Monday, November 7, 2011

Brinner = Breakfast + Dinner

Tonight, Mr. Lucky and I decided to have bacon and eggs for dinner.  Is there anything better than having breakfast for dinner?  I can't think of anything. 

So this post is really just a quick tip.  Bake your bacon!  From now, whenever you cook bacon, do it in the oven.  It came out absolutely prefect and the mess was almost non-existent. Best of all the whole house won't smell like bacon for a week.  That is the thing I hate the most.

You'll need a sheet pan/cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  This is how you will keep the mess to a minimum.  You'll also need a rack to lay the bacon out on.  (I am now wishing I had taken some pictures). My rack is about 1/2 and inch high and fit right into my sheet pan.  I hope you're getting the idea here.  I am having a blockage as to how I should explain it. 

Anyway, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lay out your desired amount of bacon on the rack on the sheet pan.  I cooked the bacon for about 10 minutes or so and it came out perfect.  You could do more or less time depending on how you like it cooked.  Just keep a good eye on it so it doesn't burn.  Next time I do this I am going to sprinkle on some brown sugar or brush on some maple syrup just to make it that much more decadent.  Not that bacon needs any help to be awesome. 

This has changed my outlook on bacon completely.  I have always felt it was a bit of a pain in the ass but now I'll be making it much more often and my cholesterol levels are surely going to pay.


In a side note: No new news on our move to the wild west. Still waiting to here.  We're wading through loads of corporate crap.  I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moving on....

So it is looking more and more like Mr. Lucky and I will be moving to Salt Lake City.  He has an amazing job opportunity and we don't want to pass it by.  So off we go into the wild blue yonder!  I am very excited but a little nervous at the same time.  I have lived in Massachusetts for my whole life and we're moving over 2000 miles away.  It is going to be quite an adventure.

Mr. Lucky's company sent us out there last week for a visit to look at some housing options.  Can I just say that the kitchens in the apartments we looked at were FANTASTIC!  Nothing short of amazing!  My current kitchen has about four square feet of counter space and 4 cabinets.  The #1 complex on my wish list had an 8 foot kitchen island and a million cabinets (that may be an exaggeration) AND a separate pantry!  Can you believe that?  A pantry!

I am trying to convince Mr. Lucky that we need to rent in that complex by listing off all the amazing things I could cook in that kitchen.  Everything would have a place and I'd have space to actually spread out and make some serious food. Care to help me convince him?????  Please!!!

As we know more about this big move I'll keep you informed and maybe one of these days I will cook something. Maybe.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's been awhile....

I last posted on August 19th.  I think that might have been the last time I cooked something.  Mr. Lucky and I have been trying to get some projects done and get the house packed up so we can put it on the market.  I cannot even tell you how stressful this is. Once I am up and cooking again I will be back and posting.  If I make it that long.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stimulating the Economy....

Last weekend was the Sales Tax Holiday in Massachusetts.  Mr. Lucky and I try to do a little shopping every year when this weekend comes around.  This year we didn't spend too much but we did get a new camera.

I love getting new toys and I cannot wait to play with this camera.  It is nothing super special but if it was too complicated then I would be a bit confused! I am a simple girl.

Let me know what you think of my pictures in the next blog!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A pie for Mikey....

Last night this blog post had me awestruck.  This post has caused quite a stir, Jennie has asked people to make her late husband's favorite peanut butter pie, and they are obliging!

I am so inspired by Jennie and will be making this pie as soon as my crazy weekend is over.  Please, if you have time, make this pie for Mikey too.  And pass the story along.

If you do have the time to make it leave me a comment to let me know, post about it on Facebook, tweet about it and tag it with #apieformikey.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just veggies, or not.....

I could go meatless a few nights a week but Mr. Lucky has other ideas. The other night I had a meatless dinner all planned out in my head.  Well, mostly, I already had some fresh pasta that kept calling my name from the fridge.

Is there anything better than fresh pasta?
 So,I still had to see what treasures I would find at the farm stand.  As usual, I was not disappointed!  I could have bought one of everything but someone kept me in check.

Gorgeous, right?
I hot those gorgeous carrots, tomatoes, the Spanish onion and that adorable summer squash.  The squash were really small and perfect so I had to get those! Seeing all these beautiful vegetables brought the rest of  my meatless dinner together in my over-active brain.

I was so excited for this dinner but Mr. Lucky not so much.  He ran off to the store to get steak. Men!

This really was the simplest meal.  Again, I don't have any measurements, you'll just have to wing it.  (Chelle, that means you!) 

I diced half of the onion and saved the other half. I peeled and chopped four of the carrots into small pieces so they would cook quickly. I sauteed the onions and and carrots together in about one tablespoon of olive oil and one of butter. 

If only you could smell this!
I let the carrots and onions saute for three or four minutes and then added the sliced summer squash.  For the squash I just cut them in half lengthwise and and then sliced them about a 1/4 inch thick.

Getting yummier! 
I sauteed this mixture for about five more minutes and added another half tablespoon of olive oil, the veggies were starting to stick. At this time I also added salt, pepper and some minced garlic.  Once the squash were tender I added the diced up tomatoes, juice and all.

So good!
The tomatoes don't need to cook for very long just to warm them through.  The juice from the tomatoes will make the mixture a little "saucier". 

Once the tomatoes were heated through I tasted the mixture to make sure it was seasoned enough. Then, I added some grated Parmesan, about a 1/3 of a cup.  Maybe more, maybe less.  You have to make sure you mix the Parmesan in quickly so it doesn't melt and clump all in one spot. I learned that the hard way!  I had to do a lot of mixing, A LOT!

When the pasta was done I added it right to the pan with the veggies and got everything combined.

Not the greatest picture.
This pasta dish was so delicious. Mr. Lucky was impressed too.  I cannot wait to make it, or something similar, again.  The steak was pretty good too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Snacking....

I am not ashamed to admit that I am a snacker.  I love snacks! Sometimes I'd rather eat a bunch of different snacks or appetizers than an actual meal.  If it weren't rude I'd stand right next to the chips and dip at every party.  Kind of obsessed right? I just can't help it.  Maybe I am addicted, maybe.

Currently, my biggest snack obsession is kettle corn.  LOVE IT!  Sweet and salty at the same time definitely gets me.  Mr. Lucky found me these single serve portions at the store. It is Popcorn, Indiana Original All Natural Kettlecorn.


 They are perfect really, no big bag to tip over and spill everywhere (I am a bit klutzy) and no worrying about the rest of the bag going stale (tragedy).  These are also only 92 calories a bag which means I don't feel guilty when I eat two bags.  I always eat two bags but that's better than a whole big bag right? RIGHT???? 

If you see these in your grocery store try them, you'll love them.  They do have full size bags too if you'd prefer to share or you just broke up with your boyfriend or you're watching Pretty Woman again wishing someone would climb up your fire escape.

Anyway, I am going to post a poll on the side bar.  Tell me what your favorite snack is.....

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Something different....

I am forever trying to find ways to get Mr. Lucky to eat vegetables.  He will eat: onions, peppers, winter squashes, zucchini, summer squash and green beans. He will eat carrots but only if they are  drenched with butter and maple syrup or brown sugar.  He will not, however, eat any of these without an argument.  It is absolute torture!

When I went to the berry farm last week I visited their farm stand and found these amazing golden zucchinis.


Let me go off topic for a second here. My kitchen has the worst lighting in the history of the world.  It could be the brightest part of the sunniest day of the year and my kitchen still looks like it is the middle of the night.  I have started placing things on my windowsill to photograph them and *gasp* using the flash on my camera. I have read many places that you should never use a flash to take food pictures, I HAVE to or else you would not get any pictures from me.  Someday I'll be able to take gorgeous food photos. I hope you'll stick with me until then.

OK, back to the point of this post.  My gorgeous golden zucchinis! I had never seen these before so I had to have them! I knew immediately that I was going to stuff them.  My big problem was deciding what to use for the stuffing.  It had to be something that Mr. Lucky would eat, like I said, not always an easy thing to accomplish.

I finally decided on a simple mixture of onions, mushrooms, seasoned breadcrumbs and some Parmesan cheese.  I didn't really use exact measurements but I will approximate for you.

1 medium Vidalia onion, diced
4-6 oz mushrooms, chopped (I used button mushrooms)
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 - 1 tsp minced garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet on medium heat. Add in the onions and cook them until they are a bit softened then add in the mushrooms.  Let the mushrooms cook down a bit then add the thyme, garlic and salt and pepper.  Stir everything together and let it cook for a bit.  Taste the mixture to be sure it is seasoned enough.  Take the mixture off the heat and add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.  Mix until everything is combined.  Set aside too cool before stuffing the zucchinis.

The onion/mushroom mixture





After I made the stuffing I cut off the tops and scooped out the the zucchinis.  I used a melon baller for this and it turned out to be super easy.






Ready to be stuffed!




If I ever find these little guys again I will salt and pepper the insides after I scoop them out.  Maybe just a little bit of olive oil.

Each zucchini took about 2-3 Tbsp of the stuffing to fill up.  Again, I am just estimating.  I am not a big measure-er when I am just whipping something up.  I always measure the first time I make a recipe though.


I sprinkled a little more Parmesan on the tops and put them in a foil lined baking pan that I had drizzled with a little olive oil.  I baked them at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.  They came out perfectly tender and the stuffing had crisped up a little bit on the top. 


I am so glad I bought these.  And....... drum roll please....... Mr. Lucky liked them!  Mission accomplished!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rotisserie....

I told you a few posts ago about my new kitchen toy, the George Foreman rotisserie. I used it and I am totally in love with it!

On my recent trip to Whole Foods I bought some amazing grass fed rib eye steaks. (I apologize if any of you are vegetarians, I am very happily a meat eater.)  These steaks were probably three times as expensive as the once we regularly buy but they were good, beyond good, AWESOME!




 
Notice how I cropped the price out?  I do not want to be responsible for any heart attacks.

I had originally planned to grill these but the weather just didn't want to cooperate.  Perfect opportunity to use my new rotisserie right? Right!

For items that aren't big enough to go onto the rotisserie arm you use a basket.  I was kinda skeptical but seasoned the meat with some salt and pepper and put them into the basket and set the timer.  They took about 25-30 minutes.  The best part about this was I could make all the other parts of dinner and not have to worry about turning the steaks on the grill or in the broiler. 

To go with the steaks I made some baby red, white and purple potatoes and some brown sugar glazed carrots.









Aren't those carrots adorable?  As soon as I saw them I had to buy them. Damn Whole Foods and their produce department.

The potatoes were simple. I just boiled them in salted water and served them with some butter.  For the carrots I boiled them until they were tender, drained them and sauteed them with about a tablespoon of butter and a healthy teaspoon of brown sugar until the sugar was dissolved.  Yum!



This dinner was delicious and so simple thanks to the rotisserie. I cannot wait to use it again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Berry Picking....

I have been driving by the sign for Ward's Berry Farm on the highway for years and never stopped.  Until today. My brother John, his wife Nancy, and I took our nephew Aedan for a blueberry picking outing.  My dad also, reluctantly, came along.

  
Aedan & his Papa

 We bought six pints to fill: two for me, two for John & Nancy and two for Aedan to bring home to his parents.  The pints cost $3 each which I thought was fairly decent considering the pints at the grocery store were $2.99 and who knows where those berries came from. 

   
Being helpful!
We had a great time and filled those pints up pretty quickly. I think Dad even had a good time.  I know Aedan did, he walked from bush to bush picking and eating.


The bushes were full of ripe berries with plenty more yet to ripen.  I am considering going back this week because I used my first batch to make some blueberry jam.  You'll hear all about that soon.  Here are my beautiful blueberries.....

I almost just ate them right from the containers.
So, if you are local definitely check out Ward's Berry Farm!  They have strawberries in the spring, blueberries in the summer and pumpkins in the fall.  They also have a fantastic farm stand with tons of other local produce. Well worth the trip!

Monday, July 18, 2011

I heart Whole Foods....

I truly love Whole Foods Market.  It is like food porn for me. I could, honestly, wander up and down the aisles for hours.  Well, maybe not hours but a lot longer than I should or is normal. 

The local store is only in the next town but I hardly ever go.  This past Friday I didn't have to work and I was bored so I hopped in the car and it took me to Whole Foods. 

As much as I love the place it is a little on the pricey side but most of the items I end up getting I can't find anywhere else. I am rationalizing, I know! So, what did get?  Too much!!!!

You don't even want to know what I spent on all this!

Can you see it all?  I got a fruit tart for each of us, grass fed beef rib eyes, lemon herb chicken cutlets, grape tomatoes to roast for pasta pomodoro, fresh fettuccini for the pasta pomodoro, rainbow potatoes (red, white & purple), pita chips, garlic & herb spread for the pita chips, fresh green beans, baby carrots, a salad from the salad bar, some sliced strawberries & pineapple and a Green Mountain chocolate bar.  That turned into 3 meals for Mr. Lucky and I and a lunch for me.  We also had Chelle over for one of those dinners. I spent a lot but I think I got a lot too.  Rationalizing again???

I plan to fill you in on all the meals.  Stay tuned!

A new toy....

A week or so ago Mr. Lucky helped his parents with their yard sale.  They did not make much money but they enjoyed their time together.  His mom offered him one of the items that didn't sell and he snapped it right up....

And it was free!!!
It's a George Forman rotisserie.  We had planned to buy one but just never got around to it.  I was so excited when Mr. Lucky came home with it, I could not wait to use it.  When I do use it you'll be the first to hear all about it. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Farmer's Market....

I love this time of year! All the local Farmer's Markets are opening up for the season and I couldn't be happier. 

Mr. Lucky and I went to our first of the season last weekend. There were not a great many vendors yet as it is early in the season but we found plenty of things to buy.  We got some red romaine lettuce, organic grape tomatoes, Vermont cheddar bread, some amazing local beef and my favorite some perfectly ripe organic strawberries. Yum!

I cut the strawberries up and sprinkled them with a few tablespoons of vanilla sugar and let them sit in the fridge while we had our dinner. The sugar causes the strawberries to release all their wonderful juice.  We made some super delicious strawberry shortcakes with them.

I can't wait to go back to the Farmer's Market again soon.  I'll be sure to show you our purchases.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back in business....

I have picture taking ability again!!!!  I got a new phone with a pretty decent camera so I will be able to share my cooking again.  Yay!

Mr. Lucky and I went to our first Farmer's Market of this season and we made some great purchases for tonight's dinner and dessert.  Can't wait to show you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vacation eats....

Mr. Lucky and I recently spent a beautiful week in Myrtle Beach, SC.  We had a great time, great weather and, most importantly, great food. 

We like to go out of the way and find new and different restaurants when we go away. We have a great time adventuring. As of yet we have not been disappointed!

This trip our restaurant discovery was Nacho Hippo in Market Common in Myrtle Beach. Wow!  It was awesome! The food was fantastic and the staff and atmosphere were awesome too. 

I had some customized nachos as my meal and quite a few (6) $3 margaritas. How can you say no to nachos and $3 margaritas?  I certainly couldn't. The nachos I had were their "Naked Nachos" and I added onions, black beans and chicken. The plate was absolutely enormous. I could have made three meals out of it. I definitely loved it.

Mr. Lucky had 3 of their amazing tacos and a few $3 gin & tonics. Let me see if I can remember which tacos he had....He had the "Tijuana" which is crumbled chorizo, Monterey jack, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo and crema, the "Love you long time" which is orange chili chicken, melon salsa, mixed greens, spicy mayo and cashews and the "Ka-Ka-Ka-Kia" which is Korean Beef BBQ, seared with ginger, garlic, and scallion, kimchi, spicy chile sauce and sesame seeds. The "Tijuana" and "Love you long time" were only $2.95 and the "Ka-Ka-Ka-Kia" was $3.95.  Can you believe that????

I think with nine drinks and our food it was under $40. That never happens, anywhere.  Nacho Hippo is on our list of keepers.  If you are ever down in Myrtle Beach you gotta check it out!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Technical Difficulties....

My flippin camera is broken! Well, not broken, the battery is just dead and I cannot find the cord anywhere.  Why in the world would anyone buy a camera that doesn't take normal batteries? I can't answer that either, I guess we weren't thinking.

So, until I either find my cord, borrow a camera or buy a new camera I will have to write up some posts from pictures I took and never posted.  Everyone ok with that?

I'll start with my Dad's famous meatloaf recipe. I love this meatloaf and because Mr. Lucky hates all meatloaf Dad calls me whenever he makes it.

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 pouch Lipton Onion Soup Mix (I sometimes use Beefy Onion)










2 Eggs
1/2 cup ketchup










1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs










Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl mix together eggs, ketchup, breadcrumbs and soup mix.  Add the ground beef and mix until just combined (you don't want to work the meat too much or it will get tough).

That's Dad!  He agreed to model for me.















That's what it should look like when it's mixed together.















Shape into a 9" x 5" loaf pan and bake for 70 minutes (Dad likes to do a free form and uses a large pan to cook it).  Recipe makes approximately 8 servings.

Here is the free form loaf my dad likes to make















We always serve this with mashed potatoes and a vegetable. It is comfort food at it's finest.  Whenever I have this meal it brings me back to family dinners as a kid.  Try it, it may just do the same for you.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lost Mojo....

I haven't been feeling it in the kitchen lately.  I haven't cooked anything other than basic sustenance in way too long.  I need to find some inspiration! 

What to do?  What to do? I think I need to go through my millions, yes millions, of recipes and find the one to bring my mojo back. Anyone have any suggestions?

Hmmm, which book do I start my search in????

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Vacation....

Mr. Lucky and I are leaving for South Carolina tomorrow night (tonight!) for a week of the beach, relaxation and,hopefully, some good southern food. 

I will do my best to give updates, get some menus and take some pictures.  I always feel a little weird taking pictures in a restaurant.  Who does that, right?  I'll do what I can.

Now I really have to get some sleep!!!!  See you in South Carolina!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Easter....

I hope everyone that celebrates Easter had a great one and everyone that doesn't had a wonderful Sunday.  I spent a great day with both mine and Mr. Lucky's families.

We usually go to a restaurant for Easter with Mr. Lucky's parents so today we had a noon reservation.  For the past few years we have gone Stoneforge Tavern. The food is great, the service is great and most importantly the in-laws like it.  Mr. Lucky went totally off the radar and ordered the Chicken Saltimbocca.  I, of course, had to try it and it was delicious.  I went boring and got steak tips but they were very good too. My in-laws went Easter traditional and had the ham dinner.  They love it, they get it every year.  Because I wanted to be able to see my family, mostly my nephew, I had to leave right from the restaurant to head to my parents' house.  Mr. Lucky went back with his parents to their house and had a wonderful afternoon of Wii golf with his dad.

For the big dinner at my parents' house I made a cake.  I will admit that I use boxed cake mix most of the time.  Don't worry, I do make cakes from scratch every now and again but if I am doing any kind of decorating I focus on that and use a boxed mix.  99% of the time I doctor the mix in some way.  This time I used a white cake mix and used whole eggs (who wants to have extra yolks lying around?  I just can't throw them away!) and I added some of my homemade vanilla extract. I always use the Wilton recipe for my buttercream with a few tweaks. Here is the recipe:

Buttercream Icing

  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened (I use salted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract (I have never used clear vanilla extract, I have never had to have a pure white cake and I don't think it tastes the same)
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 2 tablespoons milk 
I also add a drop or two of each orange and lemon oil, I use Lorann. This just adds a little extra flavor.  

Makes:

About 3 cups of icing.

Instructions:

(Medium Consistency)

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Re-whip before using.
For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.
For Pure White Icing (stiff consistency), omit butter; substitute an additional 1/2 cup shortening for butter and add 1/2 teaspoon No-Color Butter Flavor. Add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk to thin for icing cakes.

For this cake I made two 9 inch round cakes and torted (made layers) each of those once. To be sure I had enough, I made 2 1/2 batches of buttercream.  For the top layer filling I mixed some lemon curd with about a cup and a half of the buttercream and did the same with some raspberry jam for the bottom layer.  The middle layer was just plain buttercream. 


This cake was so delicious. If I do say so myself (She says modestly)! 

I had grand decorating plans for this cake but the Boston Bruins' playoff game on Saturday night kinda put an end to that.  Two overtime periods and I couldn't look away.  So, I went with some grass, royal icing flowers and a bird's nest. 






I made the nest out of melted chocolate chips and broken up spaghetti.  I don't know where the idea came from it just popped into my head at some point during the first overtime.  I thought the cake came our really cute.  What do you think?

I will definitely be using this flavor combination again.  I can't wait to make my next cake.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Feeling old....

My niece Mehgan and I have always been very close.  She is finishing up her junior year in high school in a culinary arts program and starting to look at colleges.  I am so excited for her but at the same time I am feeling a little bit old!

This past weekend Mr. Lucky and I brought her to visit New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, VT.  This was her first college tour and definitely the one all others have to surpass.


We had an amazing time.  The campus is beautiful and the school has a retail bakery/coffee shop as well as a full service restaurant that are both staffed but students.  We were able to tour both sites and speak to a few of the Chef instructors.  We were so pleased that they took the time   If you are ever in Montpelier check out La Brioche or NECI on Main! 

This is a relatively small school but I think that is a great advantage.  Our tour guide told us that most classes are 10 students or less, how great is that? He also said that their highest enrollment is around 500.  I think this makes for a more personal experience and it seemed like everyone knew each other.  It was a great environment.

Mehgan told us that all the other colleges have to live up to this one.  I'll let you know how she makes out!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Comfort....

When I found this recipe I knew I had to make it, the main ingredient is potato! It may be due to my heritage or just because there are so many delicious ways to prepare them but either way I LOVE potatoes. Mashed, baked, fries, whatever! Just give me some potatoes.  I know Mr. Lucky gets sick of them, he's not the biggest fan.  He'd rather have rice or bread as his starch. Won't he ever learn???

On to the recipe...I guess I'll say I used this recipe as a guideline.  I did make quite a few changes, that I'll notate for you.

Slow Cooked Ham and Scalloped Potatoes
5-6 medium baking potatoes, unpeeled and sliced 1/4" thick (I have a mandolin that makes this super easy)















1/3 cup diced green onion, green and white parts
Approx. 2 1/2 cups smoked ham, thin cubed (I used some ham steaks)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter (I NEVER use unsalted butter, I don't buy it. I usually just omit any additional salt)
3 Tbsp Flour
1 2/3 cup milk
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
salt & pepper
cooking spray















Coat the interior of the slow cooker crock with cooking spray.  Evenly layer the potatoes with the onions and ham.  Sprinkle each layer with a pinch of salt and pepper. (I decided to fore go the slow cooker in the interest of time so I used my Corningware baking dish and a 350 degree oven. I parboiled the potatoes for about 10 minutes, until they were slightly softened before layering them in the baking dish. Be sure to let them cool a bit before trying to layer them, I did not.  Learn from my mistakes!!!)

















In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, until the butter is completely absorbed.  Slowly add the milk and heat for 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Do not allow the sauce to boil.  Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted.

Pour the sauce over the potatoes.  Cook the mixture on high for approximately 2-2 1/2 hours or until the potatoes have completely softened.  There should be no need to stir during cooking.  Serves about 4-6 as a side and 3-4 as an entree. (I also sprinkled some Parmesan over the top of the casserole. I baked it for about 45 minutes, until the sauce was bubbling up.)



Forgot to take a picture before we dove in!



























This turned out so delicious, I will definitely make it again.  The only things I will change are adding some more cheese to the sauce and adding more ham but cutting it up smaller than I did this time.
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Funk....

I have not cooked a blessed thing in weeks!  Mr. Lucky has really stepped up to the plate.  We've had a few days of grill worthy weather so he is very happy.

Last year the Easter Bunny brought Mr. Lucky a new grill.  He was thrilled! See, for a few years we had been using a glorified hibachi and it just wasn't working. See, Mr. Lucky is a die hard charcoal guy, no gas grills around these parts. He has even converted me!  The food just tastes better.

I am hoping to try to get one of those combination charcoal/gas grills someday.  Gas is a little bit less time consuming and easier to use in the winter!  Yup, I'd grill in the winter if I could!  My dad does it!  He has a portable heater in his garage that he turns on and puts the grill just outside the overhead door and grills away. 

We're both trying to increase our grilling repertoire with veggies, marinades and sauces.  I am really looking forward to a long spring and summer of tasty grilled food.

What's your preference? Gas or charcoal?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ingredients....

About a month and a half ago I decided to make my own vanilla extract.  I had some vanilla beans that needed to get used up and had saved about 20 vanilla extract recipes so, why not?  Most homemade things are better so wouldn't that mean that homemade vanilla extract would be too?

Well...... It is FANTASTIC!  When I opened the bottle after 6 long weeks of waiting it smelled incredible.  I used it in all of my cake show recipes and it tasted great too.  I am so glad I went for it.

The final product!


I bought 50 vanilla beans at the cake show so I will be making some more extract.  Who wants some?  And who has some recipes that use vanilla beans?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Competition....

This past weekend I participated in the National Capital Area Cake Show. I entered in two divisions with four cakes total.  This was my second year participating in this show.  It was a lot of fun!

The first division I entered was "Adult Beginner Special Occasion Non-tiered".  This is one of many decorating divisions.  This was the first time I have entered a decorated cake in a show.  I was always too nervous.  I have never taken any classes but Chelle is an amazing decorator and she teaches me whatever I want to learn.  She also came over a few times while I was doing my cake to talk me off the ceiling when I got frustrated.

Unfortunately, I did not take any progress pictures so I only have the final product.

Side View













Top View
















Now just so you know this wasn't actually a real cake.  It was a styrofoam "dummy".  These are used for most "Show Cakes" because it won't go bad so you can work on them over time.  I found that it also made it easier to transport because it was so light!

What was that?  You want to see the results for this cake?  Hmmm, well, ok!

2nd Place!!!!!!!















Not bad for my first time!















The other cakes I entered were in the tasting division.  They were in the Layer/Pound Cake, Chocolate and Combination categories. The Chocolate cake was a Mocha Sour Cream cake that I created from a recipe of my Aunt Janet's (my cooking role model and one of my favorite people on earth!).  The Combination cake was a maple ginger cake with a maple cream cheese frosting.  This cake was created from a few recipes that I found.  The judges were not overly impressed with these two cakes.  I was pretty bummed about this but I'll get over it. Eventually.  My pound cake was a sour cream style (type, version? what's the right word here?) that I tweaked and added one of my secret flavorings to.  This cake was liked a little bit more than the other two, it won 3rd place. 

Two ribbons!  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was/am. I am looking forward to next year's show and already have some ideas spinning around in my head.

Chelle was also pretty pleased with the judging results in her category, Adult Professional Special Techniques.  She won first place for this gorgeous Nirvana style cake.

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Beautiful, huh? I think so and it's not because she is my BFF, trusty sidekick and teacher.

This cake show also provided many vendors and trust me we did plenty of shopping!  Maybe too much but I am of the mind that you can't have too many tools, gadgets or supplies. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Long time no see.....

Life sure does get crazy sometimes!  I feel like I haven't had a second to myself in way too long and over the next few weeks it isn't going to be any better. Ugh!

This weekend is going to be outrageously busy.  I have to finish (more like start and finish) decorating the cake I am entering in the cake show.  This is the first time I am entering in a decorating category.  I usually just enter the tasting categories.  I am still entering three cakes in the tasting categories but this year I added the stress of a decorated cake.

Also this weekend will be the end of the six weeks that my homemade vanilla needed to "cure".  I am so excited!  I cannot wait to try it.  I will post some pictures and let you know how it tastes.
 
Ok, I have to go now.  I have a massive amount of fondant roses to finish making. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Update....

It's been almost 3 weeks since I put the beginnings of my vanilla extract in the cabinet.  I am so impatient, I really want to open it up and smell it but I don't dare.  I honestly don't think it would do any harm but I am going to wait.

According to the recipe the extract has to be shaken every few days and kept in a dark place.  Well, I keep it in a dark cabinet and here is what it looks like today: