Monday, September 26, 2011

Going Dark

My blog is going dark for awhile.  My Grandma passed away unexpectedly.  I'll head to Cincinnati in two weeks for a memorial service.  This gives us time to wait for my brother to come home from Afghanistan.  Please keep my family in your prayers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Friends and family descended upon us today for a fun-filled week.  The freezer is full of homemade goodies, the menu is planned in a spreadsheet (of course), and the first dinner is behind us.  I made tapas tonight...three rounds plus dessert.

Round 1: Balsamic Bean Dip with veggies and pitas, fried green maters with ranch dressing
Round 2: Land's End (Homer, Alaska) Crab and Artichoke Dip with soft baguette, deviled eggs with pickled jalapenos.  Thanks to my mother in law for bringing 24 ounces of fresh dungeness crab!
Round 3: Trader Joe's Chicken Pot Stickers with homemade dipping sauce
Dessert Round:  Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (pictured below) and Lemon Sandwich Cookies

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Recipe

3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 T. cinnamon
1 T. ginger
1 T. cloves
2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
3 c. chilled pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Filling
3 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use silpats. 

In a bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger together and set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined.  Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly.  Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.  Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cookies comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling, sift the confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.  Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until it is completely smooth, with no visible lumps.  Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.

Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Be careful not to overbeat the filling, or it will lose structure.  Note:  The filling can be made one day ahead.  Let the filling soften to room temp before using.

Assemble the pies:  Turn half of the cookies upside down (flat side facing up).  Use a spoon to drop a large dollop onto the flat side of the cookie.  Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling.  Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie.  Repeat until all the cookies are used.  Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

This recipe is from a wonderful cookbook, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  One of my morning rituals is to drink coffee and read cookbooks that I borrow from the library.  This is a great read with super baking tips.  I encourage you to check it out!

P.S.  Email me if you want the delicious crab and artichoke dip recipe!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And then there were 11

This afternoon, I went out to feed the chickens and check for eggs.  Then, I went to the garden to pick ripe raspberries and tomatoes.  As soon as I opened the door to the garden, which is attached to the coop, I spotted a dead gutted buff chicken without a head on the ground.  Course, I took off running to the house....

"Dead chicken in the garden!  Dead chicken in the garden!" I screamed to Emil who was up in the loft.  My scream was a little high pitched, so Emil didn't quite understand me.

"It's a buff!  It's a buff!" I yelled as I ran up the stairway. 

Emil still didn't understand my screaming.  "Just shoo it out of the garden."

"NO!  DEAD chicken in the garden," I said slowly, no longer hungry for lunch despite my morning bike ride.

We have different theories on how the buff ended up in the garden and what predator had a tasty snack.  He thinks a skunk or raccoon entered the coop somehow and opened the door to the garden.  My theory involves a big bird who swooped in while the chickens were free ranging, grabbed her, and then dropped her in the garden because she was squirming too much. 

We really could use Chicken CSI to determine time of death.  Wet feathers in the garden lead us to believe an early morning snack or sometime before lunch.

So, now we're down to 11 chickens.  I love the chickens, so I want to keep them safe.  Emil upgraded the coop security this afternoon.  Keep your fingers crossed for no more losses!

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Recipe #2: Pork Carnitas

You may notice I skipped over mentioning new recipe #1.  That's because it wasn't all that tasty.  However, I found success with this new recipe for the handy slow cooker.  I combined two recipes and didn't measure much as usual.

Shredded and ready to go in a tortilla

1 boneless pork shoulder or loin roast (2-3 pounds), trimmed and cut into 3-inch cubes
1/2 to 3/4 c. lime juice
Salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 onion, cut into quarters

In a slow cooker, toss in the pork shoulder.  Season with the above spices to taste.  Don't be stingy with the oregano, cumin and salt.  Pour in the lime juice.  Add onion and garlic.

Cook on high for one hour.  Then turn to low and continue to cook for 8-10 hours or until the meat is very tender.  Shred the pork with two forks (meat may look a little pink).  Then, set up a burrito bar with sour cream, salsa, avocado, monterey jack cheese, and any other goodies.

Note:  The onion cooks down into some dang good deliciousness.  Next time, I'll add another couple of onions.

On another subject...I just finished a HILARIOUS book that had me laughing out loud.  It's called I'm with Fatty:  Losing Fifty Pounds in Fifty Miserable Weeks by Edward Ugel (blogger on Huffington Post).  The book chronicles his journey through weight loss, joining a gym, doing a cleanse, and falling off the food wagon many many times.  There are no recipes, no diet he's following and wants to share with's more about his love of good food and his thought process as he goes through this whole project.  I definitely recommend the book! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Help

I loved the book.  Totally loved it.  Read it last year and promptly gave it to Emil to read.  He enjoyed it as well.  I finally gave in and saw "The Help" alone today while Emil saw "Harry Potter 18."  The movie surprised me....from the trailer, it looked like a comedy, so I was a little apprehensive to see the movie since I knew it was a serious book.  Emma Stone did a fantastic job, and the movie didn't stray too much from the novel.  Did you know the author was turned down 60 times from publishers????  Seriously!

Broke down today and bought a bike computer.  I am not a biker!  And, buying a little gadget that tells me how far I've biked still doesn't make me a biker.  But, I've been biking 10-14 miles (estimates) every day, so it was time to start tracking and keeping a ride log.  Still not a biker....

It's hot here...90+ degrees, so I am going to lay on the couch and read my book. Also, I'm trying three new recipes this week, so I'll keep you posted on any winners. 

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Terrific Turkey Meatballs

I love cooking and baking.  You all know that.  It makes being on WW a little more challenging.  Last night, I made turkey meatballs and served them with marinara (jarred Classico) and lowfat mozzarella cheese on a lightly toasted Crustini roll.  Side note:  These rolls are SO GOOD.  Came upon them last week at Fred Meyer, and now they are on sale.  Woo Hoo!  They are super soft and perfect for all kinds of sammies.

Since I punt with most recipes, I'll give you the barebones, so you can adjust to your taste.

1 pack ground turkey (85/15 for a moist meatball)
2/3 c. seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs or 1 egg and 1 egg white
Healthy splash of Worcestershire sauce
Healthy splash of milk
Couple of minced garlic cloves
Generous palm-full of parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Mixture will be super moist.  Roll into meatballs - size of a golf ball and toss into a skillet over medium heat, coated with olive oil.  Brown them on both sides (all sides if you are adventurous).  Place on a cookie sheet, lined with greased aluminum foil (easy clean up), and then bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.  While they are baking, smear a bit of butter on the Crustini rolls, and toast them on a flat skillet until golden brown.

Let everyone build their own sammy...I sliced the meatballs in half and did mine open faced, topped with marinara and cheese.

Here's a picture of Emil's sammy with a super ripe peach for his side item:

Off to do a bike ride.  I've been biking 10-11 miles a day, so I can still eat my daily serving of popcorn every day!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Palmie the Hunchback and Other Wildlife

As you recall from my earlier posting, one of our chicks has a slightly abnormal shape.  I'm not sure how else to describe it, other than "hunchback."  We named her Palmetto (Palmie for short) since she's shaped like South Carolina, where I grew up.  She and the other chicks are pretty skittish and a little camera shy.  Emil did a great job capturing a picture of her in the yard.

Palmie, the chicken torpedo is chasing you!

Either hunchback or no neck.  Which is it?
The mule deer are around nearly every day to visit and say hello.  There are several fawns with fading white spots.  So cute!

This morning, we rode our bikes with the Burly Trailer to Wal-Mart and back for some groceries and exercise.  Nine miles roundtrip, and I pulled the trailer almost the entire time minus the hill to the house.  I am not a biker.  Repeat.  I am not a biker.  Nevertheless, I will endeavor to do it again so I can decrease the time it took to ride there and back.

I'm so glad to be back in the kitchen and not camping/cooking on one burner.  I made Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars for Emil since he LOVES cookie dough.  Mine look exactly like the picture and are delish!  I'm careful not to splurge since they are so many Weight Watcher points.

I am also experimenting with some cinnamon-heavy recipes for our favorite first guests this fall.  These turned out pretty good.  Okay, I didn't exactly follow the recipe and mixed some of the stuff by hand.  I'm old school.  AND without my handy Kitchenaid mixer (packed in a box in Alaska).  I'll continue to hunt for the perfect recipe for our company.

Enjoy the long holiday weekend!