Wednesday, December 30, 2009

CEiMB: No Bake Lemon Bars

Happy New Years Eve! When I stop to think about it, it's really hard to believe that the year is over. We're planning on spending a nice evening with our friends playing games and snacking the night away. I hope everyone else enjoys their final evening of 2009 and wishing you all the best in 2010!

Hosted by Playing House

As I prepped my ingredients last night, I was stumped for a moment when I couldn’t find my square baker. Then I recalled that It’s still in the freezer with a leftover casserole in it; I quickly decided to make this in my deep dish pie pan instead.

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Rather than dirtying up a second bowl, I made the batter in my food processor. I just thoroughly scraped the graham cracker mixture out and whipped it right up.

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Licking the batter this tastes like a fresh lemon cheesecake…it was hard to wait the 8 hours to serve myself a slice. As I poured the batter into the dish I was impressed by how quickly the mixture was already setting-up. I found this lemon dessert quite nice, but I found it far more comparable to a cheesecake than a lemon bar…which is just fine with me!

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Crust:
  • 14 whole-grain graham cracker squares (7 full sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
Filling:
  • 1 (8-ounce) package 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup pasteurized egg product (such as egg beaters)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water

Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbs are formed. Add butter, brown sugar and salt and pulse to incorporate, until crumbs resemble wet sand. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray and pack crumbs firmly into the bottom of it. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, condensed milk and pasteurized egg product and beat on high with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest and juice and beat until fully incorporated, another 30 seconds. In a small bowl, combine the gelatin and boiling water and whisk until gelatin is entirely dissolved; let cool 2 to 3 minutes. Stir the gelatin into the cream cheese-lemon mixture until well incorporated. Pour the filling over the crust. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight, until filling is firm. Slice into 2-inch squares using a chilled knife coated with cooking spray.

Recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger

Oscar’s Corn Bread

I’ve been determined to see the Picasso Exhibit before it ends on January 3rd. Today I was finally able to make that happen.

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The museum was quite packed, but I made my way through :) I was surprised to see such a wide variety of artistic style that Picasso possessed.

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I also stop into the Andy Warhol exhibit of Polaroid photos – interesting. It’s always interesting to see what others taste are in art. I must say today I did not experience my favorite styles art work, but glad I went nonetheless.

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Great-Grandpa Oscar Wyatt’s Corn Bread

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One of my missions while at home last week was to get my great-grandfather’s corn bread recipe from Mom. It has a fluffy interior and crunchy exterior that I haven’t been able to replicate using other recipes. My sister and I were very close to my great-grandparents and miss them dearly. I have such fond memories of them, and even shared my grandpa’s birthday, I was his “Birthday Girl”. When I was young we always celebrated together.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal*
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat a 9-in. cast iron skillet with 1 Tbsp bacon grease or canola oil while the oven is heating to 425 degrees.

Mix liquids and stir in dry ingredients (do not over mix). Pour batter into the hot skillet. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Flip onto serving dish and allow to cool slightly before slicing.

*You can make your own self-rising cornmeal easily. 1 cup of self-rising cornmeal is equivalent to 1 Tbsp of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup minus 1 Tbsp of cornmeal.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Scrumptious Apple Bacon Bites

Today was my first day back to work, it’s so hard to go back after enjoying such a nice, long time away. At least I only have to work three days this week. This morning I tried my first SIAB (Smoothie in a Bowl). Stoneyfield smoothie, mixed with chia and homemade granola.

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On my way home I stopped by Durham Performing Arts Center and purchased tickets to Wicked!!

Wicked (2003 Original Broadway Cast)

I have wanted to see this show for over a year now, so glad I now have tickets in my possession and can start dreaming about what a great evening it will be. These will be part of my birthday present as the performance we are seeing will be over my birthday weekend in late April.

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These are this years North Carolina State Fair 3rd place winner. They are very good and quite flavorful. I would describe them as a savory Bisquick biscuit, only much moister. I used Canadian bacon, light butter and apples with the skin left on.

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cups peeled and diced North Carolina apples
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream

Mix flour, brown sugar, curry powder, cheddar cheese and bacon together in a small bowl. Add diced apples and mix together. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix self-rising flour, melted butter and sour cream to make a batter. Combine the two mixtures gently and drop 1-2 teaspoons batter into un-greased mini muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

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Makes about 48 Apple Bacon Bites or 12 regular muffins baked for 20 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of WRAL-TV

Monday, December 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

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Monday: Sweet Potato Fries – Roasting these with taco seasoning for a quick dinner, as we’re just getting back home and unpacked. We’ll serve these with some canned soup of some sort.

Tuesday: Scrumptious Apple Bacon Bites – a friend recommended this recipe to me after seeing all the premade breakfast items I make for Andy, they’ll be the star of dinner this time.

Wednesday: Chicken Corn Chowder and Spicy Cranberry Cornbread – Andy’s aunt made a similar chowder the other day and it smelled wonderful. I’ll also be posting my grandfather’s cornbread recipe with a spicy cranberry adaptation.

New Years Eve: Frozen Pizza and Party Snacks – not sure exactly what we’ll be having, but something like that.

New Years Day: Kielbasa, Kraut and Kale Chips – a nudge to the traditional New Years Day meal.

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Slow Cooker Chicken Makhani – one of our favorite slow cooker recipes from 2009.

We’re Back

We had an amazingly wonderful trip home to Kentucky last week. We’ve declared it the best trip back home we’ve had so far.

In an effort to get the blog caught back up, I’m going to make this mainly a photo post.

White start to our Christmas

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My brother, Rob, finishing off his homemade eggnog

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and sharing his canned green tomatoes and pickled beets. Believe it or not, these are phenomenal and were one of the best Christmas gifts we got this year. I’m very impressed with his homemade goodies.

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My sister shared this super cute sugar cookie method with me. Pour different colored sprinkles and toppings in a muffin pan, dip sugar cookie rounds into them, flip over and bake.

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I prepared Avocado Reuben Sandwiches with Kale Chips for my parents and sister, which got a thumbs-up.

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The next day we made my Great-Grandpa Wyatt’s recipe for corn bread, I’ll be sharing this recipe soon.

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Christmas dinner at Mom’s house. I made a Roasted Squash and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Dried Cherries, and Pecans. We also had garden green beans and ham, rosemary turkey, cranberry fluff, and corn.

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Gift opening: nephews with handmade finger puppets from One World Market in Durham

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Sara and Mom with Eco, BPA-free mugs

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Dr. Seuss coloring book, soy crayons, and new mittens that my sister knitted for me.

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Dexter got K-9 Biscotti from Ninth Street Bakery, Durham

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Johnstone’s Christmas: Breakfast Casserole, Hash brown Casserole. Lima Beans, Broccoli, and Granny Smith Apples

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I spent my last few hours in KY with my nephews. Then we headed to TN for a couple nights to spend some quality time with Andy’s aunt and uncle. We were hit with a minor cold while there, likely do to too much running and not enough rest, but we were able to catch-up on our rest and enjoy ourselves.

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Back to work tomorrow, three day work week for me…two day for Andy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I’ll Be Home for Christmas…

…you can count on ME!!!

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(view from our backyard in Kentucky)

Here we go, we’re off to visit and get in as much quality time as humanly possible with our KY family and friends!! I can’t wait to be home (sweet home). I have been pretty homesick the last few weeks and all I want is to be wrapped in love from the people nearest and dearest to my heart.  I hope everyone else gets exactly what their heart desires too.

Merry Christmas all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CEiMB: Maple Mustard Chicken Thighs

Hosted by Handle The Heat

I love how easy the marinade/sauce was to make and that each ingredient packed such a flavorful punch! I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cooked them on my indoor grill pan. Then once cooked I sliced them and poured the maple-mustard sauce over the top. On the side we had roasted green beans topped with sugared-pecans. An easy, healthy meal…perfect for the “hussle and bustle” at this time of year.

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  • 4 large bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons grainy French mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Combine mustard, garlic, marjoram and maple syrup in a small bowl. Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard mixture evenly on top of each chicken thigh, being careful to cover as much of the surface as possible to form a "crust." Arrange chicken in a glass baking dish. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until mustard mixture has formed a crust and is slightly hardened, and juices run clear when the chicken is pierced.

Recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger

Brinkley Farms Winter CSA - Week 6

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  • 2 packets of boneless skinless chicken breast (2 per pk)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Luncheon at Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to experience dining at Ruth's Chris Steak House. We have a recently opened one in Durham and the interior was stunning. It still had the nice new wood and carpet smell too.

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The selected menu…

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Steak House Salad - I chose the vinaigrette dressing...it was a salad, nothing grand about it.

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Followed by our main selection: Filet Mignon, Baked Potato and Fresh Steamed Broccoli. The filet came sizzling out of the kitchen and had an awesome flavor and tenderness. I did notice the menu said "corn-fed" beef, which made me second guess if I should be ordering it (since watching Food, Inc I know "grass-fed" is what I should be looking for), but I didn't think the chicken or salmon were likely to have been raised in much better conditions...so I went with it. The baked potato was very bland and basic...same for the broccoli.

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Dessert Selection: Chocolate Sin Cake...I wish I had gotten the cheesecake. The chocolate was too much for me, I only had a few bites.

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Overall, I was quite dissapointed. I think I am completely over chain restaurants...I have become spoiled by the fabulous local chefs and produce here in Durham.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fruit Cake Cookies

Last year I had a little extra batter and decided to turn them into cookies, we loved them so much that this year I purposely bought enough extra ingredients to bake a whole batch. Most of these will be finding their way into our travel luggage.

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  1. Prepare the batter.
  2. Scoop out cookies (I used a medium scoop) onto a greased cookie sheet, 2-inches a part. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
  3. Brush with a small "swipe" of brandy while still warm.

Buttercrunch Lettuce with Bloomin’ Sweet Ash Cheese, Baguette Croutons, Dried Cranberries, Cashews and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Not much going on for this rather good Monday, besides that I had an awesome morning acupuncture session.

This is the best salad!! It has all the required components, in my book to be great: a fruit, a cheese, and a nut. BUT the cheese is the best ever!! I love the creamy, buttery-ness of the Bloomin’ Sweet Ash. Topped with crispy baguette (in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees), crunchy cashews, dried cranberries, and diced sweet potatoes (added after the photo was taken).

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Dessert tonight will be something from my chocolate/special bars drawer. Kath shared her secret stash recently, so I thought I’d share mine.

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  • Larabars
  • Honest Food Granola Plank
  • Glo Bar (eyeing this baby)
  • Think Thin Bar
  • Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate
  • Lindt Truffles
  • Dark and Milk Chocolates from Duke

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

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Monday: Buttercrunch Lettuce with Bloomin’ Sweet Ash Cheese, Baguette Croutons, Dried Cranberries, Cashews and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Tuesday: Luncheon @ Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Massage Night

Wednesday: CEiMB: Maple Mustard Chicken Thighs and Roasted Green Beans

Thursday: Breakfast Burritos and Hash Browns

Friday: Home Sweet Home for the Holidays!! Love it!

Saturday: Family time at my Sisters with Dad and family!

Sunday: Probably family brunch :)

Emeril's Spinach Stuffed Cannelloni with a Sundried Tomato Sauce

Yesterday afternoon I had the chance to try Local Yogurt’s eggnog flavor. I loved that it was served with freshly grated nutmeg over the top, just like we serve our own homemade eggnog. I topped mine with ginger snaps and pecans – so good!! I love this place and this was definitely one of my top flavors. I also picked up a Jumbo to-go container of Pomegranate to share with our friends during the UK basketball game.

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Later that evening we decided to keep supper very low key and bake a frozen pizza. My secret to frozen pizza is to use Penzey’s Pizza Seasoning, I LOVE this stuff. It’s a hand-mixed blend of: salt, fennel seed, oregano, sugar, garlic, black pepper, sweet California basil, white onion, crushed red pepper and cayenne red pepper powder.

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We each had a glass of wine leftover from dinner at Heron’s. We only drank half of the bottle while dinning, so they re-corked it for us to take back home.

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Then Andy decided to open a bottle we picked up yesterday from Wine Authorities too, one of our favorites.

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Now onto tonight’s dinner which Andy seemed to love, he went back for a huge second helping. Though I agree, it was great, I found myself quietly wishing it had some spicy sausage in it.

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  • 1 package (8 ounces) whole-wheat manicotti or cannelloni, or fresh pasta sheets
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium (8 ounce) onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 celery stalks (8 ounces), finely chopped
  • 1 carrot (7 ounces), finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 can (28 ounces) San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes (do not use the ones that are packed in oil, follow package instructions to rehydrate the tomatoes)
  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 24 ounces) low fat ricotta cheese
  • 5 ounces of spinach, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh soft herbs of choice, such as tarragon, parsley, and basil
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan

For the Pasta: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Stir well to prevent the pasta from sticking together and cook until just al dente, usually 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer partially cooked pasta to a large bowl of ice water. Once cooled, transfer to damp kitchen towels and cover until ready to assemble the cannelloni.

For the Sauce: In a 4 quart saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté onion and shallots until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 4 cloves of the minced garlic and cook for 20 seconds longer. Add red wine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the flavors concentrate slightly. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and then immediately turn down to a simmer and cook the sauce until the tomatoes break down and the sauce starts to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

When the sauce is finished, remove from the heat and carefully blend with a hand-held mixer. (Alternatively, sauce may be pureed in a blender, in batches, after it has cooled slightly. Take care in pureeing hot liquids; cover the blender tightly with a kitchen towel to prevent lid from coming up while pureeing.) Stir in the sun dried tomatoes and set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For The Cannelloni Filling: Place the ricotta in a medium mixing bowl. Add the spinach, the lemon zest, fresh herbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the remaining black pepper. Mix well to combine.

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Fill a pastry bag with the ricotta mixture if using cannelloni, otherwise use a spoon to fill the pasta sheets.

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To Assemble: Lightly spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Spoon 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish to cover. Spoon the ricotta filling onto each pasta sheet and roll up. Arrange in a single layer onto the casserole dish. Spread the remaining sauce over the cannelloni, making sure the pasta is well coated. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and salt and transfer to the oven and cook until it is heated through, bubbly and golden brown on top, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Green

Pre-dinner we each enjoyed a glass of celebratory champagne as a finale to Andy’s 30th birthday weekend (also from Wine Authorities).

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The evening was topped off with a little pumpkin frozen yogurt and a gingerbread cookie…while watching White Christmas.

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