Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dinner - Captain Hollywoodland Chicken Strips

I have long been a fan of themed restaurants, which should come as no surprise considering they were all the rage during my childhood. I loved them so much, I even had a little graphing paper notebook filled with theme restaurant floor plans and ideas. Yeah, I was kind of a strange child. (To this day, I would love to own a restaurant and if I could only find that darn notebook, I am sure my younger self would have had some great ideas.)

The idea for these chicken strips comes to us from that fantastic early-90s themed restaurant Planet Hollywood. Sadly, the restaurant went through a bit of a rough patch in the late 90s prompting the close of many branches, including the branches I had attended as a kid.

Fast forward to a couple years ago. Matt and I saw Planet Hollywood while vacationing in Las Vegas. I begged to go have the fantastic Cap'n Crunch Chicken Strips (AKA World Famous Chicken Crunch), so we had them alongside two cocktails and a statue from Terminator. The chicken strips were every bit as tasty as I recalled!

I have always wanted to make something similar at home, so I adapted a recipe that included corn flake cereal to instead contain Cap'n Crunch. The cereal gives these chicken strips that same delicious sweet crunch found at Planet Hollywood.

On a side note, if you have heard (as I did) that Cap'n Crunch was being discontinued, I am happy to say that it is just a crazy internet hoax. I hope you make these chicken strips in celebration!

Captain Hollywoodland Chicken Strips

-1 tablespoon oil
-4-1/2 cups crushed Cap'n Crunch cereal (Crushed it makes about 2-1/2 cups)
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon pepper
-1/2 cup flour
-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
-2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line large baking pan with foil, brush with oil.

In bowl, combine cereal, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In separate bowl, combine flour with remaining salt and pepper.

Coat chicken with flour mixture, shaking off excess. Dip into egg, then coat with cereal again. Place on pan.

Bake until golden and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

Dinner - Lasagna Bolognese-Style

Matt and I were looking for a meal that we could make in a decent amount of time. This meal from Rachael Ray was listed as a "30 minute meal", however it does take a bit longer than that...perhaps 45 minutes to an hour! There is a bit of prep to do with this one, for instance: pre-cooking lasagna noodles and chopping onion and garlic.

This is no traditional lasagna, as it is not formed in layers of pasta and meat sauce. Rather, the noodles and meat sauce in this dish are combined then poured into a casserole dish, topped with sauce and cheese and baked.

It was not a bad meal, and afforded us plenty of leftovers. I could see making this again in the future, as an alternative to traditional lasagna.

If you would like a printable version of this recipe, please see this website.

Lasagna Bolognese-Style

-Salt and Pepper
-1 pound lasagna noodles, broken into irregular pieces
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1-1/2 pounds ground beef (we used ground turkey)
-1 onion, finely chopped
-2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-1 small carrot, finely chopped
-1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped (we used dried rosemary, a teaspoon or so)
-Sprinkle of ground cloves
-1/4 cup tomato paste
-1 cup white wine
-2 cups beef stock
-3 tablespoons butter
-2 rounded tablespoons flour
-2 cups whole milk
-Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
-Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (sub parmesan or romano if desired)

Cook pasta as directed on package until it reaches al dente.

(If you have a dutch oven, use it now! If not, use your normal pot and transfer to a casserole dish below).

Heat the olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook well. Add onion, garlic, carrot, rosemary, cloves, with a dash of salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 7-8 minutes. Stir in tomato paste for 1 minute, then stir in wine for 1 minute. Stir in stock and simmer a few minutes longer.

Preheat the broiler and position rack in center of the oven. In saucepan, melt butter over med heat. Whisk in flour and milk, then let thicken to coat a spoon. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Toss pasta with meat sauce and arrange in casserole dish. Pour the sauce over the top evenly. Top with cheese of your choice and broil in the oven to brown the top.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dinner - Wasabi Beef

Sorry to leave you all with no new recipes as of late. I am super excited to have my computer up and working again! It has a power cord that sometimes does not charge, but somehow my husband got it to work!! So I am really happy to be back with a lot of new recipes. Hopefully they will all be up within the week.

We've been really pleased with the delicious new dishes we have been trying lately. Everything has been quite tasty, but I wanted to start off with the one that was our favorite. We have actually made this twice since my little hiatus. It is a really good alternative to Beef Stroganoff, and has just a hint of horseradishy kick. It is simply delicious over egg noodles, although Matt did take some for lunch over rice so feel free to choose your favorite!

This recipe comes to us from Penzey's. It was a tear-off recipe card in their retail store a couple months ago, and seeing it influenced me to purchase a small jar of their natural wasabi powder to try this dish. This dish is simple enough to be completed in a half hour or less, and while it says it serves 2, we found that it made enough for 4 meals.

Wasabi Beef

-8 oz. strip steak (I'll be honest, we go cheap on the meat in the Kiefer Kitchen, so we used 8 oz. of those stir fry beef strips and it worked great! Double the recipe and use a pound of meat for plenty of leftovers)
-1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (plus a little extra to sprinkle on noodles)
-1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (plus a little extra to sprinkle on noodles)
-1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
-4 oz. egg noodles, wide or extra wide (we just made the entire bag...and had leftovers)
-2 teaspoons olive oil
-2 teaspoons rice vinegar (found near the Asian foods section, this stuff rocks and we use it a lot)
-1 teaspoon natural wasabi powder
-1 teaspoon water
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-Salt to taste

Prepare pasta as directed on package.
Wash the meat and pat dry. Rub both sides of beef with the ginger, garlic, and pepper.
Heat a pan over med-high heat. Cook beef until medium (4-5 minutes per side). Remove from the pan and let rest.
Drain noodles and toss with olive oil, a sprinkle of garlic and a sprinkle of ginger. Add rice vinegar and toss to coat.
Mix wasabi powder with water and stir to blend. Mix with the soy sauce.
Add meat to the noodles, drizzle with the wasabi-soy mixture, and toss again to combine and blend flavors.
Salt to taste and serve.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dessert - Orange Pound Cake

I made this recipe a few months ago, as a treat for hula class. My hula teacher is always doing me the favor of bringing some of her fave Hawaiian cookbooks to class for me to borrow. Problem with this is that I always like the cookbooks SO much that I end up purchasing a copy for my own collection!! (Yes, I love Hawaiian cookbooks so much that I somehow own at least 15 different ones.)

This recipe for Orange Pound Cake comes from one of these cookbooks she let me borrow, Cooking With Hawaiian Magic by Lee and Mae Keao. This cookbook has a fantastic variety of foods and desserts, also basic directions on how to do things related to Hawaiian cooking, and even tells you how to grow your very own pineapple! Consider that added to my list of things to do!

The cake has a nice light and delicious flavor, and is spiked with a healthy dose of bourbon! So really, you can't go too wrong with this one. It would be excellent alongside a nice cup of tea, or with your favorite cup of Kona coffee.

The only issue I had with this cake is one of my own accord...fully avoidable. I made this cake in a bit of a rush, so it was removed from the pan before it was cooled fully. Make sure that you cool the cake entirely, otherwise half of it will emerge from the pan crumbly. It was sad, but fortunately cake crumbs taste just as delicious as cake! If you are into making trifles, this cake recipe would also be great as the base for a trifle.

Orange Pound Cake


-1 cup margarine
-2 cups sugar
-5 eggs
-3 cups flour
-3 teaspoons baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-3/4 cup orange juice (must be fresh, not frozen)
-Grated rind of 1 orange

-1/4 cup margarine
-1/3 cup bourbon
-2/3 cup sugar

Grease and flour a tube pan (I used a Bundt pan and it worked fine). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the cake, cream the margarine and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix dry ingredients together in another bowl, then add to wet batter alternating with orange juice, and ending with orange juice. Add grated rind.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in oven for 1 hour. Remove cake from oven.
Prepare the glaze by heating glaze ingredients in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Do not let this mixture boil!!
Prick the top of the cake with a fork and pour glaze evenly over the cake. Leave in pan until fully cooled. Enjoy!
Serves 10.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Canning - Limelight-Island Curd

If there is one book you should check out regarding canning, it is this delightful Lip Smackin' Jams & Jellies by Amy and David Butler. You may recall me mentioning this book before, in my blog about my first attempt at canning which I used their recipe for Whole Strawberry Jam.

There are several recipes that I have my eye on trying in this book, and I finally got to trying this delicious limelight-island curd. Now, I have never made a "curd" before, and to be quite honest the thought seemed a bit daunting. Let me tell you firsthand, it is pretty easy, the only things you need to worry about are the freshness of the eggs used in the recipe and the amount of time you allow it to cook. If you overheat this one, you could end up with a funky taste due to the eggs. On that note, be sure it does not boil!

You may be wondering what you could do with a lime curd. Well, you could put it on scones, toast, add it to a cream pie, or put it in cupcakes or a cake! I plan/hope to use some of this lime curd in a cupcake recipe I found that normally calls for lemon curd. Or you can just have a spoonful of it as a treat.

To be honest, I had to freeze this stuff immediately as I would have probably eaten a 1/2 cup of it if I kept tasting it! It was just so good! Perhaps it was due to never trying a lime curd before, or maybe this recipe is just really perfect. I'm not sure, but I definitely hope you try this one. It almost reminds me of the filling on those wonderful lemon bars, sweet, citrusy and smooth.

The curd was supposed to have a little coconut flavor as well, but I'm thinking that the coconut milk we used (powdered) doesn't have quite the punch that regular coconut milk does. I hope you decide to try this, and if you do let me know what you think!

Please note that this recipe contains raw eggs! I don't believe this recipe gets quite hot enough to be entirely A-OK. I can't find the FDA warning, but If that makes you squeemish, please either avoid this recipe or locate some sort of pasteurized egg product.

Limelight-Island Curd

-1 cup sugar
-Grated zest of 1 lime
-1/4 cup fresh lime juice
-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
-4 whole eggs and 1 extra egg yolk
-10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1" pieces (I used my go-to salted and it seemed to be fine)
-Pinch of nutmeg (freshly ground hopefully! I need to do a blog post about nutmeg...)
-2 tablespoons coconut milk (we used powdered with added water to make a liquid)

Mix sugar, nutmeg and lime zest together in a bowl.
In non-reactive medium saucepan, add lemon and lime juices, eggs, egg yolk, butter, and sugar mixture. Combine.
Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add coconut milk and cook until mixture is thickened.
Remove pan from the heat before it starts to boil.
Pour through a sieve into a bowl.
Cover top of curd with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Alternately: Jar and seal in sterilized jars, but note that the curd will only hold 1 week in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to 2 months. To use, defrost in refrigerator overnight.
This made approximately 1 pint of curd.

Dinner - Summer Vegetable Pasta

This recipe took a while for me to convince Matt about. He'll probably disagree on that... but he really doesn't like squash so he didn't want to try this initially. He did enjoy it, which was good!

Basically, this is a great pasta dish for summertime as it uses several items you can pick up fresh from your garden or local farmers market. For ours we used garlic and zucchini from our favorite stands, and basil from our own plant. It is a really simple meal, but definitely showcases the fresh grown delights in a simple fashion.

We ate this pasta dish hot, however it seems as if it would be delicious cold as well. You could probably even take it on a picnic while you savor these last days of summer (I know! I hate to say it...). You could also serve this as a side dish sort of pasta salad.

This was a very easy dish to make and took around 30 minutes from start to finish. Maybe add a few minutes extra to start the pasta water boiling. The flavor is nice and light, coming from the Swiss cheese and garlic. The vegetables add a nice healthy kick and you could probably add any other summer veggies if you'd like.

Recipe comes to us from an old issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray, and if you'd like a nice printable version, please click here!

Summer Vegetable Pasta

-1 pound corkscrew pasta
-1/4 cup olive oil
-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
-3 zucchini (about 1 pound), thinly sliced (we used small green and yellow zucchini)
-4 ears corn, kernels scraped off (if you're lazy like us, just dump in a can of corn with the water drained!)
-6 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
-Salt and pepper (to taste)
-1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Cook pasta and drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Keep the pot by the oven and throw the pasta in a bowl, covering with tin foil to keep warm.
In small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add half the garlic, cooking until golden, about 30 seconds, then stir in breadcrumbs and remove from heat.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the large pasta pot and heat over medium, adding the remaining garlic. Cook until golden, then add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes).
Add corn, cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Add 1 cup cheese and toss, seasoning with the salt and pepper.
Add remaining cheese and basil into the breadcrumb mixture.
Serve up the pasta, sprinkling each serving with some of the breadcrumb mixture.
Says it serves 4, but the way we made it looks to serve about 6.

Side Dish - Buca's Garlic Bread

I always really enjoy making copycat recipes at home. There's just something about being able to make a dish that compares to something you have had on a night out. Today's recipe does not disappoint, after recently visiting Buca di Beppo for my sister's birthday.

I can honestly state that this recipe is really close to the original, with the added bonuses of easy preparation, inexpensive ingredients (if you're like me you have them all in your pantry and fridge), and a mere 15 minutes from start to finish. It really is a delicious accompaniment to your favorite pasta or Italian style dish.

This recipe comes from a great book called Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur. If you'd like to enjoy a restaurant meal at a fraction of the price, you will love Todd's books. He has several out, including a low-fat version (complete with recipe for Cinnabon rolls!!). The website above is pretty cool too, as it has loads of free restaurant knock off recipes under the "recipes" tab.

Buca's Garlic Bread

-1 loaf Italian bread (we used a loaf from Sciortino's Bakery here in Milwaukee. Groppi's carries these and lots of other delicious Italian bread!)
-1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
-6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese(omit if you want plain garlic bread, use this for the cheesy version!)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Slice bread in half through the middle (lengthwise)
Spread half of the butter on the face of each half of the loaf.
Place 3 cloves sliced garlic on each half of bread, covering the entire face of the loaf.
Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over each half.
If you would like a loaf of cheesy garlic bread, sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella on each half of the loaf.
Bake 10-12 minutes on a baking sheet until the top begins to brown. Slice and serve!

*Note: We cut the recipe in half and only used half a loaf of bread. You can use the other half to make it again another day, or for another use.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dinner - Roasted Cauliflower Risotto

Let me first apologize for the awful looking photo of this recipe! That being said, be sure you watch the cauliflower and almonds carefully while they are roasting, otherwise, like my photo, you will have pieces that are burnt rather than roasted. Sad.

All in all, this was a decent dish. It could use a protein with it, which would make it an even better side dish than a main course. We enjoyed it alright, and will likely keep this recipe around for a future dinner.

The things that I liked about this recipe were that it uses many things that you already have in your pantry. The items you need to buy for the recipe are relatively inexpensive, and it is a semi-elegant dish. So, if you're looking for a nice side dish to serve, this would fit the bill.

The recipe also did not take very long to make, less than an hour, and it uses the oven for about 15 minutes, so it could be perfectly timed to be finished at the same time as say a chicken breast or steak cooked on the stovetop.

Roasted Cauliflower Risotto
(From the March 2011 issue of the Food Network Magazine)

-1 head cauliflower, stems chopped and set aside, and florets cup into 1/2 inch pieces
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-Salt and pepper
-1/4 cup sliced almonds
-1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
-1-1/2 cups short-grain Italian rice (we used arborio)
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
-2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used salted and it tasted fine)
-4 ounces fontina cheese, grated
-1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Move oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Toss cauliflower florets with 1 tablespoon olive oil on a baking sheet. Spread in single layer and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 5 minutes on the upper rack. Add almonds and roast until cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes longer (check after 10 minutes to ensure they don't burn!).
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in Dutch oven over high heat. (We don't have a Dutch oven, so I used one of our cooking pots and transferred the contents to a casserole dish to finish baking at the end.) Add onion and cauliflower stems. Cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add rice and garlic. Cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
Add wine and cook, stirring until evaporated, another 1-2 minutes.
Add broth, 2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Cover and bring to a boil.
Transfer the Dutch oven to the lower oven rack and bake until rice is tender, about 15 minutes (this is the point where I transferred the food to the casserole dish. I lowered the temp to about 400 degrees and it seemed to work fine).
Remove rice from oven and add butter, fontina, and parsley, stirring until risotto is creamy, about 1-2 minutes.
Place in serving bowls and top with roasted cauliflower and almonds.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Canning - Sour Cherry Sauce

As of late, I have become completely obsessed with jarring and canning. So far, I have tried five different recipes, as of yet, the four I have tasted have made me want to jar everything I can. The fifth recipe, tomato salsa, requires a 2 week sitting for the flavors to meld. I'm counting down the days!

After I made the strawberry jam, I got an insane craving for those delicious cherry sundaes you can get at the Wisconsin State Fair. So, in honor of the fair opening today, I'll share the recipe so you can get your fix once the fair is all over.

If you've never had one of these cherry sundaes, run yourself over to the Wisconsin Products Pavilion at the fair and spend the $3 or whatever to get the best summer treat. While you're at the Products Pavilion, be sure to get your apple cider, apple cider doughnut, and cranberry cookie. You can tell this is my fave edibles place at the fair.

This cherry sauce is so good, and I think my favorite part of it is that the recipe uses pineapple juice to provide half of the sweetness, cutting down on the amount of sugar needed. The pineapple juice also give the sauce a little extra flavor kick.

While I really enjoy this sauce on ice cream, you can also use it for adding a great cherry taste to many things, for instance: waffles, pancakes, crepes (We tried this! So good!! Thanks Kali!), cheesecake, pie, and even stirred into plain or vanilla yogurt.

The only bad part of this recipe is pitting the cherries, but I enjoyed this task while sitting in front of the television. I don't own a cherry pitter, so I used a medium-sized straw to poke the pits through, and this seemed to work well.

I hope if you decide to try and jar one recipe this year that this will be it! The recipe makes a good amount without requiring an obscene amount of cherries. Also, if you're in the Milwaukee area, the West Allis Farmer's Market has a great cherry vendor who sells the smaller tart cherries for $2.50 a pint (or 2 pints for $4).

Sour Cherry Sauce

-4 & 1/2 cups fresh or frozen sour cherries, de-stemmed and pitted
-1 & 1/2 cups water
-3/4 cup pineapple juice
-1 cinnamon stick, 4 inches long
-3/4 cup sugar
-3 tablespoons cornstarch
-1/3 cup cold water
-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a medium non-reactive pot, combine cherries, water, pineapple juice, and cinnamon stick. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat when boil is reached, cover and boil gently for 10 minutes.

Remove cinnamon, then add sugar to cherries. Mix cornstarch with water and add to cherry mixture. Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered. After 5 minutes, or when clear and thickened, stir in the lemon juice.

Pack into sterilized jars to 1/2 inch from rim. Cover with lids and process in boiling water bath to keep for a year. If you're not using sterilized jars, store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks, or freeze. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dinner - Taco Supper Skillet

Matt and I had a great, quick meal for dinner last night. It again comes to us from Betty Crocker, that great lady she is. (You can find a printable copy of this recipe here, or see how we altered it below.)

This meal is great because it takes literally 30 minutes to make. It's kind of the no-additives version of Hamburger Helper. Now, don't get me wrong as I LOVE the taste of Hamburger Helper, but there's just something about those seasoning packets and powdered topping packets that kinda grosses me out a bit.

If you, like me, have not had a Hamburger Helper meal in a while, and would like something similar, this meal is perfect! The added vegetables make you feel like you're eating something healthier (OK so there is really nothing that healthy about this dish, I admit it), and you can probably even add more veggies like peppers or even broccoli to this dish.

But let's be honest. This is one of those meals that tastes good and is decent in moderation! You get the nice home cooked flavor, and also the Mexican food craving satisfied all in one meal!

We made this in our skillet with sides, and it worked wonderfully! Just be sure that whatever pan/pot you use has a lid. I think you will enjoy this simple, one dish meal!

Taco Supper Skillet

-1/2 pound lean ground beef (we used a whole can also sub ground turkey)
-1 package (1 oz) taco seasoning mix (we used a couple tablespoons of Penzey's Bold Taco Seasoning, and a few dashes of Penzey's Arizona Dreaming)
-2 & 1/4 cups water
-1 & 1/2 cups uncooked wagon wheel pasta (we used shell pasta we had on hand)
-1 & 1/2 cups frozen corn
-1 can (15 oz) kidney, pinto, or black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 medium tomato, chopped (we used one from our tomato plant!! YAY!!)
-1/2 cup sour cream
-1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
-1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives (we omitted these since we didn't have any!)

In large skillet with sides, cook beef until browned and cooked thoroughly. Drain.
Stir taco seasoning, water, pasta, corn, beans, and tomato into beef.
Heat to boiling. Stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and COVER. Cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed (We used more beef than was called for, so our ratios were a bit off. I had to scoop out some of the liquid to get the correct consistency).
Stir in sour cream and remove from heat.
Sprinkle cheese and chives over the top. Cover and let stand 2-3 minutes or until cheese melts.
Serves 4.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dinner - Chinese Noodles with Ginger and Vegetables

Alright, well now that I have gotten a couple of projects out from under my belt (including organizing all my recipe clippings!) expect to see some new stuff on here soon. I have also been canning like crazy, so there will be some new recipes for that coming up soon as well.

Today's recipe comes from that Newlywed Cookbook. You may remember me talking about this cookbook in the previous entry for Linguine with Clam Sauce. Around the same time, we decided to try this recipe for Chinese Noodles with Ginger and Vegetables. The resulting dish was pretty delicious and did an excellent job of crushing our Chinese take-out craving.

The recipe itself was quite simple, and is great for summer as it is made entirely on the stovetop. You could also probably toss in some cooked chicken, beef, or pork. This recipe can also be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth called for.

It seems quite versatile with the vegetable options being nearly limitless. Feel free to try this with other vegetables typically found in Chinese take-out. It is a great basic dish that lends itself to using up whatever you have on hand!

Chinese Noodles with Ginger and Vegetables


-1/2 pound Chinese egg noodles (note: these are often sold under the name "mein" and look like spaghetti or fettucine. We found ours in the ethnic aisle near the ramen and canned chop suey.)
-2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
-2 carrots, peeled and cut to small, thin pieces
-1 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
-1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (we freeze chunks of ginger so it is always on hand! Works great!)
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-1 tablespoon cornstarch
-2 cups chicken broth (sub vegetable broth for vegetarian version)
-1/2 cup chopped green onions

In large pot, cook egg noodles according to package. Drain and move to a large bowl, covering with foil to maintain warmth.
Heat sesame oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. Saute 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp.
Mix cornstarch into chicken broth and add to skillet. Also add the green onions to the skillet at this time.
Simmer 1 minute or until sauce thickens (note: our sauce did not thicken a lot, but it still tasted good. It was more like a broth.)
Pour sauce over noodles and toss to combine.
Serves 2 (which is kind of a lie as we had enough left over for a few additional servings!).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Our Trip to Florida!

As I have written about in a few recent articles, Matt and I recently returned from a trip to Florida. We had a great time (well until the ride home!), so I wanted to do a little write up about some of the things we enjoyed the most and give you a little rundown of what we did.

We left Milwaukee in a rental car on Sunday. We got a little bit of a late start, so we didn't end up on the road until around 4 or 5 pm. Our plan for the drive was Milwaukee-Chicago-Indianapolis-Nashville-Chattanooga-Atlanta-Orlando. We made the drive in pretty good time.

We stopped a couple times on the way down for food and attractions:

-For dinner, we stopped in the Chicago area at one of our recent favorite destinations: Chef Shangri-La in North Riverside, IL. Chef Shangri-La is a great place, it is a Cantonese restaurant in a polynesian/tiki atmosphere. They offer a full array of delicious meal options and tropical drinks.

Matt and I each got a dinner option, Matt chose the Moo Shu Beef (I think) which he said was sooo delicious, and I chose the Tahitian Mango Passion Chicken, a dish that had a nice fruit tinge from the mango. Matt also ordered a drink, however I skipped it (sad) because I was driving! If you're ever in the area, at least stop in here for a drink, you won't be disappointed!

-We reached Nashville just in time for breakfast! We were double excited that we ended up there at that point in time, since the Pancake Pantry is located there!! If you love pancakes at all (you know I love them), you need to stop at this place at some point.

We visited a few years ago, when I had these delicious chocolate pancakes topped with a chocolate ganache syrup. They were incredible and tasted like someone made me a birthday cake from pancakes. They were probably the best pancakes I ever had.

Our second visit did not disappoint. I got cinnamon-sugar pancakes and Matt got sweet potato pancakes (I think). These came with a delicious cinnamon cream syrup. The syrup was so good I really wish we had the recipe! It was not overly sweet but had a nice cinnamon flavor.

-Another stop was made in Chattanooga to check out the Moon Pie General Store. They had a lot of really cool things at this store, including any variety of Moon Pie you could wish for, and bottled sodas. They also have a full array of vintage themed items, and also any sort of Moon Pie memorabilia you seek.

It's not a bad place to stop, but keep these things in mind... the shop is really narrow with a display table down the center of it, which makes getting around the store really, really difficult. It was fairly crowded when we visited and after about 5 minutes, I needed to leave. We each ended up getting a pie, and they were really tasty! I got the double decker lemon, super delicious!

-In Atlanta, we decided to make a stop at the World of Coca Cola. Apparently they offer a soda tasting, so we decided to check it out. We were short on time, but really interested in re-sampling some of the sodas we had in Japan. Let me just say that we would gladly pay the $16 fee to get into the World of Coca Cola, but in order to get to the soda you have to watch a half hour film, go through 2 museums, and who knows what else. Which, if we had a lot of time at our dispense, would be totally fine!
So we decided to leave and continue on our journey. The parking guys were really nice, and since we decided not to go to the museum, they gave us a free pass out of the structure! Score!

-We stopped in at Lane Southern Orchards on our way to Orlando. They offer a wonderful shop full of fresh produce and souvenirs. They also have a nice little cafe where you can get a full array of foods. We stopped in at the cafe for the famous peach cobbler. They top the piping hot cobbler with your choice of ice cream for a mere dollar more. Matt had his cobbler topped with fresh butter pecan ice cream, and I had mine topped with peach ice cream. So good after a long drive!! We also picked up a large bag of fresh pecans, and some gifts for our parents.

We finally ended up Orlando, pulling in pretty late, around midnight or one on Monday. A word of warning if you decide to drive in Orlando, they have crazy mad tolls!!! We had no idea, and I think we sorta screwed up since we probably overpayed the tolls... but they give you a card and when you get off the tollway you pay a TON of tolls. It's worse than Chicago!! There is another freeway you can take, but it takes a lot more time. So I guess you have to think in terms of time vs. money.

Our first day in Florida, we stopped at (Matt's choice) Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. This place actually surprised me, in that the drinks were made well and that the food was actually really good. We started with the conch fritters, which were really good! Kinda like little hushpuppies dotted with hints of seafood. I also had a guava margarita (so good) and a pulled pork sandwich with guava BBQ sauce! Matt had the special, which was a sort of fish (I think Mahi Mahi).

After lunch, we took some time to explore the shops at Universal City Walk. A good thing to note if you're headed there, if you stop for lunch and keep your time within 2 hours, you can get your valet ticket validated prior to 2pm for free parking! All you pay is the valet tip. This was a nice surprise as we were prepared to pay $15 to park.

Matt needed to take care of some rental car stuff, so he headed out to do that. When he returned, he took me to a great record shop, Rock and Roll Heaven. If I had unlimited time and money, I would need to head here again. They have a huge stock of 45 records, full length vinyl, and also a great selection of CDs. I picked up a 45 I'd been looking for, and also a UK import of some girl groups. Score!

We also headed up to Daytona Beach to meet up with some friends who live in Florida (hi Vanessa!). We stopped at some of the shops and stuff there, and it was kind of crazy to see how past its hayday Daytona Beach is. They did have a nice, newer area with shopping and restaurants and also a large outdoor bandshell. We found a nice spot to have some appetizers and drinks there called Mai Tai. (Please pardon the bizarro website for that place!!) The food and drinks were really surprisingly good.

The next stop on our Florida tour was to head down to the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area to get Matt a Cuban sandwich and to get me to the Mai Kai. All I will say about the Mai Kai is it is completely awesome. So awesome that it is getting its own blog post soon.

We stopped at Miami Beach for lunch, and ended up at a nice little cafe serving Brazilian food called Cypo Cafe. The food was extremely delicious, and we also tried something new to us - cashew juice! An interesting flavor, a little sweet and a tad sour all at once. I had a fantastic garlic chicken served with beans and rice. Prices here were reasonable and the food tasted homemade. You can tell that the owner of this shop and his employees are enthusiastic. I hope this place gets load of business because it is the real deal.

We headed down to the beach after lunch, where we got to take a dip in the beautiful warm Florida waters. We saw a sting ray leap out of the water a couple times, which was really pretty cool!! It was nice and really relaxing. After the beach, we headed to find a Cuban sandwich. We found it at a corner restaurant, open air, in Little Havana. Matt enjoyed the sandwich while we each enjoyed a "mojito" which was pretty much margarita mix with rum and a sprig of mint. Odd but oddly refreshing. After this, we headed over to the Mai Kai, which was everything I expected and more!!

Sadly, our trip had to come to an end. We began the drive home on Thursday, with the best intentions to stop and try to visit Matt's brother and some friends in Missouri. We hit a patch of heavy rain about 3 hours south of Atlanta, and the car fishtailed on the freeway, ending up with the rental in the ditch. It was such a bummer end to a great trip, but we were okay so it could have been way way worse.

We decided, at 4am, while in a seedy Knights Inn motel, that the cheapest option, aside from driving home (something we did not want to do after being shaken up from putting the car in the ditch!), was to take the Greyhound bus. Please never take the Greyhound farther than 5 hours. It is incredibly awful and I cannot believe people find this mode of transportation acceptable.

The best part of the ride was from Nashville or Louisville to Indianapolis (I think...I was pretty delirious at the time.). Our driver was absolutely hilarious and attempted to entertain us at various points on the drive. He also went above and beyond to make sure we got on the right bus (there was some confusion about our connection from Indianapolis to Chicago).

We finally got home, on schedule, Saturday afternoon at 2:30pm. About an hour before the rental car should have been back. Needless to say, we won't be taking a road trip again for a while! (Although we did have a great time!)

Breakfast - Orange Pecan Pancakes

We returned from our recent visit to Florida with a nice 5 pound bag of fresh, in-shell pecans and nearly half a bushel of fresh oranges! Naturally, I immediately wanted to make something delicious with these. I decided to use a recipe I found through Betty Crocker for Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Pancakes with Banana-Walnut Syrup and alter it slightly to fit the nuts and produce I had on hand.

Let me first talk about the pancakes. I have never made oatmeal pancakes before, and these turned out very light and fluffy! They were delicious but definitely soaked up the syrup more than I am used to with pancakes.

As for the syrup, I used the basic recipe above, but substituted an orange for the 2 bananas, and pecans for the walnuts called for. The resulting syrup was delicious! Delicately flavored with a slight tinge of orange, and the pecans added a nice bit of texture to the tender pancakes.

This recipe is a great, simple way to have a nice hearty breakfast. It is fairly quick to make and uses ingredients found in most pantries. I'd even recommend trying your own variation, for example, cherries and almonds!

Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Pancakes with Orange-Pecan Syrup


For syrup:
-2 tablespoons butter or margarine
-1/4 cup chopped pecans
-1 orange, sliced, sectioned and chopped
-1 cup maple-flavored syrup

For pancakes:
-2 cups Bisquick mix (we used the heart healthy variety and it worked fine!)
-1/2 cup old fashioned or quick-cooking oats
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-1-1/4 cup milk
-2 eggs

In small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add pecans and stir until butter begins to brown. Add oranges and stir to mix. Mix in the syrup and reduce heat to low. Cook until warm and keep warm while you make the pancakes.

Heat your favorite pancake griddle/pan until it is ready for cooking pancakes. A good rule of thumb my dad (the pancake master) taught me, is to throw a couple drops of water on the pan. When the drops of water sizzle and jump around on the pan, you know it is the perfect temperature! Be aware that you may need to grease your pan if it is not non-stick! Obviously do this before you heat it!

Mix together pancake ingredients above in a medium sized bowl. When the batter is well blended, spoon a trio of pancakes at a time onto the pan/griddle and cook each side until golden brown. Repeat until batter is gone.

Move pancakes to serving plates and top with a bit of the orange-pecan syrup mixture. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Side Dish - Fruit Pizza

For Matt's birthday, I decided to whip up one of my personal favorite recipes. This one comes to me from a long time family friend, Pat.

Pat cooks up the most delicious things; aside from fruit pizza, her other specialty are these delicious sugar cookies which (luckily for me!) showed up at probably half the birthday parties I attended throughout my youth, since she would bake them for both her own kids and for me and my sister on occasion too!

We look forward to enjoying fruit pizza whenever we head to her family's house for something special, and I can honestly say that everyone I know who has tried it has LOVED it. There's just something about mixing cookie dough with cream cheese and fruit that makes it taste fantastic.

The other great thing about this recipe is that it is very versatile. You can use whatever kind of fruit fits your fancy, whether it is fresh or canned. You could also probably use frozen fruit after it has been defrosted and drained.

The recipe is also fairly quick to make, with assembly taking part in 3 stages:
-Preparation of the "crust" (most time consuming as you need to wait for the crust to cool)
-Creation and spreading of the cream cheese "sauce"
-Applying the "toppings" of fruit

Be sure to cut the pizza into thin slices so you don't feel guilty when you go back to grab a second or third piece!!

Fruit Pizza

-1 log refrigerated sugar cookie dough
-1 (8 oz) container Cool Whip
-1 (8 oz) container cream cheese
-Fresh fruit or canned fruit of your choice (I used blueberry, strawberry, kiwi, and banana)

For the glaze:
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup orange juice
-1/4 cup water
-1 tablespoon corn starch
-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut sugar cookie dough into 1/8 inch slices and place on round pizza pan, slightly overlapping.
Leave 1/4 inch border around pan.
Bake 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.
Blend cream cheese and Cool Whip until smooth and spread over the cookie dough crust. Arrange sliced fruit in any order on top. (I like to make a pretty pattern, but feel free to do this however you want!)
To make the glaze, mix glaze ingredients listed above together, simmer in a small pot until it thickens to a glaze-like consistency, and let cool. Pour cooled glaze over the entire pizza, then put completed pizza into the refrigerator to chill. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dessert - Carrot Layer Cake

So we are finally back! We decided on a spur of the minute trip via rental car to Florida, mainly to catch some sun, take a dip in the ocean and visit the famous Mai Kai. For the past week, we've been discovering great things around Florida, and also having some crazy adventures... but more on this later! There's an entire blog article (or 3) waiting to be written on our trip.

The weekend before we left, we celebrated Matt's birthday. I chose the task of making him a birthday cake, so I asked him which sort of cake he would like. After some thinking, he decided on a carrot cake. I've never made a carrot cake from scratch, so it seemed like a great thing to try!

The cake was very easy to make, and could have been very quick to whip up....EXCEPT the carrots that needed to be shredded!! Yes. It was so annoying to shred 3 cups of carrots, by hand! Next kitchen appliance that we need to buy: a food processor that can shred stuff. So, after the carrots were shredded, this cake was really easy to make. You can probably buy those pre-shredded carrots, but this recipe specifically calls for finely shredded carrot.

Topping this cake with a traditional cream cheese frosting was a no-brainer, and since I have a couple favorite cream cheese frosting recipes, I decided to use one of those. I used tinted cream cheese frosting to decorate the cake, and also my Pampered Chef Decorator Bottle Set which made everything SO easy. I was shocked at how easy it was to clean the Pampered Chef set, so I need to recommend this most highly for anyone looking for a basic decorating kit. It is great and so much easier than messing with those piping bags.

On to the recipes! The carrot cake recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook which is one of the staples in our kitchen. It has so many great recipes for the basics, and also offers slight variations on the basics. For the carrot cake recipe, they suggest a ginger-carrot cake, which we actually used to make this cake! Basically, all you do is add 2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger to the egg, carrot and oil mixture below.

The cream cheese frosting recipe comes from Cupcakes! From the Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. This book is a great addition to any baker's cookbook shelf, as it offers over 100 recipes for cupcakes (which can also be made as regular cakes), and also a weighty chapter on many types of frostings. I have also used this frosting to accompany my favorite red velvet cupcakes, which also happen to be found in this book! Highly recommended.


Carrot Layer Cake (with a ginger twist)

-4 eggs, beaten
-2 cups flour
-2 cups sugar
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-3 cups finely shredded carrot (lightly packed)
-3/4 cup cooking oil
(-2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, if using)
-Recipe for cream cheese frosting (see below)
-Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans for garnish

Grease tw0 9x1-1/2 inch round cake pans (I believe the cake pans I have are 8 inch diameter, and I was able to get 3 round cakes from this size). Line bottoms with a round of waxed paper, grease the paper, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.

In another bowl, combine eggs, carrot, and oil (and ginger if using). Add egg mixture to flour mixture and combine well. Pour batter into the pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and allow to cool entirely on wire racks.

Fill and frost cake with cream cheese frosting (see below) and sprinkle with pecans (if using). Cover and store in refrigerator up to 3 days.


Cream Cheese Frosting

-1 (8 oz) package cream cheese (you can also use reduced fat cream cheese, it works well!)
-4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
-3 cups powdered sugar
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

This recipe makes about 3 cups of frosting. I doubled it to ensure having enough to frost the layers and the entire outside of the cake. Ended up with about a cup left over.

Combine cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl and blend on low speed until combined. Stop machine and add powdered sugar a bit at a time, blending on low until it reaches a nice consistency. Add the vanilla extract and mix. If the frosting seems a bit too thick to properly frost a cake, add a tablespoon or two of milk and mix well.
Frost cake as desired and enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dinner - "Chick-Fil-Ain't" Nuggets

I'll admit it. I have a slight love (bordering on obsession) for Chick-Fil-A's super delicious chicken nuggets. This love began when I tried them as a wee lass, back when Milwaukee still had their very own Chick-Fil-A in the Southridge Mall food court.

It was there in that newly-opened, early 90s fountains and pink neon food court, that I had my first bite of those chicken nuggets, with their perfectly fried crunchy yet sweet exterior, and their gloriously tender and meaty interiors. Although they were one of the most perfect fast foods I have (to this day) ever tasted, the Chick-Fil-A nuggets were to be short-lived at the Southridge food court. The restaurant closed sometime in the mid to late 90s if I'm correct.

We've been satisfying our nuggets craving thanks to the Regency Mall location in Racine, but it has become a once in a while treat instead of someplace we can just go whenever.

I came across a recipe for a knock-off Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich through that great Food Network Magazine. We tried this recipe as nuggets instead of a chicken patty, and man oh man, can I just tell you the knock-off is 98% accurate. Delicious!

Here's the link to the "Chick-Fil-Ain't" recipe, courtesy of the Food Network Magazine. If you're a huge Chick-Fil-A fan, I seriously recommend that you need to try this one. The nuggets turned out great, exactly replicating that famous crunchy outside with the juicy tender center. The deep frying is a bit annoying, but the result is so worth it!! We'll be making these again the next time that Chick-Fil-A craving hits.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Appetizer - "41" Twin Cheese Dip

Matt and I recently celebrated our second anniversary. Since we love cooking, my parents got us a cooking booklet to accompany our anniversary gift. The booklet is titled "Coca-Cola Refreshing Recipes".

It was funny, as I had flipped through this booklet while we were waiting to check out at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and it had many yummy looking recipes! Of course, they all either contain Coca-Cola or go well alongside a tasty glass of Coca-Cola! (The booklet should be on newsstands through August if you're interested in nabbing a copy.)

One recipe in particular stuck out to me as being possibly perfect for sharing as a party appetizer. We're headed to a 4th of July party at the home of some friends (Hi Tammy and Shawn!), so I decided it would be a perfect time to try this dip. It has many nice rich flavors in it, and the secret mystery ingredient - Coca-Cola!

I decided to slightly alter the recipe's original name ("Twin Cheese Dip") in homage to the drive-in theater we'd go as kids. This stuff is so good, it could replace that fake yellow cheese sauce on the nachos they sold there.

The dip turned out wonderfully, and I think it will be added to our permanent recipe collection. It was a snap to make, makes a TON, and contains many ingredients that we already had in our pantry and fridge. It also came together in about 15 minutes, so easy! I would recommend this for anyone looking for a quick and tasty appetizer. Hope everyone at the party tomorrow enjoys it!

41 Twin Cheese Dip

-12 oz (about 3/4 pound) shredded sharp Cheddar, grated
-4 oz Roquefort cheese (we used blue cheese which is apparently very similar), crumbled
-1 clove garlic
-3/4 cup Coca-Cola
-2 tablespoons margarine, softened
-1 tablespoon grated onion (we used reconstituted dried minced onion from Penzey's)
-1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
-1 teaspoon dry mustard
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (we used Sriracha)

Mix cheeses in mixing bowl. Put garlic through a garlic press and add to bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the Coca-Cola and the remaining ingredients. Mix to combine.

Use a food processor or blender to combine, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup Coca-Cola. Process until fairly smooth and fluffy. Chill overnight and serve with crackers or raw vegetables.
Makes 3 cups.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Canning - Whole Strawberry Jam

So I decided to begin canning with this recipe for strawberry jam. I had wanted to try my hand at canning for the past couple years, but never got around to it, thinking it was complicated and would involve way too much of a time commitment. While I will admit that it did take a bit of time to complete the process, it was nowhere near as complex as I had imagined!

Keep in mind, I had the bare essentials for my first canning, a simple kit from one of the large canning companies, and no rack for our large stockpot! Instead of a rack, I flipped one of our pie tins upside down and placed it in the bottom of the pot.

Let me just say that I do not recommend this method, and you better believe I totally picked up a genuine canning rack/jar lifter while we were at the grocery store today!! Thanks to this, I think the next canning project will be smooth as silk!

To can/jar items easily, optimally you would want the following items:
-Large stockpot
-A set of basic tools (This set looks amazing but you can get a decent starter kit at Target as well! Our local Target had an entire display of canning stuff.) My favorite tool from the kit I bought was a stick with a magnetic end for easily removing the lids from the hot water bath! Great idea.
-A set of canning jars, generally you will find these are made by Ball or Kerr (Can't find a good website for Kerr, sorry!)
-Another good sized stockpot to be used for making the item to be jarred
-A wire rack or jar lifter to remove the jars

I am probably forgetting some stuff you need, but feel free to read up on canning if you're going to undertake this sort of project. It definitely helps if you have instructions and read them through a few times. The book I used for reference (both for this specific recipe and for my canning instructions) was Lip Smackin' Jams & Jellies by Amy and David Butler. It is a nice book that not only gives you great recipes and instructions, but also great ideas for wrapping the jars to give as gifts! (Sorry, we just spoiled what everyone is getting for the holidays!)

This particular strawberry jam is pretty good, but a bit sugary for my tastes. I think next time I would try another recipe or attempt to lessen the sugar. It is a great jam for spreading on your morning toast, and would probably be really good spooned over ice cream or waffles. For a first attempt it was a nice basic recipe that is pretty easy.

I also want to add that the strawberries you find at the farmers market are perfect for this! They are a little tart and smaller than the berries found in the grocery store, but they have a super fresh taste that just screams summer!

Whole Strawberry Jam

-4 cups strawberries
-4 cups sugar
-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Wash the strawberries, then hull and measure into medium sized non-reactive pot. Mix sugar into the pot with the strawberries. Place pot over low heat and mix to combine until juices are released. Raise temperature and stop stirring. Allow to boil for 15 minutes. Be sure to watch carefully and adjust heat as necessary to prevent boiling over. Do not stir, but drag wooden spoon across bottom of pan to prevent sticking. After 15 minutes mixture should be set. Pour lemon juice over berries and let cool. When cool, stir the juice in, pour into sterilized jars and seal according to jar maker's instructions.
Makes 4-5 cups, or enough to fill 4-8 oz jars.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Snack - Baked Kale Chips

I heard of these kale chips a month or so ago. The recipe is currently circulating many blogs and food websites, and it is an interesting recipe simply because it claims to take something healthy and make it into something that resembles chips.

This was my first foray into eating kale, and it really was not that bad! These "chips" came out crispy, and sort of reminded me of nori (Japanese seaweed sheets) that you find in sushi. It really had that same crispiness to it, with the slight vegetable flavor.

The chips were fairly easy to put together, but they do require a bit of prep work including washing the kale and making sure it is thoroughly dry. If the kale is not dried properly, it will not crisp up and will steam instead. All the recipes I saw for this recommended giving the kale a whirl in a salad spinner, but since I don't own a salad spinner, I opted to sandwich the kale between two sheets of paper towel and press the water off the leaves. It seemed to work fairly well.

Now, I am not sure quite how healthy these remain, but you use olive oil to crisp the chips up, so I guess the oil is somewhat healthy. The chips are quite fragile, so don't expect to be able to scoop up salsa or anything!

Baked Kale Chips

-1 bunch of kale (I think it was a good 3 cups or so?)
-1-2 tablespoons olive oil (I used nearly 2, but would use less next time. A little goes a long way!)
-Sea salt, kosher salt, or desired seasoning (I used 4S salt seasoning from Penzey's)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare a baking sheet or two by lining with parchment paper.
Wash and thoroughly dry kale (see notes above in blog). Tear kale into small pieces, removing tough stems.
Place torn kale in a bowl and add tablespoons of olive oil (start with one, if you need more add it), mixing evenly with your hands to coat all the kale. Do not season yet!!
Move kale to the baking sheets, spreading in an even layer. Try not to overlap leaves.
Bake for 12-20 minutes, until crisp. Check after 12 minutes, then add minutes as needed. Mine took about 14 minutes. The leaves will be paper-thin and will crunch when touched. Be sure to remove the kale before it begins to brown!! Once it turns brown it will taste icky.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with your salt and/or seasoning.
*Be sure to make these the same day you plan to use them. Like salad, they do not keep very well.

Dessert - Snickerdoodle Bars

Every year, I make my dad and Matt's stepdad some treats for father's day. This year, I attempted to make this Pretzel and Beer pie but it didn't turn out exactly as I envisioned. So, on father's day, I decided to make something else for the dads to give along with the pie. I needed a quick recipe that could be ready in under an hour and a half.

I again flipped through one of my Betty Crocker recipe card booklets and found this fantastic recipe for Snickerdoodle Bars. The bars taste almost like a cinnamon roll, especially since they are topped with a deliciously simple glaze icing. This recipe is definitely a keeper, and something we will make time and again. It is simple, takes basic ingredients, requires one pan for baking, and makes a nice number of servings!

So without further ado, here is the recipe for these tasty little guys! If you'd like a more printer friendly recipe, I will direct you to the Betty Crocker website for the Snickerdoodle Bars recipe.

Snickerdoodle Bars

-2-1/3 cups flour
-1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
-1-1/4 cups sugar
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-3 eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla

Cinnamon Filling:
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1 tablespoon cinnamon

-1 cup powdered sugar
-1 to 2 tablespoons milk
-1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of 9x13 pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl. Set aside.
In large bowl, cream butter with electric mixer. Add sugars. Gradually add eggs and vanilla in sugar mixture until well mixed.
Beat in dry ingredients until combined.
Spoon half the batter into the pan. Spread evenly and sprinkle evenly with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Plop teaspoons of remaining batter over the cinnamon-sugar mixture, placing evenly over entire pan.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
Stir together glaze ingredients in small bowl. When it is smooth/thin enough to drizzle, drizzle over the bars.
Makes 24 servings.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dinner - Linguine with White Clam Sauce

The linguine with white clam sauce recipe comes from a great cookbook that Matt and I got for our wedding, called (appropriately) The Newlywed Cookbook by Robin Miller. I'll be honest, I was apprehensive to reference this cookbook frequently because it seemed that each recipe needed a ton of ingredients.

The other day I decided to flip through it again, and I was pleasantly surprised! The recipes seem to have lots of ingredients, but most of them are pantry staples, things you have on hand, or things that are inexpensive to purchase.

I've always been a fan of clams in things like clam chowder, but have never really tried to cook with them. This recipe sounded intriguing enough to try, however I was a bit worried about the cost of purchasing clams. I am happy to note that you can purchase canned clams for under $2 a can, not bad for a good source of protein!

This meal is also great because although the book says it serves four, we have already gotten five servings from it and I believe there are still one or two more in the fridge. You really get a lot of bang for your buck on this meal. The only thing I messed up was the type of pasta. I totally flaked on putting linguine on our shopping list, so we ended up using some angel hair pasta we had on hand. It still turned out well, just a little different than I expected. Also, the "white sauce" isn't quite what you'd expect as it's more of a light wine sauce. Very tasty and light.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

-12 ounces uncooked linguine (or if you're forgetful like me, another stringy sort of pasta)
-2 teaspoons olive oil
-1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 (10 oz.) cans whole baby clams, drained (we used 1 whole baby clams and 1 chopped clams)
-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
-8 ounces bottled clam juice (gross sounding, I know! Just go with it!)
-1/2 cup chicken broth
-1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
-1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped (optional. We skipped these.)

Cook pasta according to package and drain, placing noodles in a bowl covered with foil to keep warm.
Heat oil in nonstick skillet with sides over med-heat. Add onion and garlic, saute until tender. Add clams and saute about 2 minutes.
Add spices and stir to coat. Add liquids and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in cheese and simmer until cheese melts (about 1 minute).
Pour clam sauce over pasta and toss. Garnish as desired with parsley or with additional shredded cheese.

Dinner - Summer Salad with Asiago, Pears and Cashews

Lately I have been trying to eat a bit more healthy. Well, in so far as eating more fresh stuff I guess you could say. Matt and I were pretty proud on our last shopping trip, as we only grabbed two or three items from the inside of the store, while everything else came from the non-processed/ non-prepared areas!!

Now don't think that the Kiefer Kitchen is getting all healthy on you. Just looking for a few good recipes that will help us lighten up this summer.

Salad has never been something I really enjoyed eating. It just really reminds me of eating just a bunch of leaves on a plate. Matt always says I'm probably the only girl he knows that doesn't like salad (well, my sister doesn't either, so I guess that makes two). I've been trying to get past that, since what adult doesn't eat salad?! Well I am sure there are some aside from me, but...

The start of my transformation to being someone who can tolerate salad came in the form of a deliciously sweet salad from Joey Buona's here in downtown Milwaukee. This particular salad, the Tuscan Harvest salad, contains a delicious combination of mixed greens, cranberries, apples, candied pecans, bleu cheese and is all topped with a sweet sort of raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Of course, we all know that I like this salad simply because it is sweet and has candied things and fruit in it.

I found the recipe for this salad via Betty Crocker, in that fantastic little recipe card magazine I am always raving about. This recipe comes from last summer's issue which is packed full of delicious summery recipes. You can find a nice version (aka printable) of this recipe by clicking here.

This salad recipe gets the thumbs up from us, although if you make it, be sure to eat it all up as we tried to have leftovers the following day and it was a bad idea. The dressing recipe made plenty, was basic, simple to make, and it would be perfect on plain ol' mixed greens too.

Summer Salad with Asiago, Pears and Cashews

-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
-2 teaspoons honey
-1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard (we used stone ground mustard we had on hand)
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-1/8 teaspoon pepper

-1 bag (5 oz.) mixed spring greens
-1/2 cup shaved Asiago cheese
-1 medium ripe pear, thinly sliced (we used a bartlett)
-1/2 cup cashew halves and pieces

Shake dressing ingredients in a small jar with tight-fitting lid.

In medium bowl, toss salad with dressing and arrange on serving tray.
Top with cheese, pear slices and cashews.
Serve immediately (they're not kidding!).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New post at blogcritics!

Hey! I have a bunch (okay so 3) new recipes to post up here sometime in the next two days!

In the meantime, why don't you check out the newest article from the Kiefer Kitchen (it's all about beer! In specific, a beer and pretzel pie!) over at You can find it by clicking here! Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dinner - Skillet Beef and Beer Stew

Let me just preface by saying this is one of our new favorite recipes. It's basic, but really hearty, and although we ate it in the "summer", it would be perfect for a chilly fall or winter day. Matt called this a "Kiefer Keeper" and I had a good laugh.

This recipe comes to you from a small little cookbook titled simply, "Beer Cookbook". Seriously. We purchased ours after taking the Miller Brewery tour here in Milwaukee, WI. You can also purchase it here on Amazon. It contains many different recipes all containing beer, including appetizers, main dishes, and even desserts (for example, beer and pretzel chocolate pie!! I want to make that.).

For this recipe we used New Glarus Totally Naked beer. The beer is a nice lager and the flavor comes through really nicely in this meal. We also paired the stew with fantastic pretzel rolls from Pretzilla, also made locally. It was a nice match to the beer flavor.

I really hope you will all try this recipe, it is so good. Perhaps file it away for the fall, when you want a nice, warm and hearty meal.

Skillet Beef and Beer Stew

-12 oz. lean beef round, roasted and cut into cubes (we used 1 pound beef stew meat)
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 medium bell pepper, chopped (we used red pepper)
-2 teaspoons minced garlic
-2 medium raw potatoes
-1/2 pound baby carrots (24 carrots)
-8 oz. beef broth
-8 oz. light beer (we used a regular lager)
-1/4 cup evaporated milk
-2 tablespoons cornstarch
-1 teaspoon paprika

Coat large non-stick skillet with cooking spray (you may want to just use a large diameter pot, as there is quite a bit of food in the recipe!). Heat over medium-high heat.
Add beef, onion, pepper and garlic to the skillet. Cook until beef is browned, stirring.
Stir in potatoes, carrots, broth and beer. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cover.
Simmer until meat is tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir together evaporated milk, cornstarch, and paprika in a small cup, then add to beef mixture and stir.
Cook until thickened slightly and bubbly, around 5 minutes.
Cook, stirring, 2 minutes longer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dessert - Malted Milk Ball Cupcakes

I have a small (okay, so it's huge really) obsession with cupcakes and cupcake cookbooks. I decided to make two kinds of cupcakes yesterday, mainly because I have been a baking slacker lately, and a bit because I had an occasion to bake for.

The first type of cupcakes I wrote about on the blogcritics website (which you can find here), and the other (better in my opinion!) type of cupcakes were these little gems, the Malted Milk Ball Cupcakes.

I've been really wanting to make these cupcakes for a long time, so I finally broke down and bought a container of malted milk powder. Let me tell you, it's totally worth it!! I got the plain kind, as it is also used in this Chick-Fil-A knockoff recipe from Food Network (hope to be making this soon as well). Just think of the possibilities, especially now that it's summer!!! Malted milk ball pie, chocolate fudge malts, Rumchata malts, I could go on and on!!

This particular recipe comes to us from a delicious cookbook I have had for several years. Every recipe I've made from it is delicious, and it is actually the home of my fave red velvet cupcake recipe. This lovely book is called "Cupcakes! From the Cake Mix Doctor". The book offers over 100 recipes, plus party ideas, many varieties of frosting recipes, and several inspiring photographs.

I will have to say that this is one recipe I will be making again! Very tasty and the frosting is perfect for the cake!

Malted Milk Ball Cupcakes with Malted Milk Buttercream

-1 package (18.25 oz) plain yellow cake mix (I used Supermoist)
-1 box (3.8 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
-1 cup sour cream
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-1/4 cup water
-1/4 cup sugar
-4 large eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 cup milk chocolate chips (I subbed about 1/4 cup chocolate chips and maybe 1/2 cup crushed malted milk balls for this, since I was running low on chocolate chips)
-Extra malted milk balls for garnish (about 40)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare 24 muffin tins by lining with paper liners.
Combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil, water, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend until well mixed.
Add the chocolate chips (or/and crushed malted milk balls) and combine with ingredients in the bowl.
Fill each prepared muffin tin 3/4 of the way full with batter. If there are empty cups left over, pull the liners out before baking.
Bake 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool muffin tins on stovetop or wire racks for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes from tins and allow to cool at least 15 minutes on wire rack.

Frost with:
Malted Milk Buttercream

-8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
-3-1/2 cups confectioners' (powdered) sugar
-5 tablespoons malted milk powder
-1/4 cup milk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*I wanted a more of a chocolate flavor for this frosting, so I added about 1 tablespoon hot cocoa powder to it. Feel free to use regular baking cocoa.

Whip butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and blend on low speed until mixed well. Bring speed up to medium and beat until light and fluffy.
Use a knife or pipe on the frosting as desired.
Garnish with crushed malted milk balls.

New articles at blogcritics!

I apologize for being behind on my Kiefer Kitchen blogs! Don't worry folks, I have 2 new ones coming up for you in the next couple days, so look forward to that.

In the meantime, I have started writing for in the "Tastes" feature. You can find my writer profile (which contains links to my articles) here.

My first article was a review for a newer cookbook titled "Heartland: The Cookbook", you can find that article here.

The other article is about how you can use root beer in some of your favorite recipes, basically an article to inspire you a bit on that end. Included is a recipe for some delicious root beer cupcakes!

Enjoy, and please peruse the site while you're there, it's a great place to read many different blog-style articles by many different people!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dinner - Basic Fried Rice

We decided to opt for a quick and easy dinner tonight, a basic fried rice. Usually, we make our favorite fried rice, Pineapple Fried Rice (as featured in this season's Penzey's Catalog!!), but tonight we stripped it down to its basic essence, using items we happened to have on hand.

To season the rice, we added a few shakes of a Hawaiian seasoning my parents brought us from their trip to Hawaii last year. The seasoning is called "Macadamia Nut Hawaiian Seasoning" and can apparently be purchased through the ABC Store chain. While the seasoning didn't pair particularly well with this rice, it would be quite delicious sprinkled on some chicken or fish. The seasoning is a bit spicy, crunchy, and has a little smooth sweet touch thanks to coconut.

We generally use a rice seasoning called "Furikake" typically found in Asian grocery shops. carries a good selection, alternately Mitsuwa Marketplace (Chicago, New Jersey, or Southern California), or Pacific Produce right here in Milwaukee.

The fried rice is a great simple meal, and we like it a lot because it can contain pretty much whatever you have hanging out in your fridge. We used some leftover frozen veggies and a scrambled egg. To round out the flavor, we threw in a little soy sauce, Mirin wine, and a splash of sesame oil. I hope you'll be inspired to make your own speedy version on fried rice!

Basic Fried Rice

-1 tablespoon olive oil (or cooking oil of your choice)
-1 cup rice, cooked (we used plain white rice)
-1/2 to 1 cup vegetables (we used frozen pea/carrot mix)
-1 egg, scrambled
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
-1/2 tablespoon Mirin cooking wine
-Desired rice seasoning

Cook rice in a rice cooker (or on stovetop).
Put olive oil into a skillet with raised sides, add vegetables and allow to cook 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat.
Add cooked rice to skillet, along with egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, and Mirin.
Stir to combine, then allow rice to rest for a minute, then stir, then allow to rest again. Rice should begin to brown a bit.
Once the rice has browned slightly, it is ready to eat! Season as you wish and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dinner - Penne with Peas

For you interested parties, I have several recipe collections. There's my giant cookbook collection, the recipe card box mentioned above, a shoebox full of recipes I tear out of magazines, and not one but TWO recipe card binders. It's pretty scary obsessive.

It's been my mission to organize all of these, and to date this has not yet happened. The last time I attempted to organize, I tackled the recipe card box, so it is nice and orderly, divided into categories then subdivided alphabetically.

Recently, I decided to delve into this nicely organized recipe card box in search of some recipes we have not yet tried. Penne with peas had a nice ring to it, and contained pretty great sounding ingredients, a fresh sounding combination for the beginning of summer.

Yes, I said BEGINNING of summer, because in our sorry state of Wisconsin, summer officially began (in my opinion) this past week. We've finally been having some nice weather, and it has been keeping me outside of the house, attempting to read books (Currently "Frank: The Voice", a great read!) and catch some sun.

Anyways, back to the pasta! The recipe seemed like it would be a nice light meal, filling but not heavy. It was everything I expected and tasted just like summer. I ate the leftovers the next day, which clocked in at a steamy 100 degrees (F) outside. I ate them cold out of the fridge and can say that this dish is not only delicious warm from the skillet, but also quite tasty chilled.

Penne With Peas

-6 oz multigrain pasta (penne, but we used more like 8-10 oz, also not multigrain..or penne for that matter! Oops.)
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-2 slices bacon, diced (we used 5 slices of precooked bacon, heated. What can I say? It's good.)
-1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
-1 vine-ripened tomato, seeded and chopped
-1 cup edamame (soybeans out of pods), optional

Cook penne until al dente in large saucepan.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet with sides over medium heat.
Add bacon and cook 1 minute. Stir in peas and tomato and heat through.
Drain pasta and toss with the pea mixture.

This recipe alone doesn't have much in the way of spice flavor. I threw in some Italian seasoning containing salt and pepper, and it tasted really delicious.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Drinks - Horchata

Recently, while browsing in a nearby bookshop, I came across an interesting cookbook titled "Street Food Chicago" by Chef Mike Baruch. I added it to my list of interesting looking books, and promptly came home to try and request it from the library. Luckily, they had it! And there was no wait for it!! So, two days later, I decided to sit down and page through it.

Now, I have been a Chicago person since I was a child. My grandparents and most of my dad's side lived in Chicago, so we would visit several times a year. I've always been interested in the city (well aside from the whole driving in Chicago thing..THAT sucks.) so that is probably what drew me to this cookbook to begin with.

I guess I was expecting a cookbook filled only with recipes for variations on Chicago-Style hot dogs, or perhaps Italian beef recipes to recreate the experience of dining at Superdawg or Roma's in your own home. Boy, was I wrong! Well, I guess half wrong, as you can find recipes for both of these things in the book, but it is so much more than stereotypical Chicago food!

The book contains an excellent smorgasbord of recipes from the many different cultures found within Chicago, including Mexican, Indian, Asian, Italian, African, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean. It also covers common sandwiches, hot dogs, and the like. This is a VERY comprehensive cookbook that would be a great addition to any kitchen.

While I have numerous recipes bookmarked to try in this book, I decided to start with a favorite of Matt's (which has also become a favorite of mine). When we eat at Mexican restaurants near our house, Matt likes to order a delicious tasting drink called Horchata. Horchata is a delicious drink that tastes of almond and cinnamon, with almost a milky consistency. The flavor kind of puts me in mind of iced chai. It also contains rice, a bit of sugar, and water. Pretty basic but really delicious!

I've wanted to try making it at home since we tried a rum based liqueur called Rumchata (some of the best stuff on earth, you should give it a try!). It so happened that the Chicago Street Food book contained a recipe for horchata!! A match made in heaven.

Making the horchata wasn't too bad of a process, although you do need to let the ingredients sit overnight, blend them together, and then strain. If you've got time this summer and would like a delicious and refreshing drink to go with your Mexican dinner, give this one a shot!!

*Please note that this recipe makes 1 quart. The recipe sounded like quite a process, so I doubled it to avoid being disappointed that we didn't have more!


-1 cup raw rice
-1/2 cup slivered almonds
-2 small Mexican cinnamon sticks
-1 quart warm water (aka 4 cups)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (since we doubled the recipe, I did 1/2 teaspoon of each)

Put rice in a strainer (fine mesh) and rinse for 1 minute under cold water. In large mixing bowl, combine rice, almonds, cinnamon, and warm water. Cover and let soak in refrigerator overnight.

The next day, ladle out 2 cups of the liquid and set aside. Carefully pour everything else in the large mixing bowl into a blender and puree until smooth (there will be little bits of rice/almonds/etc... this is normal).

Pour puree back into the large bowl, then add the 2 cups reserved liquid, sugar, and extract. Whisk until well blended.

Strain ingredients through fine mesh strainer (we used our regular strainer with some cheesecloth lining it), then pour into a pitcher and refrigerate overnight.
Serve chilled over ice.