Friday, July 31, 2009

July Craft: Expect Delays

Today is July 31st and I did not complete a July craft. I could say that the grilled pizzas were my craft of the month, but I'm tired of food fulfilling that role. I suppose I could also consider my July craft the sad herb pot I planted, but that's not exactly what I had in mind. {BTW - the herb pot is much improved!! I've been meaning to post an updated photo, though I'm not sure it will do the plants much justice. I've been harvesting the herbs left and right, so they are still rather small.}

I made something else new today (I will blog about it soon), I could count that, but don't want to because here's the deal: I have future crafts planned; I just haven't started any of them. In fact, I have all of the materials for the craft I wanted to do in July. I've had the stuff since May. I know exactly where the supplies are in our house. I just haven't done anything yet. Instead I like sitting around reading magazines or watching TV.

For example, right now it is 10:48p and Rich is working super hard sorting through still unpacked boxes and moving them to appropriate rooms. And what am I doing? Sitting on the couch, watching a Nightline feature about Kelly Clarkson... and typing this post.

Another thing I didn't do this month? I didn't read our book club book. Granted, July Book Club has been postponed until August 3rd, so I still have a chance on that one.

I will complete my July craft, but in the month of August. I will unpack a box sometime in the future. But first I'm going to finish the magazine I was reading last night.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Creamy Oatmeal

This is not a new recipe, but it was new to me. And boy am I ever glad I tried it!! This is hands down the best oatmeal I have ever tried. And frankly, it is by far the creamiest bowl of oats to date.

Yummy, Creamy Oatmeal
(Source: Multiple)

1/2 c. oats (not quick cooking)
1 c. skim milk (or a combination of 1/2 c. water + 1/2 c. skim milk)
1 very ripe banana
1-2 T. peanut butter
Put oats, milk and banana into a pot on medium heat. Mash the banana with the back of a spoon while stirring the oats and milk. Cook to desired creaminess, when most of the liquid is absorbed {mine takes ~5 minutes}.Pour into a bowl. Top with 1-2 T. peanut butter. Enjoy!!!

{The heat of the oatmeal allows the PB to melt across the top of the bowl of oats. Seriously. So good. If you look closely, you can see the banana chunks in the bowl above. If you like banana bread, I think you would like this!}

Saturday, July 25, 2009

E+D's house: nearly wordless

{Rich + Eric: Kitchen}
{Rich attempting the Mensa test - aka: turning on the shower}
{Mom, Eric, Rich in the basement}
{Blast from the past: awesome retro oven}
{post-tour: me + Rich}

Eric and Dominika - what a lovey home!! Congratulations - we are truly thrilled for you both! May this home be filled with happiness, laughter and good times for many years to come. {Plus, how cool is it that you are so close to us!}

Friday, July 24, 2009

Potato Pizza on the grill

At the farmer's market last Thursday I bought a bag of tri-colored potatoes consisting of yukon gold, new and purple potatoes. I knew I wanted to use them for something and soon. I also had another Trader Joe's pizza dough on hand, from the second attempt at pizza on the grill, that had to be used. I've heard of putting potatoes on pizza, so I thought I'd give that a try.

Pizza on the Grill Attempt III: Potato Pizza
(Source: me)

Trader Joe's prepared pizza dough (plain)
6 small potatoes, thinly sliced
3 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. fresh rosemary, minced
1 c. garlic herb cheese (or whatever cheese you have on hand)
salt + pepper

Heat oven to 350 F. Thinly slice potatoes, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, place on cookie sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes in the oven. Preheat grill {I turn 3 of our 4 burners to high}. Then prepare pizza toppings: chop prosciutto, mix with minced garlic and rosemary. Set aside. Shred cheese topping.
Divide prepared pizza dough in half (or quarters), place on a well-floured cutting board. Roll out pizza dough to desired size. Spray olive oil directly on dough, place on grill grates, shut lid. Turn down burners to medium. Allow to grill for ~3-4 minutes and remove dough from grill using a pizza peel or cookie sheet. Grill side up, spread prosciutto mixture on crust. Layer potato slices along the top of the pizza.
Top pizza liberally with cheese. Place pizza back on the grill, turn off 2 of the 3 burners to grill using indirect heat. Close grill lid and allow cheese to melt, ~8 minutes. Remove from grill using a pizza peel or cookie sheet. Salt and pepper to taste.

So this one must have been really, really good. Rich commented on several occasions how much he liked the potato pizza. He loved the addition of prosciutto and fresh rosemary. *Ding* *Ding* *Ding* - we have a winner!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Peanut Butter obsession turns to ice cream

One word: Yum. Second word: Amazing. Three more words: Must Make Again.

Oh my gosh! This was so good! I made the base yesterday and the ice cream today. This was a different base than I've made before. No eggs - instead the thickener is corn starch. It didn't get quite as thick as I expected {maybe because my cornstarch is old?}, but it was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and made for a yummy ice cream.
PB ice cream w/ Chocolate Covered PB Cracker Sandwiches
(Source: The Kitchn)
makes 1 quart

1 1/2 c. whole milk [I used skim]
1 T. cornstarch
2 oz. cream cheese at room temperature [I used 4 oz. light cream cheese]
2 c. heavy cream [I used fat free half and half]
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 T. light corn syrup [I used dark]
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. creamy natural peanut butter [in addition to the creamy PB, I also added the rest of my almond butter]
1 container Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Crackers, frozen solid and chopped in half

In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch. Whisk thoroughly so the cornstarch doesn't clump up. In another large bowl, whip the cream cheese until smooth. {After mixing, my version had very small chunks of cream cheese, probably because I hadn't let the cheese fully warm to room temperature.}

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining 1 1/4 cups of milk with the half and half, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and simmer over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves — about 4 minutes. You may need to pull the mixture half off the burner so it doesn't boil over.

Take the milk mixture off the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute - no more [I did more]. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the salt. Chill completely - overnight, ideally.

After mixture is completely chilled, pour the ice cream base into an ice cream maker. Add the peanut butter in big spoonfuls and then freeze the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it's frozen, scrape the ice cream out of its freezing chamber and into a large bowl. Fold in the frozen, halved peanut butter crackers.

{take note of the gigantic spoon}

Pack the ice cream into a plastic container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

{Huge spoon = perfect sample size}{Delectable summer treat}

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pizza on the Grill: Attempt II

Now that we are "settled" in our house and have almost all of our belongings, we are finally able to tackle some fun new cooking options. The first on my list, after the cupcakes, was pizza on the grill!!

I've tried this a once before, and while I am no expert, I do have a few tips to share:
1. Do not go into your first grilled-pizza experience expecting perfection. (well you can if you want, but if I had, I would have been very disappointed).
2. Don't use the full amount of dough. Cut it into halves or fourths and grill smaller pizzas. The more dough you use, the harder it is to get on and off the grill.
3. Prep all of your toppings before putting the dough on the grill

With that said, here is a recount of my second grilled pizza attempt. {I forgot to take pictures of my first try, which didn't turn out. Basically I didn't cook the dough enough. It looked fine, but made for a very chewy pizza. Unfortunately this turned Rich off from the start and he is not a fan. So now I need to try to win him back.}

Pizza on the Grill Attempt II: Margarita Pizza
(Source: me)

Ingredients (all quantities are to your own preference):
1/2 bag of prepared pizza dough at room temperature {I used the garlic kind from Trader Joe's}
Trader Giotto's pizza sauce, jarred
fresh mozzarella, sliced
fresh basil
prosciutto (optional)

Preheat grill {I turn 3 of our 4 burners to high}. Then prepare all toppings. {I put them in plastic containers so I can bring everything outside with me}.

Divide prepared pizza dough in half (or quarters), place on a well-floured cutting board. Roll out (or toss, if you have mad-pizza skills), pizza to desired size. (If pizza dough shrinks back to original size, allow to rest a few minutes then try again). Spray olive oil directly on dough, place on grill grates, shut lid. Turn down burners to medium. Allow to grill for ~3-4 minutes and remove dough from grill using a pizza peel or cookie sheet. Grill side up, apply desired amount of pizza sauce.
Layer on cheese, basil and any other toppings you desire. {I made one with prosciutto - YUMMY addition}. Turn off 2 of the 3 burners to grill using indirect heat. Close grill lid and allow cheese to melt, ~8 minutes.
Once cheese and toppings are heated through to preferred melty doneness, remove pizza.
Cut, serve, eat, enjoy!!
Rich thought this attempt was "OK"; I thought it was "good." Either way, it is definitely an easy, tasty and fast meal.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Birthday Cupcake Formula: Cherry Coke Float + Margarita = YUM

Below are the recipes I used for my birthday cupcakes. They were relatively easy and very tasty. I ended up with a 16 cupcakes per recipe. I brought an even assortment of each kind to my parent's house, my aunt and uncle's, more to another aunt, more with to tailgating and we still ended up with some at the house! I promptly ate them all. (Okay - Rich had one.)

Cherry Coke Float Cupcakes
(Source: Coco Bean, among others)

Cupcake Ingredients
1 large egg
1/2 c. buttermilk [I used what I had on hand: fat free half and half]
2 t. vanilla

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. Coca-Cola
1/4 c. maraschino cherry syrup

1/2 c. unsalted butter
3 T. cocoa powder
24 maraschino cherries

Cola Icing Ingredients
1 c. powdered sugar
2 T. cola

Cherry Buttercream Icing Ingredients
3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. butter or margarine
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
About 2 T. maraschino cherry syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Beat the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla in a bowl. In a second bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a saucepan, boil the Coca-Cola, and cherry syrup gently for five minutes. Melt in the butter and cocoa powder. Pour into the dry ingredients, stir well with a wooden spoon, and then add the liquid ingredients, beating until everything is blended. Pour into the cupcake pans and push a cherry into the center of each cupcake. Bake for 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

When cool, mix together to Cola Icing ingredients (powdered sugar and cola) drizzle over the cupcakes. Let dry.

To make the cherry butter cream frosting, mix the powdered sugar and butter together in an electric mixer on low. Once combined, add vanilla and cherry syrup. Increase speed of mixer to medium and beat for 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth and of spreading consistency. Top cupcakes with cherry buttercream and a cherry.
{I thought these cupcakes were a bit dry and dense compared to the margarita variety. Additionally the frosting was way too sweet and thick; I should have thinned it out more. Lastly, I wouldn't add the Cola icing next time; it looked cool but was too sweet for me.}
Margarita Cupcakes
(Adapted from: Hip Hostess & Annie's Eats)

Cupcake Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large egg whites

1 t. vanilla extract

Margarita Ingredients

3/4 c. margarita mix
4 T. tequila
2 T. Cointreau

Lime Buttercream Icing Ingredients
4 T. butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T. margarita mix
1 t. lime zest
3 cups powdered sugar
fresh limes (for garnish)

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cups of muffin tins with paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with a fork. Set aside. In another small bowl, combine the margarita ingredients (margarita mix, tequila, Cointreau), mix and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the egg whites one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the margarita mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined, being careful not to over mix. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

To make the icing, in a large bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, margarita mix, and lime zest. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and continue beating until smooth. If icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar, a couple tablespoons at a time.

Spread icing generously on each cooled cupcake or use a pastry bag to frost. Sprinkle cane sugar around the edges of the cupcake for a “salt rimmed” look and garnish with lime wheels or wedges.
{These were delicious!! They were moist, airy and light in texture; I am totally going to make these again!! Oh, word to the wise, do NOT inhale as you take these out of the oven; the alcohol in the air is quite potent. }

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Today is my birthday!! Growing up I used to pretend that birthdays were nothing special, no big deal. But to be honest: I love them!! I don't necessarily mind getting older, though it is strange to think I have been an adult for 10 years!! It seriously feels like just a few years ago I turned "double-digits" and my aunt Colleen gave me my first YM magazine!! (Loved that magazine and had a subscription for years!!!)

I had a relatively low-key birthday. I got up early and ran some errands. Then my Mom, Aunt and Brother stopped by the house. My mom and aunt planted some pots for us (I will take a picture and add them to this post; they are beautiful!!). My mom assembles the most wonderful potted arrangements, so when we bought our house I specifically requested she make me some for a birthday gift.

While they were working, we gave my brother a tour of our new house.
*Eric was in Poland when we moved in. During his visit he proposed to his girlfriend, Dominika! Soooo... pretty soon I will have a sister-in-law!!! Yea!! So excited for the two of them!!!

Rich had told me Friday night that my gifts were hidden in the house somewhere, but I wanted to wait until my birthday to start hunting. So Saturday on the tour I was on the lookout. However, as I breezed by the storage under the stairs, my brother opened the door to check it out. I caught a glimpse of my gift: a new bike!! I took it for a spin around the block, but haven't really biked much since. I don't have a helmet and think I kind of need one.
On the back of the bike was a wrapped gift that included: an apron!!! I have wanted an apron for a while now. And look how cute it is!! Great work, babe!!
After the tour and planting, everyone came inside. We had cake (yummy brownie cake w/ peanut butter cream filling) and I opened presents from my family. Eric and Dominika gave me a beautiful wooden box and amber bracelet. (I'm wearing the bracelet in the pictures, but you can't see it...) In addition to the potted plants, I got a Splenda cookbook, Budweiser BBQ sauce and yummy dips. Colleen gave me a marinade+rub cookbook and even brought a gift for Rich a cookbook all about Bacon. (Perfect!) My Dad even sent gifts: two rolls of duct tape and a saw (we used the duct tape pretty soon after). I wanted to make cupcakes, so we chatted for a while as I mixed up some batter. I had decided to try two variations: Cherry Coke Float & Margarita cupcakes. I had stumbled across recipes a long time ago and had been itching to try them out. They turned out well, though the margarita cupcakes were my favorite (recipes to follow in a later post)!
After a while my mom and aunt got bored (Eric had taken off earlier) and they headed out to run errands nearby. I finished making the cupcake batter and then went to Caribou to get my free bday coffee!! (Yay!!)

I came back home and started assembling some stuff for tailgating. Our afternoon/evening plans included tailgating and then watching a Saint's game with a few friends. We had turkey burgers, beef burgers, turkey dogs, veggies w/ hummus, fresh fruit, cupcakes and drinks. It was a great test-run for Gopher tailgates. (Only 2 more months until the first home game!!) I forgot quite a bit of stuff, so the boys were keeping a list for next time. I've got to say, it was a very fun birthday!!
{our group at the Saints game}

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's like buttah!!

For the last few weeks I have been obsessed with peanut butter, almond butter, walnut butter, etc. I just love it!! I have baked some peanut butter cookies, eaten PB&J sandwiches and to be honest, I sometimes just stick a spoon in the jar and eat it straight up. I like it that much.

I wanted to broaden my PB horizons, so I started reading labels to find the ideal one for me and found a few I like.

All are really tasty, but I also wanted to venture outside of peanut butter and give other nut butters a try. I looked around but just haven't been able to commit to a brand. So instead, I decided to try making my own and it was surprisingly easy.

Homemade Almond Butter

Open bag of almonds, place in food processor. Run food processor for ~10-15 minutes and you should end up w/ smooth almond butter. Easy as that.

{almonds in food processor}

{I used Trader Joe's roasted, unsalted almonds}
{turn on the food processor to chop up the almonds}
{the ground almonds will start to clump up ~7 minutes into the process. Keep the food processor on.}
{if you wait long enough you should end up with this -- a smooth, creamy nut butter!}

{I ate it smeared on bread topped with raspberry jam from the farmer's market}

The homemade butter by itself is rather bland. It is ground nuts, that's it. You may want to enhance the flavor with additions of your choosing, such as honey, Splenda, cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg or salt. There are lots of options.

I like it and will totally make this again. I will probably have to try a few other nut versions, too!!