what’s going on with him, might not understand the relationship that we truly do have, and think that I’m a disrespectful mother…or worse…that he’s a disrespectful son (which couldn’t be further from the truth)….

“Absolutely not” he answered in response to my asking to write about him.
“Ok, I respect that…” I replied.

Then he stood there for a minute thinking about it…and finally said:
“You know what? That’s fine…go ahead. I’m ok with it.”

First, I want to start out by saying that I had my two girls first. Mike is the baby of the family. When I had Katie and Jessica, I never dreamed in a million years that I’d have a boy. Or that I’d even want a boy. I mean…you can’t dress them up in cute little dresses, and buy them Barbies and fun stuff like that.

And then Mike came along.
And I fell instantly….head over heels….madly in love with that baby boy.
And I instantly knew what every other mother of a son feels….

It was around March last year, a couple of months before his 18th birthday. I was working in the kitchen, and he came walking in…

“Mom, I need to show you something…” he said, and began to pull up his sleeves. He held out his arms, and they were filled with bruises. Not just any bruises. But giant, deep dark, black and blue bruises. Massive bruises.

My heart sank, and I felt instantly sick, and very, very scared.

“Mike, what the hell? Are you fighting?” I asked. (please God, let him be fighting)
“No, I go to bed, and they’re there when I wake up” he answered.
“Have you been working out, using your punching bag or something?” I asked. (please God, let him be working out).
“A little, but not too much, but that’s not all…” he replied, as he started to pull up his pant legs to reveal more massive bruising on both of his legs.

And then he pulled up his shirt to show me the same bruises all over his torso. It makes me sick just to type these words. I made the mistake of Googling his symptoms. I won’t tell you what all of his symptoms pointed to, but it was bad.

We went to the doctor first thing on Monday morning. The doctor went through all of the same questions that I did… Fighting? No. Working out? No. Did you fall? No.

Then the doctor looked at me and asked “Well mom, what do you think?”….. “You know where my brain is Dr. Szymanski…” I answered. He nodded his head and said: “Yeah… we need to get some tests done. “ He went on to explain that the test results would take a full week to get back to him, so not to worry. Mike could go to school as he normally does, and he would call me the following Monday. One week.

Tuesday morning…the very next day, I’m sitting at my desk at work. The doctor calls… “Where is Michael?” he asks, a bit frantic.
“In school” I answered him.
“Get him out and take him immediately to the emergency room, he needs a blood transfusion! His platelet levels should be at 140, and they’re down to 6!!!” He kind of said kind of panicky..

I don’t remember much of what happened.  I don’t remember if I even hung up the phone…. I remember one of my co-workers holding on to me really tight, and a voice somewhere in the background saying: “Somebody needs to drive her to get her son…”

One of the girls that I work with took me to pick Mike up, and I had time to wipe my face, and compose myself the best I could. I can remember him standing outside of school waiting for me, and on the outside, he was cool as a cucumber…but his eyes told me that he was really scared.

The fear of the unknown.

He’s such a big guy, but all of a sudden, he was little again… and I wanted to grab him under my wing, and protect him, and fight anything that might try to hurt my boy.

But at the same time, I felt so small… like a tiny little insignificant speck in this whole universe. Helpless. Scared.

He was filled with questions, he was annoyed, and he was scared. And all I could tell him was that we had to get to the hospital…something was going on with his platelets, and we had to get it fixed.

And then the tests on him began.

He never once saw me cry. I’d excuse myself as if I had to run to the ladies room, and then I would go and sit with Katie in Jess in the waiting room. My girls are my spine. They are my life. I would sit in the waiting room, and get the sobbing out of my system….beg God to take whatever it was, out of Mike…and put it into me. And then I’d go back to his hospital room, and would have some smartass comment for him….just to keep the banter between the two of us going. It kind of calmed him…and it kind of calmed me.

The test results came back.

It’s called ITP. Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. An auto immune disease. Which in layman’s terms, means that his body for some crazy fluke of a thing, decided to kill of its own platelets, making it difficult for his body to heal in a proper manner…his blood won’t clot when his levels are low. So if he cut himself, the bleeding wouldn’t stop. A simple bump to his head could do some major damage to his brain, or worse.

We are blessed.

I don’t want him to be sick, but if my son has to be sick, it’s an illness that I’m grateful for him to have, because it can be managed. He can lead a somewhat normal life. Ok, I say that…but that’s the selfish mother in me….What I hear is that I get to keep my boy. I get to take him home.

What he hears is that he will never be able to play football again. He will never be able to do the things that normal 19 year old boys can do.

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He graduated from high school last year… and at that point, the doctors were still trying to regulate his meds. He was bruising about every two weeks. You’d never know it, but underneath that graduation gown, his body was riddled with bruises. The next day, he spent 12 hours hooked up to an IV that would boost his platelet level, to get him through another two weeks.

It’s a pain in the neck for him, and he has to be very cautious with everything he does from now on. When he starts to bruise really bad, we know he is due for a treatment, which takes 12 hours, and which totally knocks him down for a couple of days afterwards. He has to wear a med-alert necklace in case of an accident, so that the medics know that he has low platelets. Everyone around him must be aware of his condition, in case of an accident…even if it’s something as simple as a small cut. His friends are awesome. I love those boys. They take such good care of him for me.

We are blessed. I get to keep my boy.
There is an unspoken bond between my son and me.
One that says we made it through this war together.

So, when I talk smack about him….or talk about him talking smack about me…. Now you’ll know. It’s all with love.

I love my kids more than life itself.

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So…when Mike agreed to let me write this about him, I asked him what recipe he’d like me to post on his behalf.

“Stuffed shells” he immediately replied (which came as no surprise, because they are his all time favorite).
“No, better yet.. how about those s’mores cups?” he said, changing his mind…. “You made them for me all the time last year”

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That was a great idea.  Even though I know that these little cups have run their course on the Internet…S’Mores Cups are fitting for this post, because that’s what he craved all last year, and that’s what I made for him. So, so many times last year. I would have made him whatever his little heart desired.

They’re quick and easy to make. You can have the ingredients on hand at all times (unless you’re like me, and you get into the chocolate a little more than you should)….  And he loves them.

They’re perfect to take to any party,  to eat around a bonfire, or for a “just because” kind of day… Everyone will love them, both young and old.

IMG_1668Life is good… it’s a “I might talk smack about the little jerk, but my love runs deeper than you could ever imagine” kind of good….

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S’mores cups
Makes 24 cups

Just a quick note…I don’t know where the original recipe came from. If you Google S’mores cups, or look them up on Pinterest, you’ll find a gazillion recipes for them, all using basically the same amount of ingredients. I did a little digging, and this was the oldest post that I could find for the recipe. I actually tried them for the first time last year. Katie’s boyfriend Ryan’s mom made them, and I knew immediately that Mike would love them.  I changed the ingredient amounts just a little bit.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
12 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
4 bars (1.55 oz each) milk chocolate candy, divided
12 large marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place graham crackers into a large resealable plastic bag. Finely crush into crumbs. Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and butter in a small bowl.

Place 1 tablespoon of crumb mixture in each cup of a mini muffin pan. Firmly press crumbs to form shallow cups. Bake 4-5 minutes or until edges are bubbling. Meanwhile, break two of the candy bars into rectangles. Remove pan from oven; place one rectangle into each cup.

Cut marshmallows in half crosswise using shears dipped in cold water. Place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup. Return to oven 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows are slightly softened. Remove pans from oven to cooling rack; cool 15 minutes. Carefully remove cups from pan. Cool completely.

Break remaining candy bars and place in small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 20 seconds. Dip the top of each marshmallow in melted chocolate. Turn top-side up and let stand 40 to 60 minutes or until set. Makes 24 cups.

Enjoy!

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Writing Process Blog Tour, Part II: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Nancy Creative

IMG_0235About a week ago, I did a Writing Process Blog Tour with a few of my blogging friends, including Nancy from Nancy Creative.

I decided at that time that I wanted to share something from each of them. Last week, I shared Dimples Cheese, Cauliflower, and Broccoli Patties… and this week, I’d like to share Nancy’s Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

It was about three or four weeks ago, when I was flipping through Pinterest on my phone, trying to find a recipe for chocolate chip banana bread. There was one that looked especially good to me, and when I clicked on it; guess whose recipe it was? Yep! The link brought me to Nancy’s blog!

I’ve gone bananas over Nancy’s banana breads….and I can tell you that I now have a favorite chocolate chip banana bread recipe because of her! I always know when a recipe is going to be a winner, because I find that my kids hang out with me a little longer in the kitchen than they usually would. So, I’m not kidding when I say that my kids were hovering when I was photographing it, and it lasted a matter of five minutes after I was finished taking photos! There was no doubt in my mind that I had to share this winning recipe with all of you…

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It’s so easy to throw together…and…

It’s moist.
It’s chocolatey.
It’s deliciously banana!

Honestly, you need to stop by Nancy’s blog to see just how many banana bread recipes this girl has. You name it, it’s there…

Double Dark Chocolate.
Whole Wheat Honey.
Pomegranate Walnut.
Disney.
…And that’s just to name a few…. the list goes on and on!!

Nancy is such a joy… she is pure sunshine. Just one visit to her blog will have you returning time and time again. You’ll never know what each day brings, because this girl does it all….it could be a beautiful photo with flowers with a scripture quote, or it could be a delicious recipe, or an uplifting saying. No matter what it is, I can guarantee that you will walk away smiling…

Life is good…it’s an“it’s about the people we meet along life’s path, who truly make an impact on how we view each day…”..kind of good…

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The recipe, copied from Nancy’s blog: Nancy Creative:

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD by NancyCreative, adapted from Lovin’ from the Oven

Makes one 8×4″ or 9×5″ loaf
◾1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
◾1 cup granulated sugar
◾2 eggs

◾1 Tablespoon milk or half and half
◾3 very ripe medium-size bananas, mashed
◾1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
◾1/4 teaspoon salt
◾1/2 teaspoon baking powder
◾1 teaspoon baking soda
◾1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8×4″ or 9×5″ loaf pan (I’ve tried it in both size pans, and an 8×4″ loaf pan makes a nicer-looking, fuller loaf but you need to add about 10 more minutes to your baking time).

In large bowl, cream softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beating well, then stir in the milk and mashed bananas. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Blend the flour mixture into the banana mixture and stir just enough to evenly combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 65-70 minutes for an 8×4″ loaf or 55-60 minutes for a 9×5″ loaf, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan for 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. When completely cooled, you can top with a glaze if you like…

CREAMY GLAZE (optional)
◾1 cup powdered sugar
◾1 1/2 Tablespoons half and half
◾1/4 to 1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In small bowl, blend powdered sugar and half and half until smooth and creamy. Spoon over the loaf, then sprinkle the mini semi-sweet chips on top. Let glaze set before serving.

The bread is so moist, dense, and chocolatey that it tastes wonderful even without the glaze, if you prefer it that way!

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Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts

IMG_1395I admit to going a little overboard when I’m out grocery shopping. I’ve mentioned a few times how pretty displays throughout the store pull me in, and before I know it, both my shopping cart and mind are filled with ingredients and ideas for said ingredients.

And that’s all well and good, as long as those groceries aren’t perishable…and then I’m scrambling to use them up before they go bad..

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I found myself with about three quarts of strawberries in the refrigerator last week, and decided to make a quick jam. I do love fresh jam, especially when it’s still warm, and I have some warm biscuits to slather it on.

I didn’t have biscuits.

Anyway… while the jam was cooking on the stove, I thought, “Shoot, I should have made a strawberry pie..” And then I thought…it’s not too late… I could make pop tarts instead!

I threw Aunt Linda’s pie crust together (honestly, if you haven’t tried this pie crust recipe, you need to. It will be your “go to” recipe forever) and in no time, had pop tarts thrown together and cooling on a baking rack!

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Of course, my finicky Boy (who is my son Mike…I call him Boy) comes walking through the kitchen:

“What are you making?” he asks.
“Strawberry Pop Tarts” I answer.
“Don’t ask me to be your taste tester” he replies.
“There’s a surprise” I respond.
“You know I like chocolate” he said.
“It’s not always about you..” I reply.

Funny…I’m sure you know it…and especially he knows that that couldn’t be further from the truth….but I should mention that he isn’t a little boy that I’m talking to like that…he will be 19 next Sunday…and he is usually deserving of a wise-ass comment from me… which I might add will usually end up with him picking me up and throwing me into the kitchen sink and turning the faucet on…

Ahh…the love of a mother and her son. There is nothing like it. I love my kids more than life itself, and they all know it. You can be sure that I’ll be making those chocolate pop tarts very soon for the little jerk (said lovingly, of course), and maybe, just maybe, for that day, I won’t have to change my wet pants from being thrown in the sink…

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Anyway…back to the strawberry pop-tarts. Jess just happened to come walking into the kitchen, during the conversation between boy and me.

“Mmm” she says.
“Thank you for that” I respond, giving boy the “look”.
“You want to go in the sink?” he threatens..

Jess picks one up, and takes a bite…and said that I should make them again, “These are really good”…

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And they were. I was surprised that they weren’t huge ordeal to throw them together. What made me really happy was that the crust remained flaky, yet firm enough to be able to pick them up and eat, the jam was perfectly gooey, not runny at all, and a quick royal icing sealed the deal.

A perfect treat for kids of all ages… except for boy, who only wants chocolate.

Life is good..it’s a “too many strawberries in the fridge make for delicious pop-tarts” kind of good..

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Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts
Makes Six Pop Tarts

Just a quick note: This jam is made with pectin. I know..I’m cheating… but it comes in handy to make a quick jam when the mood strikes!

Create a rectangle template from cardboard 3-1/4″ x 5-14″

Strawberry Jam:
1-1/2 cups crushed strawberries
1-1/2 tbsp pectin (such as Sure Jell)
1-2/3 cup granulated sugar

Combine the strawberries and pectin in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring back to a boil, and boil for one minute. Remove from heat, and let cool.

Aunt Linda’s Pie Crust:
2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar

In a small bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together.  Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, shortening, and salt together until mixture is in pea size crumbles. Pour the milk and vinegar mixture into the flour mixture and stir.   The dough will be sticky.

Roll out on a generously floured surface, kind of on the thicker side. Lay your template on the dough, and cut out as many rectangles as you can with the first roll out. Repeat rolling and cutting out rectangles until you have 12 rectangles.

Give a cookie sheet a spritz of vegetable spray, and place as many rectangles on the sheet that you can. I was able to fit four.

Spoon some strawberry jam on to each rectangle, filling it to about 1/2” from the edge. Place another rectangle on top, pressing down around the edges with your finger. Crimp around the edges with a fork.

Bake at 350” about 1/2 hour, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Frost with royal icing, and sprinkle with decorating sugar.

Quick Royal Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp meringue powder
2 tbsp water

Combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for about 12 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

Enjoy!

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Maple Bacon Streusel Muffins with Maple Bourbon Glaze

I have a question…it’s really an age old question….
Why does the squeaky wheel always get the grease?

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Honestly, I’m really trying to figure this one out. All of the other wheels don’t have a problem doing their thing…so they don’t squeak at all. They wouldn’t even think of squeaking because they are decent, hard-working wheels. But yet, they don’t get grease. My question is…. Why don’t they get grease? Don’t they deserve the grease too?

Unfortunately, there is no more grease to be had at the moment.
That’s because the squeaky wheel just got greased.
Once again.

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In a perfect world, the farmer would get rid of the squeaky wheel.

But, in the real world, squeaky wheels cannot be gotten rid of so easily. Why? Well… because they’re squeaky. Try to get rid of them, and they get squeakier.

Better yet, in a perfect world, there would be no squeaky wheel at all. Daily life would be peaceful… squeak free…

But, in the real world, there are squeakers all around us..and we have to deal with them, but figure out a way to find a happy balance.

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My remedy for that is to bake muffins. Maple bacon streusel muffins with maple bourbon glaze, to be exact. With a little extra shot of bourbon on the side for the cook!! That always does the trick..and very soon, that squeaky wheel just might be forgotten… Ok, I exaggerate… not forgotten… because they never let us forget they’re there… but tolerated.

Until the next time…when the squeaks start again.
And we know that they will..

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I was so pleased with the way these muffins turned out..each bite so moist, with smoky bacon and nutty pecans… cinnamon and brown sugar…all mingled with that sweet bourbon and maple glaze.

As you know…I’m not a baker… can’t bake to save my life…but I used the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe, and I changed it up to suit my style… I also found some pointers from The Kitchen Whisperer and she said that the best way to get nicely domed muffins is to spray the top of the muffin pan with cooking spray, fill the liners to the top with batter, and bake them for the first few minutes at 425 degrees and then drop the temperature to 350 degrees for another six to ten minutes.   It really worked! The muffins came out with nicely rounded tops, perfectly baked…

Who knows? Maybe there is hope for me as a baker after all…

So…in the end.. who really needs the grease when there is a plate of these muffins  sitting on the counter?
Not me.
Let the squeakers have the grease, and enjoy a maple bacon streusel muffin instead.

Life is good…it’s a “The squeaky wheel can keep the grease, because a maple bacon streusel muffin with maple bourbon glaze is so, SO much better…” kind of good…

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Maple Bacon Streusel Muffins with Maple Bourbon Glaze
Makes 14 Muffins

Streusel:
6 tbsp all purpose flour
6 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp maple syrup
6 tbsp chopped walnuts or pecans
4 slices crispy bacon, chopped

In a small bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, nuts, and bacon until well combined. Set aside.

Muffins:
3  cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2 beaten eggs
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place the oven rack to the upper third part of the oven.

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, and line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt together. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is course crumbs.

Stir eggs and buttermilk into the dry/butter mixture just until moist.  The batter will be lumpy.  Spoon into the prepared muffin tins, filling each about halfway full of batter. Sprinkle some of the streusel onto the batter. Top with the remaining batter, filling the liner to about 1/8” from the top. Yes. Really fill it that full.  It will be ok! Sprinkle the tops with the remaining streusel.

If there are empty muffin cups, fill them with water. Seriously, do it. I never used to, but The Kitchen Whisperer said to do it, and it really helped!  I know, if the Kitchen Whisperer said to jump off the Empire State Building, would I?  After taking her advice on how to bake muffins, yes, I think I would… well, maybe strapped to a bungee… oh who am I kidding?  I’d be scared to death to jump.  Just forget the jumping part, and fill the empty cups with water… it really does work..

Bake at 425 degrees for about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees (Do not open the oven door at this point!) Continue to bake the muffins for another 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean..don’t confuse the streusel on the toothpick for raw batter.

Cool in muffin tin for 2 minutes, but no longer so that the muffins don’t get soggy in the pan. Cool completely on cooling rack. Drizzle with maple bourbon glaze.

Maple Bourbon Glaze:
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp bourbon
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the powdered sugar, milk, bourbon, maple syrup, salt, and melted butter with a hand mixer until smooth. If necessary, add more milk to make it the drizzling consistency that you prefer.

Enjoy!!

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Tenderloin Sandwiches

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There is a wonderful little Italian store, Pellicano’s, about three miles down the road from my house. I know, right? Lucky me!!  I was so happy when they opened up a few years ago… It truly is wonderful… You receive personal attention and care when you go there. I always know that when I stop there, I can pick up a tenderloin; hand it over to the butcher behind the counter, and it will be trimmed perfectly, and cut exactly the way I request. And always…always with a smile, and friendly chat. The wonderful thing is, if I really don’t know what I want to do with the whole tenderloin, they’re full of suggestions… “How about half of it a roast, a few steaks, and the rest ground up?” “Perfect!”

This time though, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my tenderloin. I wanted it sliced into think steaks. An adorable girl named Nicole happened to be behind the counter to trim and cut my tenderloin for me. She trimmed and sliced this thing into perfection, the whole while chitchatting with me…or maybe it was me chitchatting with her…but either way, that girl did not miss a beat with every slice. And then, when she finished slicing it, she took care to arrange it so perfectly on a tray…a beautiful thing… I just love that store. Everyone should have a Pellicano’s, with Nicole behind the counter, three miles down the road from them!

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The whole reason I bought this tenderloin is because Katie and Ryan were coming over. I’ve been bugging Ryan to come and show me how he makes a certain snack that I wanted to use for a post on Fiesta Friday… he graciously agreed.. so I wanted to make these tenderloin sandwiches to show my appreciation, and of course love…Well, if you are a blogger, then you know the reality of it… and while I cooked and prepared everything, they had to put their own sandwiches together…and of course they ate while I took photos…but they’re getting quite used to that!

I had the best time with those two. Not only did we sit around and brainstorm about this upcoming snack… but they were also cooking down some maple syrup that they had to bottle up. Now that was fun to watch… even more fun because some of the sap that went into that syrup came from my trees!

Honestly, when they asked if they could tap my trees, I had instant pity for the two of them, because I honestly did not believe that they’d get anything from my old trees. But seriously? It was crazy, I couldn’t believe the amount of sap that just poured out of them! I plan to use that syrup in another post, so will talk more about it then…

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Right now, I want to talk about these sandwiches… tenderloin is so perfect for sandwiches.. you can actually take a normal bite without the whole piece of steak coming out of the sandwich with that bite! Have it cut into ½” slices, and it takes no time at all to cook up. I’ll usually grill it for just a couple of minutes on each side, and then start placing the pieces in a large bowl, and it finishes cooking perfectly from the heat of each steak snuggled together in the bowl. A little salt and pepper is all that’s needed while it’s grilling, since it marinates for a few hours in a Worchestershire and garlic marinade. So simple, so quick, so delicious.

For this sandwich, I bought some smoked Gouda.. sautéed some crimini mushrooms and onions, with a horseradish and chive sauce. The first bite is met with the delicious tenderloin and mushrooms, combined with the smokiness of the gouda, sweetened with the onions, but then…it was totally WOWED with the zing of the horseradish and chives…flavors bursting all over the place…and all at the same time!! A beefy, smoky, zingy kind of thing.. You gotta love it!

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I served them with potato wedges that I tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt, pepper, and paprika. I served them with a little cup of sour cream on the side.

Life is good… it’s a “hangin’ with your kids, and happy because they actually want to hang with you…” kind of good..

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Tenderloin Sandwiches
Makes Six Large Sandwiches

2 lbs beef tenderloin, 1/2” slices
6 thick slices smoked Gouda
2- 8 oz packages sliced crimini mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 – large onions, sliced thick
Boston lettuce leaves
Marinade (recipe below)
Horseradish sauce (recipe below)
2 baguettes, each cut into thirds or six ciabatta rolls

For the Marinade:
¼ cup Worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp anchovy paste

1 tsp Dijon mustard

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp Montreal seasoning

Place the steaks and the marinade in a gallon size bag. Seal and place in the refrigerator for about 4-6 hours.

In the meantime, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Add the mushrooms to the pan, and sauté until golden brown.

Prepare your grill as you normally would to cook steak… Remove steaks from marinade (discard marinade) and grill steaks for about four to five minutes on each side until they’re cooked to your preferred doneness. I like to put them in a bowl after I take them off the grill, so that the juices are captured in the bowl, and can be used to drizzle over the steak on the sandwich.

Slice the baguette or roll, and place inside down on the grill to toast.

For the Horseradish Sauce:
2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp horseradish
2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp chives, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, horseradish, hot pepper sauce, chives, garlic, and salt and pepper until blended. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Assemble the Sandwich:
Add a generous amount of horseradish sauce to the bottom half of the baguette or roll, and place a Boston lettuce leaf on top.
Place the Gouda on top of the lettuce, and a couple of slices of the steak on top of the Gouda. Add the mushrooms on top of the steak, and the onions on top of the onions. Spoon a generous helping of the horseradish sauce over the onions, and close the sandwich with the top half of the baguette or roll.

Serve warm, and Enjoy!
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Chicken Pot Pies

 

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I really hit a writer’s block with this one… I’ve been sitting for two days, trying to come up with something really wise, witty…and mind-blowing to say about my pot pies… but honestly, what can be said about chicken pot pie that hasn’t already been said?

I looked for a cute chicken story… Chicken Little…The Little Red Hen… but came up short. Honestly, how could I compare the sky falling to chicken pot pie?

You just can’t.

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We all know that it’s the perfect comfort food, because that’s been said a gazillion times…and I’m sure that everyone is pretty much sick of hearing how they’re perfect for cold weather…but seriously…in my mind? Chicken pot pie is perfect year round, especially on cool summer nights… or cool spring nights for that matter. Imagine sitting around a bonfire with your friends and family, and someone handing you a little pot pie in a cup like this to snack on.. I certainly wouldn’t pass it up..

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I even found a quote from Shannen Doherty saying how everyone thinks she leads a glamorous life, but there are so many times she spends her evenings alone with her dogs, eating a chicken pot pie! But I didn’t feel as though that would really go with what I wanted to say either…although it was nice to know that actors and actresses are real people too..

Truth be told, I would much rather be eating a chicken pot pie with my family and friends around a bonfire…or with Sophie..watching a movie.

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And then, while I was trying to come up with something to say about these pot pies… I started thinking about how there are different pot pie people in this word:

There are the “eat it right out of the tin” pot pie-er…(that’s me)
There are the “plop it upside down on a plate” pot pie-er

When I was younger..I always felt as though eating it out of the tin was THE right way to eat a pot pie. I would eat it in three parts… First there is the crispy top crust…and I’d use that as a spoon of sorts.. to scoop out the creamy, chickeny, vegetabley goodness… and then the pleasure of the soft and moist bottom crust, which was my most favorite part of the whole pot pie. It was like coming upon a buried treasure!

But that’s really not what I wanted to say either…

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And that is pretty much it. I didn’t have anything funny to say today. I didn’t have any words of wisdom for you.. I just had to let the pot pies speak for themselves… and sometimes that’s okay too.. because they’re just that good…

In keeping with my childhood beliefs, I made these pot pies so that you have to eat them out of the cups. These are on the smaller side…so there is no crust on the bottom because I wanted everyone to enjoy the creamy goodness that was inside. Now, don’t worry, there is plenty of crust because I rolled it out on the thicker side!

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Life is good… it’s a “thinking you can’t come up with anything to say, but when you look back you realize that you’ve rambled on for a million paragraphs” kind of good…

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Chicken Pot Pies
This recipe will make six pot pies in 16 oz ramekins

The beauty of these pot pies is that you can make them however you want! Change the chicken to beef, shrimp, lobster…or leave it purely vegetable! You can add whatever types of vegetables you like! For this one, I went traditional…but that’s not to say that I’d never change it myself!  Lobster is sounding mighty good…

Make it fun… use whatever type of container you want for your pot pies…like these cups that I found on Etsy from a girl named Sandy..and her wonderful shop called P.S. Simply Vintage!  You should check her shop out, Sandy has some pretty cool stuff!

Roast the Chicken and Vegetables:
3 large boneless chicken breasts
32 oz container chicken stock (1 cup for roasting, the rest for the gravy)
24 oz yellow baby Dutch potatoes, skins on and sliced into quarters
1 cup diced baby carrots
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp butter
6 fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Spray a 9 x 12” baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange the vegetables and chicken in the bottom… placing two sage leaves and one tablespoon of butter on each chicken breast. Pour one cup of chicken stock (saving the remainder of the carton for the gravy) over the chicken and vegetables. Generously season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. Remove from oven, drain the juices into the pan for the gravy. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces, and set both the chicken and vegetables aside.

Prepare the Gravy:
Leftover chicken broth from above
Pan drippings from the roasted chicken and vegetables
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups fresh peas, (or frozen)
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tbsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the pan drippings, chicken stock, heavy cream, poultry seasoning, white pepper, cayenne pepper, to a simmer in a large frying pan. Add the peas, and let simmer for about 15 minutes. In a small bowl mix the butter and cornstarch to a paste consistency. Add to the gravy and pea mixture in the pan, and whisk until completely blended. Continue to let simmer until thickened. Remove from heat…Add the chicken and vegetables to the gravy mixture.

Aunt Linda’s Pie Crust:
2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar
In a small bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together.  Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, shortening, and salt together until mixture is in pea size crumbles. Pour the milk and vinegar mixture into the flour mixture and stir.   The dough will be sticky.

Roll out on a generously floured surface, kind of on the thicker side. Lay your pot pie container on the dough, and cut around the container about an inch larger (to roll the crust into the pot pie).   Using a knife, cut a heart shape into the crust..to let the steam out…and because every pie should have a heart.

Assemble the Pot Pie:
Measure as much of the chicken and gravy mixture as you want into each of your containers. Place a round of the rolled out pie dough on top, and roll the edges in to create a crust around the pot pie container.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour, or until the crust is golden brown, and the pot pie goodness is bubbling.

Serve hot, and Enjoy!!

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Stuffed Artichokes

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“These things are just plain annoying. After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual “food” out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Have the shrimp cocktail instead.” …. Miss Piggy

Poor misguided Miss Piggy, she honestly doesn’t know what she’s talking about! It’s a shame that she just doesn’t understand the artichoke, and she will be truly missing out on a “savoring moment” if she chooses the shrimp cocktail instead.

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Don’t get me wrong…there is no doubt that shrimp is delicious, but an artichoke? It can be served as an elegant appetizer, yet it’s fun to eat, and it’s truly delicious…a special treat to be enjoyed, as a snack, a lunch, or a simple dinner.

Yes, Miss Piggy, it can be served as a simple dinner…and you’ll walk away completely satisfied…

I’m the only one in the house that likes artichokes, so I don’t make them all that often. When I do, I make only one, and it’s usually when it’s just me at home. This recipe for the filling is the perfect amount for one artichoke, so if you are making more, it’s easy enough to multiply the amounts by the number of artichokes you’ll be serving.

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There is a little bit of work to do when preparing an artichoke, but it’s not as bad as you might think. It’s a matter of cutting a few leaves, and filling it with breadcrumbs. Keep in mind, they don’t have to be stuffed… artichokes can be steamed plain, and dipped in the aioli, or a simple butter and lemon sauce!

Lucky for me, I bought two of them… so I still have one more in the refrigerator to enjoy in the next couple of weeks!

Life is good… it’s good with that savoring moment from dipping little green leaves in garlic and lemon aioli…

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Stuffed Artichokes
Serves One

The Artichoke
1 artichoke
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
3 tbsp romano cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Olive oil

Begin preparing the artichoke by snipping the tips of the leaves with scissors to remove the thorns. It never fails, I always end up with one in my finger… Using a serrated knife, cut about an inch from the top of the artichoke. Slice off the stem so that the artichoke has a flat bottom and can stand freely.

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In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Romano cheese, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stuff the leaves of the artichoke with the breadcrumb mixture.

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Drizzle with lemon juice. Pour about an inch of water in the bottom of a small saucepan, and place the artichoke in the pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Bring to a boil over high heat, and the lower heat to simmer. Simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the leaves can be plucked easily from the artichoke. Watch the water, if it evaporates, just keep adding a little more to the bottom of the pan.

Remove from pan, and place in a serving dish. Serve with lemon garlic aioli and lemon slices.

Lemon Garlic Aioli
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Add the mayonnaise, lemon, garlic, cayenne, salt, and pepper to a small processor. Pulse a few times until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Not sure how to eat an artichoke?  

Well, it’s very simple!!   You just pull one of the leaves off, dip it into your sauce of choice, and put it between your teeth, and then pull it while you’re removing the pulp of the leaf with your teeth.  Discard the leaf.

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When all of the leaves have been removed, you’ll have the heart of the artichoke to eat.  First, you’ll want to remove the choke (as pictured below).  Don’t try to eat the choke, as there is a reason why it is named just that….

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Once the choke has been removed, enjoy that delicious tender heart with a fork and knife!

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Enjoy!!

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Impulsive Purchases and Mini Headlights

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Sometimes I do things that I have no other explanation for, except that it was a spur of the moment thought, that led into a spur of the moment online purchase….there was no thinking involved…just a thought, and the click of a button…and then guilt for the purchase.

On Wednesday last week, I decided that I wanted a donut maker.
By Friday, it arrived in the mail.

I should probably mention that I am not being paid to talk about this donut maker. This is really all about me, and my impulsive nature.

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When I opened the package on Friday, and sat there staring at this powder blue donut maker, I honestly wondered what the heck was I thinking on Wednesday.. I don’t know..I guess I thought it would be kind of fun to be able to make little donuts when the mood struck. I thought that I’d rather eat a homemade donut, and it would be much better than deep frying…but I was feeling guilty for such a random purchase.

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I can honestly say it works pretty well for the $25 I paid for it. I do agree with the reviews on Amazon, when they complained that the donuts cook unevenly. They definitely cook faster on the bottom than on the top.

This little donut maker probably appeals to a very young crowd (or impulsive people like me), but I certainly wouldn’t let a child use it, at least unattended. It gets really hot to the touch on the outside. The donuts didn’t stick to the pan at all, but it was pretty hot when I was pulling them from the rings.

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And now for the donuts… they’re about 2 inches in diameter, so more of a little nibble than anything. I do think that they’re a nice little treat for a Saturday morning… possibly rolled in sugar, cinnamon, or even plain! I liked them because they were quick and easy. A breeze of a clean up!!

I decided to make mini headlights, and I’ll tell you why I love these little things…

I’m not sure about you, but when I lose my willpower (which is often), and go for a full size crème filled chocolate frosted donut, and eat the whole thing while I’m thinking to myself that it doesn’t even taste as good as I thought it would…and then that sickly sweet feeling comes over me immediately after that very last bite…the bite that I really didn’t want, but ate anyway…and then I’m miserable…sick and miserable.

Well, these mini headlights were the perfect size to remedy that. I ate one, and it satisfied any crème filled donut craving that I might have had. I could have even eaten two of them, and still wouldn’t have gotten that sickly feeling. And the beautiful part of the whole thing? It tasted good, because I made it exactly the way I thought it should be made.

So, in the end… will I use this little donut maker often? No, probably not. I do know that I’ll pull it out once in a while, and make these fun little donuts.

I’m definitely not sorry for this impulsive purchase. No guilt here!

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Mini Headlights
Makes About Two Dozen

The Donut:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1-1/3 tbsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ cup milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat your donut maker.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil until well blended.

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You can spoon the batter into the donut rings, but I found that it’s much easier to use a disposable piping bag. Fill the rings just to the top with the batter, close the top of the donut maker, and let cook for exactly two minutes. Remove the baked donuts from the rings, and let cool on wire rack.

The Ganache:
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp heavy cream

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Place the chocolate chips and heavy cream into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted, and spreadable. Add a few more drops of heavy cream if you feel it needs it. Dip the tops of the donuts into the ganache, and set on wire rack to cool.

The Crème Filling:
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
¼ to ½ cup heavy cream

In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and ¼ cup of the heavy cream until fluffy. If it isn’t as fluffy as you’d like, continue to add heavy cream until it becomes your preferred piping consistency.

Pipe onto the chocolate covered donuts. Decorate with sprinkles if desired.

Enjoy!

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