Sunday, August 28, 2011

So, We're an Aggie family now.

So apparently I am much better food blogger than I am a personal blogger.....sigh.

Moving on!

I have this girl.

She's awesome and almost all grown-up. She makes me proud, she makes me laugh, she makes me super glad to be her mom. I don't know how I lucked out, but I'm not going to keep asking why, I'm just going to accept that she's mine!

So, like I was saying; she's almost all grown-up. We dropped her off at college last week. Go Aggies!

I will say that this event is bittersweet. I have always gotten a ton of satisfaction by watching my kids grow up and do the things that we want them to do. You know: go to school, learn to be independent, get jobs, learn to be self-sufficient, all that good stuff.

But here's the down side: They go and get all independent and self sufficient and leave you to go to school!

Sucks in a way!

It makes me all wistful and lonely and afraid that she'll starve and freeze!! Worried that she might just go off and have a life of her own or something. Without me being able to watch all the funny and the frustrating and the entertaining stuff! (she's so dang entertaining!!)

See--such conflicting emotions!!

Well, I managed to bypass most of the angst leading up to her leaving by driving myself into a different kind of frenzy. The kind that comes from deciding to make her a secret (ha!) going away to college quilt.

Did I plan to do this all along and just procrastinate like I usually do?

No. Not this time.

I was flat-out last-minute guilt tripped into making one. Not by Sid, mind you. I think I had her convinced that it couldn't possibly happen.

It was me. And Lisa Young a little bit.

Sidney fell in love with the quilt Lisa made her college-bound boy and I just couldn't make myself disappoint. Not when I could use it as the perfect opportunity to make Sid something that would remind her of all the people she left behind. That would possibly make her cry when she looked at it, and would make it impossible to wrap herself up in the snuggly softness of it without thinking of her ever-loving mama.

No devious intentions here at all!

Thank goodness Lisa had already done the creative, brain-thinking work on the quilt she made allowing me to shamelessly steal her idea for family handprints. So cute and sentimental!!

Thank you ever so dang much, Lisa!!

And thank goodness also that I have a never-ending supply of half-finished projects (Yay!! Totally knocked two birds in the head with this project!) that I could poach from making it possible to actually finish this quilt in a little over a week without buying much fabric at all. Which, by the way, never could have happened without the help of several people, two being Kellie, who quilted it in record time, even though she should have been training for her marathon, and sewing her own kid's college quilt, and also Sid's friend, who kept me alerted with texts as to when she would be arriving home from work and dates so I could frantically hide the project before she came in. Seriously couldn't have done it without you, *Dust!

Here is a look at the college/UFP quilt that Sid seemed to love!

The fabrics in this quilt were scraps leftover from my parents 50th wedding anniversary quilt. So Sid has a bit of grandma and grandpa with her up there as well.

I used Lisa's idea for a handprint from everyone in the family. I love it. It's what makes the quilt such a special thing! Most everyone's print was stitched in their favorite color.

I'll admit that this block was an indulgence. I think of Sidney when I see Tinkerbell. I like to pretend that Sid likes her as much as I do.....Tink was actually stitched twice--each line in two colors to give her some extra dimension. The pattern for Tink came from a shirt Sidney got last time we went to Disneyland.

Sid is a cowgirl at heart. This quilt wouldn't have been complete without some horseflesh!

When Sid was describing the college quilt she wished I could make, the only block she specifically requested (before I told her that no way could I make a quilt in time for her to take to college) was a block in the middle that said "Crazy Girl". Her song of the Summer.

This was the most special block of the quilt. I had *Dust be all sneaky-like and secretly get her handprint so I could include it in the quilt. I just didn't think it would be complete without all of us on it together. I asked everyone in our family, and a couple of Sid's close friends, to tell me three words that make them think of Sid. (Had to be a little creative when it came to Jack--his words are in orange. Oh yeah-- you can click on the pic to read all the awesome things about Sid!)

I stitched all those words around her hand in colors that coordinated with that person's handprint so Sid would know who said what. A couple of words were said by multiple people and I wanted to include that, so they have different colors making up the word. I will forever love this block!

Never a second passed that I wasn't grateful to be able to make this quilt. For all that it signifies, for all that it says about Sidney, for all that it symbolizes how much I love her, I am thankful.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

That's my BOY.

Nicholas is an artist. Seriously. Since he was very little, he's had such a talent for drawing, coloring, creating.

Very imaginative!

A few months ago, (yes months.....-'cause that's how I row (hehe)) Nicholas came and asked me to draw a picture with him. Usually we do this back and forth, random thing where in the end we create an amazing and kind of nonsensical piece of art work with all sorts of cool elements.

This time, I drew a happy little snail that obviously was on it's way to help himself to the Hosta in my front yard:

Then I gave it back to Nicholas so he could add his bit.

This is what I got back:

I like to imagine that now the happy snail is all dressed up ready to combat the tuna fish cans full of beer that I set out for him to drown in.

On a side note:

My SIL and I are putting together an actual website to house our recipes and food photograpy which is really why I have not posted since February. Now, just maybe, my blog can go back to it's original purpose which was more of a family journal. It seems that it eventually became overcome with posts about my secret food desires as the wife of a chef and so, you should be looking soon for

on a computer screen near you. Or in front of you, or on your lap.....whatever.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Island Ranch Chicken

I love community cookbooks.

Whether a city, school, business, or League it seems that when asked to contribute, people pull out all the best recipes in their cache.

Almost without exception, you can count on the recipes being great! Every so often you might come across a dud, but I account this to the fact that everyone has at least one bizarre family 'treasure' that they have no idea is actually kinda weird.

Case in point:

My dad used to make 'french omelette's' every Christmas morning and we'd eat them topped with tomato sauce straight out of a can. I loved this family tradition and so of course I pulled it out one Christmas after we had kids, wanting to continue on with it. Needless to say, I got some puzzled looks and had plenty of leftovers, if you know what I mean!

I'm not going to lie though, I sometimes get a wicked craving for those thin eggy pancakes with warm tomato on top!

This recipe came right out of one of those cookbooks. A compilation of recipes from the families in our church group. There are recipes in this book that are GOLD I tell you! I think this is one of them. Originally dubbed 'Keele's Favorite Chicken', this dish's original instructions require cooking three hours in a crock pot which comes in super handy if you belong to my church, as our meetings last three hours exactly each Sunday. Perfect!

Not being crock pot proficient, I let mine bake in a 9x13 pyrex in the oven. Takes less time and I have better luck keeping the chicken tender.

Sometimes you just need something simple and delicious, and I think this should be in everybody's recipe box under that heading. The sauce comes together in a slightly sweet, slightly sour, slightly creamy way, and gives the chicken a nice flavor. I serve it over rice, but it could easily be served with noodles or potatoes. Add a vegetable, and you're good to go!

Island Ranch Chicken (aka Keele's Favorite Chicken)

3-4 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
(brine chicken breasts if needed)
1 jar apricot preserves (12 oz)
8 oz. ranch dressing--you can use bottled, but I make my own:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 T. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix: original,dry

After brining chicken, rinse it off and place in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Mix together the sauce ingredients, mixing dressing ingredients together separately if making your own. Pour over chicken and cover dish with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken, making sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly
Remove chicken from dish and set aside. If desired, thicken sauce with approx. a tablespoon of corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water.
Serve over rice.

Monday, February 14, 2011


After baking, icing, decorating and wrapping 20 dozen of the pretty pastries pictured below for a posh little local boutique, I switched gears and decided to try something different to hand out as my personal Valentines this year.

I played around with a glace icing technique that turned out to be so much fun! I experimented with all sorts of designs, and found that Valentines Day is the perfect holiday for these type of cookie! Swirls and hearts are easy and beautiful and I even see EKG blips in the
Mille Feuille pattern!

I boxed them up for friends and found these adorable Vintage Valentines to attach!

I love Valentines Day, and even though for me this year it was stretched out to about two weeks long, I still couldn't stop myself from sticking to tradition and finishing up with my own Valentines to hand out. I feel like I can breathe freely now and I'm pretty sure I won't be tempted to make sugar cookie for at least another two weeks!

Giorno felice dei biglietti di S. Valentino!
(It sounds prettiest in Italian!)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Valentine Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies.

I'm about to climb on my soapbox here, so either settle in,
or scroll down to the actual recipe.
This could get ugly.

Like I was saying:

Whoopie Pies.

That delicious, American Original dessert, ostensibly created by
Amish women when confronted with an excess of cake batter.
Sent lovingly with their men into the fields where, upon discovering
the sweet treat in their lunches, would yell,
I'm pretty certain there is no connection to the other connotation of the word.

Now, here's my problem:

Whoopie Pies are springing up all over the food-o-sphere.
In basically as many variations as there are cake and frosting.
And all are delicious! I mean, what could be bad about
a yummy pumpkin cake/cookie schmeared with fluffy cream cheese frosting?
Nothing in my book.
I'd eat 'em all the live long day!
I just wouldn't call themWhoopie Pies.

Let me explain:

I count myself as a member of that particular group of people who harbor very protective feelings about the Amish and all things ascribed to them.
I see them as quaint, peace-loving, artistic people who embrace a simpler,
very devout way of life. Their love of God and family mirrors
my own feelings and their sense of community is beyond compare.
While I can't see myself personally adhering to their strict way of life, I do respect and appreciate it.
I mean, the quilts alone--devine!!


I think the area in which the Amish utterly excel
and where a good deal of my respect resides is the food.
My mom had an Amish cookbook that I used to pour over
even as a 10-12 year old.
The fact that it held my attention even then (sans photographs) is a testament to how scrumptious the recipes sounded.
My favorite being the Amish Stew that I faithfully use today.
Lucky Amish that they can stick to the traditional use of
butter, lard, and cream
and still maintain a lifestyle that allows the correct
metabolism to avoid obesity.

I have to stick to moderation.

That being said, the correct, traditional Amish definition of a
Whoopie Pie
is a Dark Chocolate cake filled with a
fluffy white filling which utilizes a flour/milk thickener.

Oh, and shortening.

The filling contains shortening.

This gives me pause, as I find it a rather abhorrent ingredient
to put in anything. I avoid it whenever I possibly can and only
include it in recipes that would be sacrilege to alter.
Like Lunch Lady Peanutbutter Fingers.
But that is another post for another day.

I digress--

Just put the shortening in and forget about it.
It's not that much in the grand scheme of things and
if you've ever eaten a Twinkie, well, you're obviously still here,
so it's gonna be okay.

FACT: Cake sandwiches with frosting in between
do not a Legitimate Whoppie Pie make.
Long hours of discussion with my BFF Kellie,
who left her heart in Lancaster County PA bears this out.

So make 'em however you want, with whatever you want,
but for the sake of avoiding discombobulation and
degridation of this American Classic, we will call them:
Cake Sandwiches Not To Be Confused With Legit Whoopie Pies.

This recipe comes straight out of BFF Kellie's box.

i.e. Legit Whoopie Pies.

The addition of raspberry curd is my own just to dress them up for Valentines Day and because raspberry never made anything taste worse.

For a truly original version, just make the cake/cookie and filling and Enjoy!

**Another seemingly huge recipe, but DON'T WORRY! Just break it down into parts and take your time! It is a lot to accomplish in one day so make your curd first. It can easily sit a couple of days in the refrigerator. Then make the cookie/cake portion. I do the filling last.**

Whoopie Pies
Mix until smooth:
1 cup cocoa
1 cup hot water

Cool 5 minutes.

Cream together:
1 cup shortening
3 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
cooled cocoa mix from above

Sift together:
5 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to above mixture alternately with :
1 cup buttermilk

Make sure you mix well (but don't over mix!) or you'll get pie halves that do this:

Scoop onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheet using a large level scoop (I use the 3 Tblsp. size for large pies. I get about 20-24 finished pies. You could use a 2 Tblsp. size.) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-11 minutes. Cool on pan a minute, then remove to a cooling rack. When cooled, set aside. Keep unused batter in refrigerator until ready to bake.

Filling for Whoopie Pies

6 Tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoon vanilla (use clear vanilla if you want really white filling)

Mix the flour and salt in a small saucepan. Slowly whisk in milk. Stir and cook until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Cool in fridge.

Cream shortening and powdered sugar in a mixer. Add vanilla and chilled milk mixture. Mix well. I run the mixture through a sieve at this point just to get rid of any flour lumps. Return to mixing bowl and mix for 7 minutes. I use the wire whisks for the filling.

Fold in as much raspberry curd as you like according to your taste.


Match up the whoopie pie cookies as best as you can. Spread filling on one half and sandwich with matching half. I like a lot of filling, use what you want. I individually wrap whoopie pies and store in the refrigerator (or freezer).

Give these a try and as always, I'd love your feedback!

Raspberry Curd

This is good stuff, man.
I mean,
it's 'take-a-taste-to-see-how-it-turned-out-and-then-forget -that-you-actually-made-it-for-a-specific-purpose-and-keep-spooning-it-in-your-mouth-with-abandon!'

I think I'm a curd fan for life. If you've got puree or juice, or nectar; you've got the beginnings of some delicious yum! I made this particularly for the Valentine Whoopie Pies, but I could see it used in many ways:

1. Cupcake filling
2. Served with raspberry scones
3. Mixed with butter for rolls or frybread
4. Layered in a cake or pie
5. On pancakes or crepes.......

Possibilities are unlimited! It's not difficult, but it does require a few specifics:

1. A non-reactive pan to cook it in.
If you have a glass or stainless steel double boiler, super!!
If not, fashion one, like I do:

Take a medium-sized stainless kitchen bowl and place it on a smaller saucepan containing an inch or two of water. As long as the water is not touching the bottom of the pan it will work. I use this to melt chocolate, make pastry cream, curds, anything you would need a double boiler for! It works like a charm! You can easily control the heat by how much water is in the bottom pan and the temperature of your stove! If you use a pan with reactive metals, like aluminum, it will react with the acidity of your ingredients and impart a metallic taste to your curd.

It's now ruined.
Don't do it.

2. Actual raspberries.
Frozen is fine.

3. Butter.
Lots of it.
Unsalted, please!

4. Plastic wrap.
To place directly over the top of your curd.
So it doesn't form that yukky dried-out skin on the top.
Don't skip this step.
That's pretty much it! Are you ready?

Let's begin!

Raspberry Curd:

10 oz. fresh or frozen raspberries (thaw if using frozen)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
juice from half a medium lemon (about 2 tsp.)

6 Tablespoons butter--cut into Tablespoon-sized chunks.

Puree raspberries. Run through a sieve small enough to catch the seeds. Measure enough puree to equal 3/4 cup. You might get a different amount using fresh vs. frozen, so be ready to puree more raspberries if needed.

Fashion a double boiler using a medium, non-reactive (stainless steel is great) bowl fitted over a small pan with an inch or so of simmering water. Or if you actually have a double boiler, great!

Pour 3/4 cups raspberry puree, sugar, Egg yolks, and lemon juice into the double boiler. Stir well and let cook over simmering water until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chunks of butter. Mix until butter is melted.

Strain through sieve again and place into a small bowl. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of curd. Lay some plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd and set in fridge to cool.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Garlic Knots--Another App idea for the Super Bowl

The last week in December, My Sil (emphasis on sister; the in-law is just a formality...) Tonja, took Kellie and I to Este Pizzaria in SLC. It's one of her favorite places to visit and she wanted to share. The pizza itself was superb, but it was the app we ordered that wouldn't leave my mind!

Garlic Knots!!!

I was in heaven! I love bread, I love garlic, I love to dip stuff....YUM!!
I immediately came home and tried to recreate! Of course I went to Google searching for recipes. Little did I know that Garlic Knots have become quite the popular little item! Versions were represented everywhere! Why hadn't I been paying attention?!??

Shame on me for slacking off!

Essentially, Garlic Knots are pizza dough (duh) rolled and wrapped into a knot and baked.
Then topped or tossed with a garlicky topping.

I decided on WORC's recipe 'cause, come on...their
pics are gorgeous and I love that they made them at a cafe.

Since everyone is different and I like my stuff a certain way,
I did end up changing a few things, but this is your journey! Make them six different times/ways like I did! What can a few extra batches of garlic knots hurt?

(Actually, I was trying to recreate as close as I could to Este's.
Theirs were softer and less pretzel-like.
So my proportions and some ingredients are different.
Also, my method for shaping.)

MMmmmm!!....I'm eating one right now! They are great made ahead
and re-heated, and sublime dipped in a marinara sauce.
Last night I made them to go with
I could have eaten 12 dipped in that sauce alone!!
I hardly touched the chicken!!

Your SuperBowl Party peeps would love it if you made these!

Garlic Knots
adapted from WhiteOnRiceCouple
Makes about 3 dozen

You can mix these by hand but I use a Bosch mixer.

1 3/4 cups very warm water
4 tablespoons butter--melted
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (Costco has a store brand I like for cooking. This amount might be too much if you're using table salt. You'll have to be the judge.)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
4 1/4 cups AP flour

4 tablespoons melted butter for tossing

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced or crushed garlic
2 tablespoons dried parsley (fresh is better, but I rarely have it on hand)

Maldon sea salt (you can just throw in a few pinches of regular sea salt, but I loved the crunch this flaky, beautiful salt gave the final product. It's pricey, but so yummy to use to finish things off. I ordered it from Amazon (free Super Saver Shipping item!) as I've never actually seen it for sale around here. So good on salted caramels and toffee!!)

Place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl. Measure out the warm water in a separate bowl and add the yeast. Let sit a few minutes until it begins to proof. Drizzle the 4 tablespoons melted butter over the flour. Mix together. Add the water/yeast mixture and mix until dough forms a ball. It should be cleaning the sides of the bowl. Dough will still be sticky.

Put dough into a large bowl that has been oiled with olive oil. Cover with a cloth and let double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

I portion my dough into 1 ounce balls using a scale, but it ends up being about 34-36 golf-ball sized balls. Roll out each portion into a 7-8 inch snake. Cross ends and pull one end up through the hole to form a knot. They should look something like these:

You can either bake in cast iron pans like this, or on a baking sheet that has been oiled or buttered.

Brush with melted butter on the top and cover and let rise until doubled--about 30 minutes.

While rising, melt the unsalted butter and olive oil together in a small pan over medium heat. Add the parsley and minced garlic and let soften in butter/oil mixture for 20 minutes or so. Este's garlic was very raw and delicious, which I loved, but some prefer a more mellow garlic.

When rolls have doubled in size, bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes. They should be browning on top.

Dump the rolls right off the pan into a large bowl and toss with the melted butter. Then you can either dress them with the garlic topping by drizzling it over the warm rolls and tossing, or individually scoop the topping on like this:

One way is messy and quick, the other precise, time-consuming and pretty! Either way they are delicious! If you have time, make a scrumptious marinara to dip into. So, so delicious!!

If you try them, let me know what you think!

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