Saturday, July 30, 2011

Best Brownies?

My mom tears recipes out of magazines for me constantly. I love recipes, I just never think of them when making stuff. But I sort of followed a recipe for "Best Brownies" that she tore out of Southern Living.
I changed some things, because it had an obscene amount of butter and sugar in the recipe.
The brownies are really good. Dense and chocolate-y, somewhere between fudgy and cakey. Not sure if I would call them the "best" brownies, as the magazine states, but they are pretty darn good.

Here's your ingredients:

Oh, and this (if you want):

I like to add espresso powder to my chocolate recipes to enhance the rich flavors.

Darn Good Brownies
4 oz unsweetened chocolate baking squares
1/2 cup butter (one stick--I used Smart Butter, because I like my butter smart)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup Eggbeaters (or 3 large eggs)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp espresso powder (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 8x8 pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Or use your "perfect brownie" pan like I did. I love it because I don't have to cut the brownies and I just mist it with a little cooking spray.

2. Microwave butter and chocolate on high power for 30 seconds, stir and repeat for two more 30 second intervals (or until it's all metled and smooth). The chocolate/butter mixture will look delicious, but do not--I repeat--do NOT lick the spoon. It's unsweetened chocolate and it will taste disgusting. Not that I did that or anything...

3. Measure and dump your sugars in a bowl and add the melted chocolate.

4. Whisk bowl contents together, add egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

5. Add your flour, salt and espresso powder and stir until incorporated.

6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes. You are now free to lick your spatula to your heart's content.

Here's some Caturday cuteness :)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Black Rasberry Mojito

I don’t feel like there is any recipe more appropriate for a Friday, than a cocktail recipe. This is a great drink for summer. I remember the first time I tried a mojito. My brother loves them and let me have a sip of his at Bahama Breeze. It was too sugary, as most of their drinks are. But I soon found that you can lighten it up at home and save money to boot.

Speaking of my brother, he and Sarah just welcomed my new nephew in to the world yesterday. Congratulations D.J. & Sarah!!

Ok, back to alcohol.

I did not take any pics of this recipe, but here is a picture of Chambord, so you don’t wander around the liquor store like a dork looking for it (not that this happened to me or anything):

Pretty, huh? I got the tiny bottle. And I got the Bacardi Silver in a pint size.

Black Raspberry Mojito
makes 1 drink

6 mint leaves
¼ of a lime, cut in wedges
2 tbsp clear rum
1 tbsp Chambord (raspberry liqueur)
1 C Sprite Zero

Put mint leaves and limes in glass and muddle until mint leaves are slightly broken up. Pour in rum and Chambord and stir. Fill glass with ice and top with Sprite Zero.
Adapted from:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Speedy, Weeknight Potato Salad

At least once a day every day this week, I thought to myself, “Oh is tomorrow Friday?” Yeah, I’ve been disappointed every day when I realize that no, tomorrow is not Friday. But, you know what? Today it is true—tomorrow is FINALLY FRIDAY. Whew. It has been a long, dull week. I’m ready to celebrate with a super quick and easy recipe for something I almost never make—potato salad. I almost never make it because there is so much prep and chilling time that I don’t have the patience or forethought required to prepare this dish.
Well, last night I wanted potato salad to go with our burgers and veggies, so I speeded things up.

Here’s what you need:

1 bag of prewashed little potatoes (I used all but a handful)
¼ c mayo (I used fat free)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
4 slices precooked bacon
2 Eggs
½ c of pickle chips

Oh and some of this:

Sriracha (or other hot sauce), to taste
Seasoning salt, to taste
¼ c shredded cheese (I used parmesan)
And ice. You need some ice.

1. Get your eggs boiling in some water. Boil for 10-12 minutes.
2. Cut up your little potatoes (I quartered them for big chunks)
3. Put them in a microwave safe bowl with a little water and cover with cling wrap. Microwave until fork tender (5-7 minutes).
4. After your eggs have cooked, prepare a bowl of cold water with a sprinkle of baking soda (this makes it easier to peel the eggs. Dump 2 handfuls of ice in the water. Then add your eggs
5. Then you need to shock your potatoes. I just put the bowl of cooked potatoes under some cold water and dumped in some ice. Shocking, right?
6. While eggs and potatoes are cooling in their ice baths, zap your bacon in the microwave (I do mine for 45 seconds), then chop it and the pickles.
7. After eggs are cooled, peel and chop those, too.
8. Put everything in a bowl and admire all the pretty colors

9. Mix it up and serve or chill until ready to serve.

I know everyone likes their potato salad a certain way, so just adjust these ingredients and you can make some quick, weeknight potato salad. I get that my combo of ingredients is kind of weird—my husband commented that he had never seen potato salad like this before (I think he’s used to that light yellow grocery store potato salad). But this turned out creamy, tangy and potato-y. Yum!

This Ice Cream Is Bananas

I buy bananas every week. However, I don’t always eat bananas every week so many are banished to the freezer until I feel like making some banana muffins or something. This recipe is a great use for those frozen bananas. By the way, I try to freeze them without the peel, because it is super hard to remove once frozen. So a few days ago I put my ever ripening 1 ½ bananas in a Ziploc and popped them in the freezer. So today, my friends—I am making ice cream.
This is the easiest, healthiest and tastiest homemade faux ice cream you will ever have. Truth. It has a soft-serve consistency, but you can always pop it back in the freezer to get a little firmer if you like.

Banana Mocha Coconut “Ice Cream”
Makes 1 big serving or 2 small servings

Here’s your ingredients:

1-2 bananas (I used 1 ½ medium bananas)
¼ c shredded coconut (I also keep this in the freezer)
Chocolate syrup to taste (I used sugar free)
Pecans or other nutty topping (not pictured)

Blend the 1st 3 ingredients in mini food processor. Top with pecans. Eat it up!

This recipe is great if you are dieting, if you are out of ice cream or if you are lactose intolerant or vegan. You can make any flavor combination that you like. I’ve tried this with peanut butter and bananas, and it is awesome. Also, if you really plan ahead, caramelize some bananas, freeze them and then add them to your “ice cream” for a new depth of flavor.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What I'm Reading/Watching Wednesdays

What I just read

This was Jen’s first book and it is great how all of her books maintain the same quality of writing and humor. Some authors lose their ability to effectively uphold their level of realism and integrity when writing several memoirs (*cough* Chelsea Handler). This book takes you into Jen’s life as she is laid off by a dot com company after 9/11 and her struggles to find work and manage finances. Doesn’t sound like it would be funny from my last sentence, but very hilarious, indeed.

What I’m currently reading

I’m steadily getting through this book. It follows the lives of several characters in a small town all brought together by a sort of chain letter inspired recipe for friendship bread. I’m enjoying it thus far and kind of have to make a starter dough for friendship bread now.

Next book in my pile is

This is a young adult book and I have all three books (it is a trilogy) ready for reading. I find that a lot of the YA books have more interesting and original ideas than some of the current novels gracing our library shelves.

What I’m watching

This has become one of my favorite shows! I sound kind of crazy as an almost 30 year old woman watching a show about teenagers, but it is really addicting. I first heard about this show on Jen Lancaster’s blog and headed over to Netflix Watch Instantly to check it out. They have like 5 seasons of this show and it is still ongoing. I love finding a “new” show to watch that already has a bunch of seasons, so that I can obsessively watch them back to back. This show reminds me of Beverly Hills 90210. It’s about teens, I suppose, but the content does not really seem appropriate for teens. They address topics like premarital sex, teen pregnancy, religion, abortion, etc. Well, I guess they do a public service announcement about talking to your parents about sex. Anyways, I’m drawn in by the characters. To watch them evolve over 5 seasons is really engaging. I would recommend this show to anyone who is looking for a new show and has Netflix. The movies on Netflix are usually pretty random and lame (with a few exceptions), but it is great to have several seasons of shows to watch at your leisure.

Why am I just now hearing about this show? My husband heard about it listening to a talk radio show and mentioned it to me. We have been anxiously awaiting the return of Dexter in September, which is our favorite show to watch together. This show is kind of on that level. It’s dark and explores a world that seems so foreign to us. The premise of the show is that a 50 year old high school chemistry teacher finds out he has cancer and starts to cook crystal meth to raise money to leave behind for his family. The show kind of takes you on a journey with this dude. The role is played by Bryan Cranston who played the dad on Malcom in the Middle. He was so great on that show, too! Anyone remember the roller skating episode?

Ok, random. Well, watch Breaking Bad. Start from the beginning. You can thank me later.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quick and Easy, No-Sew Wardrobe Refashion

Yesterday, armed with a pair of scissors, I was inspired to make something happen. There was one item of clothing that I just could not get rid of, but also did not feel comfortable wearing in public.
The dreaded tunic shirt:

Blech. I just don't like the look of this. And what is up with that cowl neck? Weird!
A while back, I bought this tunic shirt online thinking it would look cute with some leggings. Come to find out, tunics are not very flattering on me. Like some women, I have a spare tire situation around my middle and it seems like this tunic highlited that for all to see.
Well, I like the feel of the shirt/tunic. It is jersey material and is super comfortable. So, when I cleaned out my closets purging all of the things I never wear, this frock somehow was spared from the donation bags.

Ok, so let's get cutting. First I chose a shirt that I like the length of and laid it over the tunic (Apparently I'm not afraid to post a wrinkly, inside out shirt for all of the Internet to see. My mother would be so proud):

Then I cut off the bottom of the shirt. I tried to follow the stripe.

Then, since I don't have many sleeveless tops, I laid down my black shift dress as a guide for the sleeves.
Don't be afraid to cut it up! Otherwise it will just hang in your closet until you finally decide to toss it.

And here's the end result:

Hey, look at that. A fun summertime shirt from a lame tunic! I had to leave a little cowl, because that is how the shirt was cut. I did not need to sew any hems because jersey does not fray. Well, hopefully this inspires people to take scissors to unworn clothes, but even if it doesn't at least I got a new top out of the deal!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Caturday & Some Cookies

Meet Baby

And Boscoe

There is nothing my cats love more than a box. Seriously. We are going to be moving in the next few months so I started to bring boxes home to get packed and organized. Clearly, that is not going to happen, because the cats have totally commandeered all of our boxes. Oh, well. It's entertaining, plus I get to procrastinate on my packing a little :)
Ok, on to cookies.
I needed some cookies last night, so rather than just chocolate chip cookies I jazzed it up a little.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips
Makes 2 Dozen

1 c All Purpose Flour
1/2 c Bread Flour*
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 stick Smart Butter
1/2 c Brown Sugar**
1/2 c Sugar
1 Egg White***
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 c Chocolate Chips
1/2 c Peanut Butter Chips
1 c Crushed/Chopped Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugars, add in egg and vanilla and combine. Mix dry ingredients in another bowl then mix everything together. Add in your chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and pretzels. Form golf ball sized balls of dough with your hands or use cookie scoop & put cookies on your parchment (or Silpat) lined cookie sheets. Bake in the oven for about 8-9 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the pan for about 2 minutes, then transfer to your cookie racks to cool.
Recipe adapted from: A Pinch of Yum

A few notes about this recipe:
*You can just use all purpose flour.
**Next time I will increase the brown sugar for a chewier cookie
***Also, next time I will use a whole egg, because the egg white made the cookies a little crumbly.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Greek(ish) To Me

I was going to make chicken last night for dinner. I'm kind of tired of chicken. It is the one meat that we always have on hand. Well, I thought I'd try something different. I wanted some Greek flavors, so I picked up some ground lamb and got to brainstorming. Keep in mind that I made this recipe up based on lots of things I had on hand, and also I kind of taught myself to cook. So don't judge the lack of professional skill.

Greek Inspired Meatball Sandwich
Here's your ingredients

1 lb ground lamb
1/2 lb lean ground turkey (I used 93% lean)
about 1/4 c of breadcrumbs
dash soy sauce (optional)
generous sprinkle of Greek seasoning
1/4-1/2 tsp of prepared garlic
1 egg
salt & pepper (not pictured)

Mix all this stuff together with your hands in a large bowl, roll into golfball sized balls (or use a cookie scoop like me), and place on aluminum foil lined pan. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. This makes about 24 meatballs.
Then assemble your sandwiches with flatbread and toppings of your choice. I used my tzatziki sauce, tomato, greens and reduced fat feta cheese. My husband just put sauce and meatballs on his flatbread.

Oh, here's how I did the tzatziki (I also made this up, so I guess it is not really traditional tzatziki):

Faux-ziki Sauce:
1 cucumber
lemon juice
Greek yogurt (I actually only ended up using one container of yogurt)
Greek seasoning
Salt (not pictured)

Slice cucumber lengthwise down the middle and scoop seeds out with a spoon & discard. Then scoop the innards of the cucumber into a bowl with your spoon. Dump in the yogurt with a squirt of lemon juice and sprinkle your seasonings until it tastes good.
Such a great dinner! I paired my sandwich with some vegetable hash I made while the meatballs were cooking.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I'm Reading Wednesdays

What I just read:

Good Enough to Eat
I really liked this book about a woman’s journey towards health and happiness. The main character loses 145 lbs, opens a healthy food takeout store and then her husband leaves her for a woman twice her size. She starts every chapter with a food memory and ties it somewhere into her future. A really good read and something every woman can relate to.
Next on deck:

Friendship Bread
My mom said I have to read this book. I haven’t started it, but am looking forward to trying a new author. And frankly, anything to do with bread is okay by me.

Bitter is the New Black
Love love love Jen Lancaster! I avidly read her blog and have read all of her other books. The only reason I have not read this one is the library had it checked out for a long time. Sorry, Jen, I’m too cheap to buy books! Anyways, looking forward to more of her hilarity to brighten my days.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Well, hello. This is my first blog post. I have been avidly reading blogs for a few years and decided I need to try my hand at it. Well, I did a wine and cheese pairing party for my Mom's birthday this weekend, so let's start with that. My mom is my best friend and we have been wanting to have or attend a wine based event, but it seems as though there are very few options in our area. So I hit the Internet and made 4 wine pairings based on some googling.

The cheese went over really well, but we did not have the best wines. Most everyone likes a sweeter wine than what we got, but that's okay. Live and learn. I guess I should have sprung for bottles over ten dollars...Well, I'm frugal I guess.
Made a flourless chocolate cake and snickerdoodles for dessert. It was quite tasty.

Thanks for reading my first post! I hope to have more to share this week.