Monday, March 29, 2010

Bye Bye Grease

I know this probably isn't the biggest discovery in the world but it totally made my day last week...I really need to get out more...when I got the grease stains out of a shirt.

Mike has a nice forest green polo shirt that he liked to wear to work. He was very upset when he got grease stains all over it...if I had to guess it was a trip to the Chinese buffet that did it. He had me buy some kind of detergent that he heard might get it out. That did not work and so I was off on another internet search for a solution.

I found two things that was suppose to work on grease stains. One was to use a bar of Ivory soap that you get a little wet and rub on the stain. The other (which was the one I did) was to take some dish soap and rub that on the stain...let it sit for a couple of minutes and then wash as normal.

I was SHOCKED that it actually got all the stains out and those stains where set in...from a few wash and dry cycles of trying other stuff out. I am not looking for other grease stain shirts to try this out on because I know I have a few of those in the draw.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Birthday William!

I can't believe it has already been 1 year with my little guy. Well I guess he isn't so little anymore but he will always be my baby!

Monday, March 22, 2010

1st Birthday Party

Tomorrow is my babies 1st birthday...I can't believe it has been a year already. I truly can't imagine my life without my 2 boys....I should say 3 boys. What would a moment be like this without some kind of celebration!

My house is not big enough to have everyone over for a good old fashion family party. If this was the summer I would have done something outside in the back yard but March/April is too unpredictable with the weather and it is still a little cold.

I picked a nice seafood restaurant to have everyone at for a few of reasons. One it is a really nice place very close to the house and the food is always good. Two we have a bunch of people who are on diets and restrictions where the fish doesn't make them feel like they are left out. Last but not least they serve hot popovers with strawberry butter...a family favorite!

Now that was done I needed to send out the invitations and pick a theme. I don't have to do much decorating at this place because they have a nice theme already going. Also I didn't want to pick any random old thing because the birthday boy can't really tell me what he wants. So Heidi and I thought about it for a minute...he LOVES animal crackers. I mean LOVES them...they are like a drug to him. It is the thing that keeps him happy and quiet in stores...doctors name it.

This is what we came up with for the invitations that I sent out to our family and friends:

The other side has all the party information with the top line saying: I can't believe it has been a year, William's first birthday is already here!

What I did was bought the boxes of animal cracker and cut the two sides off of them. Print the wording on card stock and used double sided tape to put it onto the box sides. I also included the string from the box on half of them and another type of string on the other make it look like the animal cracker box.

Next thing to figure out is the favors...I have an idea I just need to see if I can find all the supplies.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Guinness Corned Beef

I was smarter this year then last year and bought my corned beef earlier then a couple of days before St Patrick's Day. Also with the way Mike has been working lately I decided to make our corned beef dinner on Sunday so we can all enjoy it together.

I usually make the recipe that is in the cookbook How to Cook Everything on page 439 for Corn Beef. It always comes out great and really the way I always have thought corn beef should come out. This year I found another recipe while I was searching for other Irish recipes and decided to give it a try.

Guinness Corned Beef

4 pounds corned beef brisket
1 cup brown sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle Irish stout beer (e.g. Guinness®)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Rinse the beef completely and pat dry.

Place the brisket on rack in a roasting pan or Dutch oven. Rub the brown sugar on the corned beef to coat entire beef, including the bottom. Pour the bottle of stout beer around, and gently over the beef to wet the sugar.

Cover, and place in preheated oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours. Allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Note: During the last hour, you may put vegetables in the roasting pan as well. Try a wedge of cabbage, new potatoes, onion, carrots, etc. You may need to add a little more beer with your vegetables

Review: Oh my goodness this was THE best corned beef I have ever had or ever made! Like Mike said what gets more Irish then cooking meat in beer. I don't know why I never thought of it before but it makes perfect sense in a way. I did what a lot of people said in their reviews and cooked it in my crock pot. Most people seemed to have cooked it on low for 8-10 hours. I didn't have the time to do that so I cooked it on High for 4 hours and then added an extra 1/2 hour because I tossed in some carrots and potatoes. I also used larger cans of Guinness because I always buy the 4 pack that they sell at the supermarket. Another thing that most people stated in their recipes is that they used at least 2 cans when they put it in the crock pot (you need enough to cover the beef). I think I might have been able to get away with one but using two gives you a lot of leftover liquid which is better if you want to cook the veggies at the end. This is definitely a keeper and I sort of want to make it again but I will be good and keep it for that once a year treat.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Matzo Balls

Everyone has one of those family recipes that you want to make yourself but when you do it just never comes out the way your Mom or Grandmother makes it. Well today I was going to put an end to that problem I have with my Mom's matzo ball recipe.

This recipe isn't like the matzo balls you find at the diners or how most people make them. This is made using the whole matzo and not from a mix or from using just matzo meal.

Matzo Balls

makes about 20 balls

3 matzos

2 eggs

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons Schmaltz (chicken fat, see note below) or vegetable oil, more as needed

dash of nutmeg

dash of ginger

salt, to taste

black pepper, to taste

matzo meal

1) Break the matzo up into pieces and then add enough hot water to cover them. Let them soak in the water for about 2-3 minutes. You just want to get to soften up a little bit but not to the point where they are water logged.

2) Drain the water and set aside.

3) Heat a frying pan over medium high heat and add the schmaltz/chicken fat. Wait until it is all liquid and then add the onions. You might need to add more fat to the pan if there isn't enough for the amount of onions you used.

4) You want to cook the onions until they brown but not burnt.

5) Once the onions are brown add the drained matzo to the frying pain. This is to dry them out a little bit. Stir and cook for about 4 minutes.

6) Transfer this mixture to a bowl add the dash of nutmeg, a dash of ginger, some salt and some pepper to taste. Stir to combine and also to break up the matzo a little bit more. Add the eggs and stir to combine (before you add the eggs make sure the mixture has cooled down a little bit so you don't cook them).

7) Now add enough matzo meal to the mixture so when you roll the balls they keep their shape. (It is just like adding bread crumbs when you make meatballs).

Once you have everything combined you are ready to roll your balls.

You can make them whatever size you like but remember they expand a lot when you cook them. My mom likes to make 1" balls.

9) Have your soup at a boil and drop the balls in...once they float to the top they are done cooking.

My mom has been making them ahead of time and freezing them. She cooks them in water with some chicken bouillon, drains them really well and then puts the cooked balls into a container in the freezer. She takes them out that morning lets them defrost a little bit and add them to the boiling soup just before serving.

Cooked balls that have been drained and getting ready for the freezer

Note: The schmaltz in this recipe isn't require but it does add a nice flavor. The way my mom gets her schmaltz is from the chicken soup she makes. It is the stuff that hardens on the top of homemade chicken soup after you put it in the refrigerator for a while. She just takes it off and saves it in a container in the freezer for later use.

Helpful Tip: Before you roll all your balls out and cook them...make a small one and taste it to make sure they are seasoned well and have enough salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning if needed...once that is done then roll them all out.
Also this recipe is great for that one box of matzo you have leftover from last year.

Review: To me this is what a REAL matzo ball looks like and the taste doesn't compare to the other stuff. The onions add a nice flavor and texture to them. When made right they are not dense but light and sometime I would even say fluffy. This is comfort food for me because it doesn't get any better then a nice hot bowl of matzo ball soup!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Use for Black Beans

I felt like experimenting this week and Heidi sent me the perfect recipe for that desire. She participated in Bake 350 Flavor of the Month and this was a recipe from that event. I wanted to make it and see if Mike could guess the secret ingredient but he saw the recipe on the refrigerator.

Black Bean Brownies
(Makes an 8" square pan or 12 muffin size)
From SnoWhite of Finding Joy in My Kitchen

1 can (15.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

3 eggs

3 Tbl. olive oil
¼ cup cocoa powder

pinch of salt

½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8" baking pan with non-stick spray, or line 12 wells of a muffin tin with foil liners.

Place the well-rinsed and drained black beans into a blender. Add eggs and olive oil to blender, then puree until smooth. You may need to stop the blender and scrape a few times. There will be some fragments of black bean skins still in the puree, but they won't be noticeable once the brownies are baked. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips to blender. Pulse a few times to get things started, then continue to blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of blender as needed.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan or divide among the 12 prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake 8" pan for about 30 minutes, or the brownie muffins for about 20-22 minutes. Brownies will start to pull away from the edge of the pan when they are done. Brownies will be quite tender and moist, so refrigerate or freeze after a day or so--they won't keep long on the counter.

Review: You really can't tell that there are black beans in the batter for the most part. I think since I knew they were in there I was looking for that taste. They sort of reminded me of passover brownies in a way but defiantly a great substitute for regular brownies if you need to go gluten free. This would not replace real brownies but I think I would make them again in the future.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

White Bread 101

It is no secret that I love cookbooks and looking for new recipes. One ingredient that I keep seeing in my searches of KAF recipes is potato flour. The only place I have seen it for sale is in the KAF baker's catalog. Then I thought that maybe this was something that comes out once a year in the Kosher section with the rest of the Kosher for Passover stuff. I know that potato stuff is ok to use in passover baking but what I was seeing is potato starch.

I was wondering if Potato Starch and Potato Flour were the same thing but called something different. A bunch of internet searches I did said pretty much that but I still wasn't 100% sure. I contacted the
King Arthur Flour's baker's hotline via their online chat to see what they could tell me about starch vs flour.

I asked if potato starch was the same thing as potato flour and this is the answer I got:
no, they are a bit different. Potato flour is processed including the peels of the potatoes, potato starch doesn't include peels, just potato flesh.

I then asked if I used starch instead of flour would this effect the recipe:
they behave slightly differently in recipes as well...partly it depends on the amount, but if you use starch instead of flour, your texture will be different, not as tender, a bit stiffer.

White Bread 101

King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

3 cups (12 3/4 oz) all purpose flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons (1 1/4 oz) sugar

4 tablespoons (2 oz) butter

1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz) nonfat dry milk

1/4 cup (1 1/2 oz) potato flour, or 1/3 cup (3/4 oz) potato flakes

1 1/8 cups (9 oz) lukewarm water

Combine all the ingredients and mix and knead them together - by hand, mixer or bread machine - until you've made soft, smooth dough. Adjust the dough's consistency with additional flour or water as needed; but remember, the more flour you add while you're kneading, the heavier and drier your final loaf will be. Cover and let the dough rise for 1 hour,until it's puffy (though not necessarily double in bulk).

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and shape it into an 8-inch log. Transfer the log to a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan, cover the pan (a proof cover works well here), and let the bread rise until the outer edge has risen about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Uncover the pan and bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil for the final 10 to 15 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, take it out of the pan, and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. A fter 15 minutes, brush it with butter, if desired, this will give it a soft crust.

Review: I have to confess that I used the potato starch because I thought it was the same as flour. I contacted KAF after I made the bread because the answers i got online just did not seem right to me. I thought the bread came out great but I did not use a lot of it in the starch in the recipe so maybe it didn't change the texture that much.

This recipe is super easy to make especially if you use the bread machine to do all the kneading. I really love recipes where you just throw all the stuff into the mixer/machine and let it do the work. One reason I made this bread so I can make the next recipe in the book which is for Herbed Monkey Bread...I think that would be perfect for any Italian dinner coming up.

My crumb shot...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Let's Just Call It...Cuban Sheperd's Pie for Now

One thing I have been making a lot of lately is a Cuban dish called Picadillo which is super easy and sort of fast to make. It is one of those things you make when you need a no-brainer meal because you don't feel well or realize it is almost dinner time and have no clue what to make.

I have been thinking about Irish type recipes lately because of the St. Patrick's Day coming up this month. I don't think Shepard's Pie is an Irish dish but it is close enough. Which got me thinking about another Cuban dish that sort of reminds me of Shepard's Pie just in a different format...
Papas Rellenas. They are fried stuffed potatoes balls which I have only had once but for some odd reason crave them.

So here is the beginning of my quest to make something that resembles Shepard's Pie using the ingredients for Papas Rellanas. For now I will give you the recipe for the Picadillo part because that I know is good. I have to still work out the kinks because as you can see in the picture below there was A LOT more potato then meat...


1lb ground beef or turkey

1/2 green pepper

1 medium onion

1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup white wine

salt, to taste

olive oil
Spanish olives, chopped

1) Put the green pepper and onion in the food processor and pulse a few times. You want it to be small pieces but not pureed.

2) Heat some olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium high heat. Put in the pepper/onion mixture and cook for a few minutes until onions are translucent. Add the garlic powder, oregano, bay leaf, salt and tomato sauce. Stir to combine.

3) Add the meat to the pot and stir to combine with the sauce. Then stir in the white wine into the meat mixture.

4) Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

5) Remove cover and cook until majority of the liquid has evaporated.

6) Stir in the chopped olives and serve hot over rice.

Review: I would say this was my first trial run of what I was trying to make. Each part was good and tasted yummy but the proportions weren't right at all. I put some cornflake crumbs on the top to give it a little bit of a crunch which was nice but i think the potato part needs a little more flavor. That is the part I am going to work on to perfect...I will let you know when I have it all just right.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

Bake at 350

This month's Flavor of the Month over at Bake at 350 was Chocolate!!! Now everyone that knows me, knows that I love to make candy. So when we went this past weekend down to Virginia for our nephews Christening and I made some chocolate covered peeps for the kids. My sister-in-law even called me the chocolate covered queen.

Chocolate Covered Bunny Peeps

Chocolate Covered Chick Peep

Since we were traveling I had package the peeps up. Here's a picture of them all wrapped up and ready to go.

Now where I make anything chocolate covered if it's cherries, Oreos, pretzels or peeps, I always have chocolate left over. So this time I decided to make some mini M&M/Oreo bark to leave as a thank gift for my parents since they were feeding the cats for us. I had to try some and it was
soooo good!!

I forgot to post my holiday candy I made this year. So here's a picture of a little of everything I made.

From the top left going clockwise, we have chocolate cherry cordials, fudge, chocolate covered mini nutter butter, chocolate covered mini oreos (with the sprinkles), butter crunch and peanut clusters. Oh and here's a picture of some candy I made for a holiday fair. I had a bunch of it left over that I was able to save for Christmas.

Some chocolate covered marshmallows. I made the snowmen last year

and some chocolate covered pretzels.


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