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Curry Egg Salad Sandwich


Curry is a seriously under appreciated seasoning. While living in Ukraine, I learned many unconventional ways to incorporate curry into everyday recipes. One of my absolute favorite curry recipes is this curry egg salad.

Ingredients:

3 hard-boiled eggs
2 tbsp miracle whip (or mayo)
3 green onions (chopped)
2 tsp curry
pepper
1 leaf of lettuce
1 slice of wheat bread

Directions:

Boil the eggs and allow to cool. Chop the eggs into smaller pieces and place in a small bowl. Add onions, curry, and miracle whip to the bowl. Toast your bread slice. Add a slice of lettuce, the egg salad and a dash of pepper on top.

That’s it. One incredibly simple curried egg salad recipe. All that’s left is digging in! What’s your favorite curry recipe?


Lazy Chocolate Spice Cake


After a rigorous year of classes, I can finally say my hardest year of nursing school is complete! Today was my last final and I can’t express how much relief I am feeling right now. Here’s a small glimpse into my life these past few weeks… as if finals aren’t bad enough with cumulative nursing tests, we had a grand total of 12 tests piled on for our last three weeks of classes. Can we say “insane?!” That’s what I thought. Anyways, it is over and I am relieved and ready to finally be in my final year of nursing. This degree (and the attempted others) has been a very long time in the making and I am so excited to be so close to the finish line.

Now, I say all these details about my finals to butter you up since my posts the last few weeks have been scattered and brief. But guess what? All that is about to change! Jack is helping me with some exciting changes for the blog including, a new title and domain, new categories, design changes and hopefully a much better posting schedule. You can look forward to all these changes taking place in about a month (poor Jack still has classes to finish).

Now on to the fun stuff…

This weekend, in the midst of all my studying, I had one of those moments where I simply couldn’t go a minute longer with being crafty. I settled for baking since it is quick and I get to enjoy it for days to come (this cake didn’t last that long). Since I was short on time I cheated and brought out a boxed (gasp), yes, boxed Dunkin Hynes spice cake. Of course, I couldn’t just make a boxed cake so I added 2 tbsp of chocolate baking powder and 2 tsp of vanilla. I then added all the ingredients on the back of the box (3 eggs, oil, water) and threw it in the oven for 25 minutes.

This was a huge success. I really wasn’t expecting much out of this haphazard baking attempt but the finished result was tasty and moist–really, what else matters? I also had half of a package of cream cheese in the fridge so I softened the block, added about 1-1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 2 tsp of vanilla and a smidge of milk. And voila! Delicious cream cheese frosting (spread between the cake layers). Chocolate spice cake, cream cheese frosting, pear slices on top–trust me, this is a winning combination.

So there you have it, my lazy chocolate spice cake for those of you with crazy lives like mine. Keep checking back with us, lots of fun projects coming up. Happy baking!


Hot Chocolate Cupcakes + Cinnamon Frosting


Can I tell you a sad story? I haven’t baked in a month. True story. On Thursday, I was working on homework and I my oven called to me…or maybe it was my sweet tooth. Either way, it was time to bake. Our weather has been incredibly cold this week, I’m thinking winter is definitely here. So what better way to celebrate than with hot chocolate cupcakes and cinnamon frosting!

I saw a facebook status that someone had made hot chocolate cupcakes so I set scoured the internet in search of a recipe.

Here are two that I thought looked most appealing:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

I didn’t have any unsweetened baking cocoa in the house and saw other recipes where they used an actual cup of hot chocolate so I figured, why not give it a shot?

The frosting is basically the same as the one for my Rummy Shortbread Cookies except, no rum and I added 2 tsp. of cinnamon.

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup hot water
2/3 cup Godiva hot chocolate
3/4 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:

First, heat your oven to 350 degrees. If you have a silicone cupcake tray like me, lightly butter your tray. If you have a metal tray, line the muffin cups with paper liners.

Grab a bowl and mix flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix hot water and Godiva hot chocolate until dissolved.

In a large bowl, beat shortening for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Alternate adding flour and cocoa mixture to the mixture, don’t over mix.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool slightly before moving them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Tip: While these were baking, they seemed to puff in the middle then settle so they have a weird hollow middle but once they cool and settled they looked and tasted fine, without any hollow middle. So don’t worry if you go to stick a toothpick in and get a pocket of air.

Happy Baking!


Mini Blueberry Pies


The Fourth of July is far from my favorite holiday. Can I say that without getting into trouble? I think it has something to do with having to stay up late to enjoy fireworks that only last about 10 minutes. I have never been a night owl, and I fear that the older I get, the earlier and earlier I hit the sack.

I have many wonderful memories from the fourth. I enjoy families gathering together, the variety of BBQ smells wafting through the neighborhood, my father lighting fireworks from on top of a ladder in order to give us more height (that’s my favorite). One more thing I love about the 4th of July, bountiful blueberries. I picked fresh blueberries once and the experience somehow sold me on the fruit. Blueberries are, simply put, a fun fruit. Small, blue, sweet and tart all at the same time. They can be used in salads, pies, and drinks. So much versatility. Seeing as I have an insatiable sweet tooth, this week I opted for the traditional blueberry pie, in mini form.

mini blueberry pie

For this recipe, I simply threw in a mixture of powders and sugars hoping the proportions were right. I think you will agree, the finished result was exceptional. I also finally found the perfect ramekins for me at World Market (yes, I am a picky ramekin shopper). They’re blue and I’m in love! I was so excited to fill them with mini blueberry pies that I couldn’t even wait until the 4th.

Filling Ingredients:

1 pint fresh blueberries
1/3 c. flour
3/4 c. white sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon
1 egg
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 stick of butter

Crust Ingredients:

2 c. flour
2/3 c. shortening
7 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions:

Wash blueberries and let drip dry while you make your pie crust.

Mix flour, salt and shortening by hand. I use a fork to press the shortening into the flour to make it crumbly. Once the mixture is crumbly, add in the water 1 tbsp. at a time.

Roll out the dough and 4 circles 1-1/2 times the size of your ramekin as well as 4 circles that just fit the size of your ramekins.

In a large bowl, mix blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon. Let sit for 10 minutes so the blueberry juices absorb the sugar.

Press large dough circles into the bottom of the ramekins. Scoop blueberry mixture into each dish. Cover the top of blueberries with 3-4 thin slices of butter. Cover with dough and twist edges into each other.

mini blueberry pie

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Pair with vanilla bean ice cream and enjoy!

Servings: 4 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes


Shrimp Creole Recipe


Have you ever had that feeling of dread when you reach into the dark recesses of your cabinets only to find an empty space in place of that vital ingredient necessary for your meal? I had such a feeling a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I did not discover the lacking ingredients (yes, multiple) until I was fully emerged in cooking the meal, already at the point of no return.

After a small mental tantrum, I pulled myself together and set to work finding and making substitutes.

Here is the link to the original recipe.

And here are the ingredients to our version, which, by the way, turned out to taste fantastic.

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of chili powder (I also sprinkled more haphazardly throughout the cooking process to our liking)
1/2 tsp. salad supreme seasoning
1 tbsp of all purpose flour
2 tbsp water
1/2 lb of large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp Soy sauce
1/4 jalapeno chopped finely
3 green onions chopped
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. white rice

*I know that seems like a lot of seasoning but it was in lieu of the Cajun seasoning which includes all of those ingredients and a few more.

Instructions:

Begin by preparing your rice. Follow instructions on bag.

Heat olive oil on medium heat and add onion, bell pepper, celery, and minced garlic. Once the vegetables are tender, add tomato sauce, soy sauce, and all seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a low heat. Simmer 15-20 minutes.

Lightly season shrimp with garlic, paprika, chili powder, and lemon juice. Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a separate pan and cook shrimp. Add shrimp to sauce. Cook 5 minutes.

Mix flour and water and add to tomato mixture. Cook 5 more minutes.

Add chopped green onions. Taste, taste, taste! Adjust any seasonings necessary to fit your preference.

Serve over rice and enjoy!


Mocha Frosted Chocolate Cake


On Memorial Day, we had a few of our close friends over for a little BBQ. The evening was enjoyable, filled with food, cornhole and a backstabbing game of phase10 twist. However, the evening was also a bit solemn as we said goodbye to two of our closest friends, Adam and Leslie Bean. A fabulous couple whom we feel privileged to have known these past 6 years. Adam was recently accepted to Johns Hopkins University so they will be moving to Baltimore after spending the summer at an archeological dig in Jordan.

I have never been good at saying goodbye to those I love. I usually end up awkwardly changing the subject. To this day I cringe when I remember my response to my favorite youth pastor of all time when he and his wife told me they were moving away…

“You’re moving? Well, you sure didn’t give us much time to throw you a going away party!” This is what I really wanted to say, “But, I love you! Why are you doing this to me! You can’t go!”

As you can see, I am definitely not one for goodbyes. So, what is my secret to dealing with them now? Cake!


You can tell my degree of sadness by either the size of the cake or the amount of sugar added to it. I think the picture above should clue you in on how much we love the Beans.

This recipe is from the May issue of Real Simple magazine which had a section devoted to different cake, filling, and frosting combinations to mix and match.

This is what I came up with…

Mocha frosted double layer chocolate cake with white chocolate chips and chocolate shavings on top. If that doesn’t make saying goodbye easier, I don’t know what does.

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

1 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. milk

Chocolate Cake Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two circular pans, line with parchment paper, butter and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Mix butter and sugar on high until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. On low, slowly add flour, then milk, flour, then milk, until all ingredients are mixed together. Pour batter into pans and bake until toothpick comes out clean.

I used two 9-inch round pans and baked them for 30 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before trying to remove from the pan.

Coffee Frosting Ingredients:

1 tbsp. instant coffee powder
1 tbsp. hot water
2 c. butter
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Coffee Frosting Instructions:

Combine instant coffee powder and water. Stir until powder is completely dissolved. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix butter on high until fluffy. Slowly add sugar, coffee mixture, and vanilla. Mix on low until smooth.

I ended up adding a second 1/2 batch of the coffee mixture to my icing (because I really like coffee), if you do this you must also add a little bit more powdered sugar or your icing will be too runny.


Frosting Tips:

1. Frost the top of the first layer, then stack the layers.
2. Frost the top of the cake before moving to the sides.
3. Allow the icing to firm in the fridge before adding toppings.

I hope your cake tastes as delicious as ours did. Happy baking!


Gyro Pizza


It is not uncommon to find myself at a complete loss in the kitchen. Every few weeks I feel as if I have hit a cooking rut. There are only so many different ways to combine the same 7 ingredients. I know the simple solution is to incorporate more ingredients, but every time I find myself at the breaking point, another idea comes along. This time, my lovely husband provided the idea, a Gyro pizza.

You see, we kind of like Gyros. Actually, that is probably the understatement of the century. We kind of LOVE Gyros! More specifically, we love Ozzy’s Gyros in the mall. Not only are the gyros delicious, but we love Ozzy’s family. In fact, we rarely go to the mall for the actual mall, we just go for the gyros.

So, of course, the idea of a Gyro pizza sounded genius to me. Here’s what we did to make it happen.

Dough Ingredients:

2 tsp. dry yeast
1 c. warm water
2 c. flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. white sugar
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. basil

Dough Instructions:

Mix yeast in water and let sit until creamy, about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix. Add in the creamy yeast mixture and blend until dough is firm and joined.

Cover the ball of dough and let sit until it doubles in size, roughly 30 minutes. Mine never doubles in size, but somehow Jake is able to make it work. Basically, if it doesn’t double, you’ll have a thinner crust. Since I love thin crust, I am ok with it.

Once the dough has risen, roll it out into the shape of your stone and get ready to bake.

Next, make my Greek sauce. This is very simple and is the same one we recently used on the Greek Turkey Burgers. You can view instructions here. Once you’ve made the sauce, coat your dough generously. Why generously? Well, aside from more being better, this tends to soak into the crust a little bit so you want to start with a healthy amount.

We used ground Italian sausage for our meat, mostly because it is easy and you don’t have to season it. Just open the package and crumble bits over your pizza.

Jack and I wanted this to taste very Gyro-ish so we decided to add the traditional veggies after baking so it would taste fresh. However, I still love the smell of baking onions so…I went ahead and added 4 stalks of green onions to the pizza before popping it in the oven. I also added half of a package of feta cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Once, your pizza is done baking, pull it out of the oven (thank you Captain Obvious) and add your freshly chopped tomato, lettuce, and sweet onion.

Last step, enjoy your Gyro pizza. So good.


Greek Turkey Burgers


Today was a great day. Instead of the isolated thunderstorms the weather man called for, today’s forecast was bright and sunny. A much-needed reprieve from the past two weeks of dreary rain, although I’ll take the rain over tornado warnings any day.

Aside from the beautiful weather, Jack and I were able to partake in a day of celebrations as our friend Adam graduated from a 4-year-long Master of Divinity program. Yay Adam! He will soon be attending Johns Hopkins so, ya, you could say were pretty proud to know this guy.

Anyways, after a fun day of friends and mocha cake, I am going to try to crank out this recipe for you. Jack and I broke out the ground turkey Thursday evening to make one of our favorite meals, Greek turkey burgers. If you are one to criticize the authenticity of food origins than you might want to stop reading now as I have no idea if this can really be considered Greek at all.

However, we do use Greek yogurt to make the sauce, so that’s the name I am going with.

We have made these numerous times and this last batch was the best yet.  Just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed…well, you know the rest.

Turkey Burger Ingredients:

1 package ground turkey
1/4 of a large sweet onion
1/4 c. mushrooms ( I think I chopped 6 or 7 mushrooms)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 package of feta cheese
1 tbsp Worcestershire
salt/pepper
oregano
garlic powder

Turkey Burger Instructions:

Thaw turkey. Chop mushrooms and onions.

Combine turkey, Worcestershire, onion, and mushrooms in a large bowl. Add egg and bread crumbs.

If you think the mixture looks super liquidy, you either need to mix it up some more (using your hands works best), or add a few more sprinkles of bread crumbs. I added less crumbs this time and the burgers ended up super moist, which was awesome.

Next, add 1/2 the feta package to the mix as well as seasonings. Be generous with the seasoning, really… you can never over-season. General seasoning guidelines??? I would say add at least 1 tbsp of oregano and garlic and 1 tsp of salt and pepper. The image below has all the seasonings on top of the meat, you should also have this much seasoning.

Form mixture into patties. You should be able to get 4-6 patties depending on the size you prefer. Cook in a pan, not on the grill to prevent any slippage through the grate.

At the same time, you should sautee some onions in olive oil to add to the top of the burger. Trust me, it’s the right choice.

Now to the Greek sauce…

Greek Sauce Ingredients:

1 single container of Plain Greek Yogurt (in the size that costs $1)
1/4 grated cucumber
2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp dill
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp lemon (tast it after 1 to see what you think)
1-2 tsp. garlic

Greek Sauce Instructions:

Grate the cucumber, yes, like on a cheese grater. The end product will look something like this…

Combine all ingredients.Taste it as you go, you may not like as much seasoning as we do or you may want more. Either way, these amounts should be a good starting point.

All that’s left is to place your burger on a bun, add sauteed onions, lettuce, Greek sauce, and voila, deliciousness on a bun!

These are fabulous, really, truly, fabulous. Happy cooking!


Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls


One of my favorite guilty pleasures growing up included a tub of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and a spoon.  Yes, I realize this is ridiculously unhealthy but how can you resist? Luckily, my peanut butter cravings have diminished enough for my husband to not be completely disgusted by me, however these tiny treats take me back to my love affair with peanut butter.

Ingredients:

1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 c. peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1 package of dipping chocolate (almond bark brand works well)

Instructions:

Blend peanut butter and butter with mixer. Add powdered sugar.
If you use smooth peanut butter try adding corn flakes to the mix and taking out a little bit of powdered sugar. This gives you a more subtle crunch than you would get with crunchy peanut butter and it just happens to be my favorite way to eat peanut butter balls.

Shape dough into 1-1.5 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet.

Ok, this next step is IMPORTANT…once all the balls are rolled place the sheet in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The peanut butter must be firm before coating with chocolate or they will fall apart.

Melt dipping chocolate in a double boiler. You can microwave if your chocolate allows but read the directions carefully.

I do not own a double boiler so instead, I put a glass bowl on top of a pot of boiling water to melt the chocolate. This works well, but be sure the two are a good fit. You want to avoid letting out steam that will get into your chocolate and cause bubbles.

Next, drop a couple of peanut butter balls into the chocolate at a time, use two spoons to move the peanut butter balls around until coated. Carefully drop onto wax paper and let cool.

I know that seems like a lot of writing to explain this process but it’s really very simple, waiting to eat the finished product is the hardest part. Enjoy!


Pecan Tarts


I made these tasty pecan tarts this weekend, recipe courtesy of momma Mary, for the Chamber Youth Leadership graduation reception at Milligan. These mini tarts are quick and easy to make, not to mention they taste phenomenal. Great for any shower or large get-together.

Ingredients:

Shell:
1/2 c. butter
3 oz. cream cheese
1 c. flour
Pecan Filling:
2 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. chopped pecans

Instructions:

Starting with the shell, blend butter and cream cheese. Once blended, add flour and mix. Dough will be crumbly.

Mix dough into 1.5 inch balls and place each in muffin slots on a mini muffin pan.

Use a mini-tart shaper to press down in the middle of the dough, pushing the dough up along the sides of the pan.

If you do not have a tart shaper, like me, use the end of another tool from your vast array of cooking utensils. I used the blunt end of a pizza cutter.

I also flattened out the edges of my dough, pressing them into the side of the pan so there would be more room for filling.

Now to the filling…

Mix all filling ingredients except the pecans with a blender.

Once ingredients are combined, pour in 1 c. of chopped pecans and mix with a spoon.

Now, fill your tart shells with the filling. Fill only to the top edge of the shell.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and voila! Mini pecan pies.

A few tips:

  1. You do not need to grease or spray your muffin pan prior to filling with dough. The butter in the dough keeps it from sticking.
  2. If you have trouble getting the pies out of the pan, use a thin piece of cardboard or a thick piece of paper to slide along the edges and it will pop right out.
  3. Dust the end of your dough-pressing tool with flour to keep it from sticking.
  4. Although small, these are fairly rich so you really do not need to make them any bigger than mini-muffin size.

Happy baking!


Bruschetta Baguettes


We have officially entered my favorite time of year, that time of year when there are more than 2 veggies in the store that both look and taste fresh. Maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure our meals taste 500 times better in the spring.

With summer just around the corner, Jack and I have started phasing out our heavier meals in exchange for lighter, more fresh versions of our favorites. Monday’s meal was fantastic! I made broiled bruschetta baguettes. This one is a must for the Weinbender recipe box.

Ingredients:

1 baguette
1/2 large tomato
1/4 c. onion
1/4 c. cucumber
feta cheese
graded cheddar cheese
3 garlic cloves (minced)
lettuce or spinach leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
pepper
salt
oregano
basil

Instructions:

Slice the baguette lengthwise, so you separate the top from the bottom. Brush olive oil lightly over the tops of the bread. Mince garlic cloves and spread evenly over baguette.

Chop tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Place veggies on baguette. Lightly sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Sprinkle all seasonings according to your individual tastes.

Place baguette slices under broiler for about 10 minutes. Be sure to check every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Chop a few slices of spinach or lettuce. Pull baguette out of oven when edges are browned. Sprinkle with lettuce and feta cheese.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Happy broiling!

Tags: http://www.staying-awake.org, http://www.whyhcg.com, http://www.myprovigil.com


Vegetable Shrimp Soup


I absolutely love shrimp. I could eat shrimp every single day and never tire of it. So, the other night, I decided to experiment with a make-shift shrimp soup. I was pleasantly surprised with the result. This recipe will feed 4 individuals 1 cup apiece.

Ingredients:

30 deveined shrimp without tail
1/4 c. tomato sauce
2 tomatoes
2 green onions
1/4 of a large cucumber
1/4 c. red onion
1 avocado
1 leek
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro
1-2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic

Instructions:

Thaw, rinse and drain shrimp. Place in frying pan to cook. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Add 1 tsp. lemon juice. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side.

Chop cucumber, tomato, leeks, and onions and place in a pot on low with a small amount of butter.

Add tomato sauce, lime, lemon, cilantro, 1 tbsp. garlic, salt and pepper.

Add cooked shrimp to soup. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add avocado and serve.

I also think this meal would work well cold or over rice. Don’t let the recipe limit your imagination, feel free to add to or take away from the ingredients, especially seasonings. I try to provide a general idea of how much seasoning I use but I normally season to taste, so taste your food as you go to make sure you like the finished product. Happy cooking!


Amaretto-Coconut Pound Cake


Took out my good ol’ Betty Crocker cookbook the other night and threw together a combination of recipes that were oh so tasty. One part pound cake. One part coconut glaze.

Pound Cake Ingredients:

2 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter
2 tbsp amaretto (my substitute for vanilla)
5 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. coconut flakes (only if you are also making the coconut topping)

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bundt cake pan with shortening. Beat sugar, butter, vanilla, and eggs with electric mixer on low for 30 seconds. Beat on high for 5 minutes.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a second bowl. Beat flour mixture into sugar mixture on low speed alternating with evaporated milk. Add coconut. Pour mixture into pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Or add a topping of choice, like this…

Amaretto Coconut Glaze Ingredients:

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 c. evaporated milk
1 tbsp amaretto (my substitute for vanilla)
3 egg yolks
1 1/3 c. coconut flakes

Mix all ingredients minus coconut in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 14 minutes, until consistency is semi-thick (like pureed soup). Add coconut flakes. Remove from heat and let cool about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally until consistency is spreadable.

Apply liberally to top of cake and enjoy!


Momma Tammy’s Spaghetti Sauce


My mom (momma Tammy) makes the best spaghetti sauce of all time. Even with the recipe, somehow mine is never quite as good as hers. Personally, I think the key to this yummy sauce is using ground Italian sausage instead of hamburger meat. The sausage is SO much more flavorful.

Despite my inability to recreate this sauce exactly, I thought I would share the recipe in the hopes of you making a sauce that is just as tasty. I have adjusted some of the ingredients to make the serving size for two.

Normally, momma Tammy dishes the sauce over spiral rotini noodles. If you are going to use noodles, you must use this kind. I don’t know why but it makes the dish so much better. You can also try my style, over garlic bread.

Ingredients:

1 package ground Italian sausage
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 green pepper
5-7 mushrooms sliced
1/2 red onion chopped
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 loaf french bread
Olive oil

Instructions:

Set oven to broil. Spread a thin amount of olive oil and sprinkle garlic powder and oregano over tops of slices. Place in oven about 5 minutes before sauce is completed.

Chop all ingredients. Place Italian sausage in frying pan with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Cook until browned.

Add onions, peppers, and seasonings to meat. Cook for 5 minutes. Add stewed tomatoes after draining excess juice. Add tomato sauce (I like to buy one with some flavors added). Let simmer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

If the sauce looks watery, add 1/2 can of tomato paste (mine varies with the type of sauce I buy).

Once you have allowed time for the flavors to mix together, pull the bread out of the oven add sauce and enjoy!

A few tips for making Momma Tammy’s spaghetti sauce…

  1. The longer you let it sit on the stove, the better it tastes. One thing I always thought was excessive was the amount of oregano and garlic she added. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH! Every time she went to stir the sauce, she added more oregano and more garlic. Trust me, this is the key to a spectacularly flavorful sauce.
  2. Watch your bread. Our family is notorious for making a delicious meal and then forgetting our bread in the last 5 minutes. We almost always end up fanning the smoke alarms. A sure-fire way to ruin the finishing touches of a great meal.

Good luck and happy cooking!


Mandarin Pizza


Jack and I have a slight bias toward our little pizza joint back home, Ugo’s Pizza. Since moving to Tennessee, we have tried our best to find a comparable pizza joint but have had zero luck. Because of this, we now make our own pizzas, with each one becoming increasingly more creative.

This past week we decided to add fruit to our colorful masterpiece and it was delicious. Probably my favorite pizza so far.

As usual, Jack made the crust while I chopped up a variety of veggies. I’ve included a simple crust recipe from All Recipes. We prefer thin crust but feel free to substitute your favorite.

Dough Ingredients:

3 c. flour
1 package of dry yeast
1 c. water
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. sugar
Toppings:
1/2 package of grape tomatoes
25 pepperoni pieces
1/4 c. green peppers
1/4 c. onions
1 cup mandarin slices
1/2 c. cheese (we used, cheddar and pepperjack)
1/4 c. pesto paste

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dough ingredients. Knead dough. Roll to fit your pizza stone.

Spread pesto onto crust. Chop all toppings.

Add meat, veggies, and fruit. I especially liked the sweeter grape tomatoes with the fruit.

Place in oven for 20 minutes. Check the bottom of the crust for crispy-ness and voila! A beautiful and tasty pizza.

Get creative and try substituting veggies with different fruits. Here’s another we’ve tried recently, strawberries!

The combination possibilities are endless. Good luck!


Quick and Simple Meatballs


Have you ever had a late night craving you just can’t shake? Well, I have for the past two weeks! I am not sure why, but suddenly a meatball sandwich sounded glorious. I don’t think I have ever eaten a meatball sandwich but I wanted one none-the-less.

When I realized this craving was not going away, I broke down and went to the store for some ground Italian sausage and made these quick and easy meatballs for my sandwich.

Ingredients:

1 package ground Italian Sausage
1/4 c onions
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/4 c shaved parmesan
1 egg
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Set oven to 350 degrees. Chop the onion into small pieces. Mix all ingredients.

Roll mixture into 1in. meatballs and place on a cooking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes.

Once the meatballs are done cooking, combine meatballs and a sauce of your choice in a large saucepan. I of course went with what we had in the cupboard which was a simple traditional spaghetti sauce (yes, from a can… gasp).

Only add enough sauce to be able to coat your meatballs after you’ve rolled them around for a bit. I used half of a 16 oz jar. I also added 2 tsp. of Worcestershire, 2 tsp. garlic, 1 tsp. oregano, and a dash of pepper and salt.

Let your meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 10-15 minutes.

If you are looking to make a meatball sandwich as well, slice some onions and mushrooms and saute over medium heat while the meatballs are simmering. Once the meatballs are finished remove your sauteed veggies and create your sub.

Oh so yummy with very little work. Good luck and happy cooking!


Caribbean Shrimp Cups


I was so excited to share this post today. I have been wanting to cook this meal for two weeks now and finally made myself take a break from homework to try it out.
I found the original recipe on The Pioneer Woman’s website, posted by one of her followers. You can find the original instructions here. I adapted the recipe to fit the flavors I tend toward and, of course, those that I had on hand. Making the trek to our local grocery store during the 5 o’clock traffic is not exactly ideal.

Now to food…

Ingredients (for 2):

1 c. rice (basmati rice would be my first choice but any rice will do)
8 large lettuce leaves

Marinade:
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. teriyaki sauce
1 tsp pepper

Shrimp:
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. cornstarch
16 shrimp, deveined with tails removed

Salsa:
10 grape tomatoes
2 green onions
1/4 c. sweet onion
1/2 stick carrot (peeled and then chopped)
1/2 medium-sized orange (chopped)
lime juice

Directions:

Start your rice. Prepare marinade by combining all ingredients with shrimp in bag. The original recipe has you marinade for an hour. I only marinated for 20 minutes and it was fabulous so don’t let the hour time frame stop you if you are in a hurry.

While the rice is cooking and shrimp marinating, chop up your salsa ingredients. Make sure you peel the carrots first and then chop up the peels so the salsa doesn’t feel heavy when it is mixed together. You could also use mango or your favorite fruit in place of orange. A citrus-tasting fruit is best. I added about 1 tbsp of lemon juice to my salsa, you can add to taste. I also sprinkled in a dash of garlic and pepper to taste.

Next, peel and wash your lettuce from the head. Head lettuce makes the best cups for eating. Our lettuce was just regular green leaf and it was harder to manage when we attempted to eat. Go ahead and lay your lettuce cups out so they are ready to fill once the shrimp is finished.

Mix cornstarch with garlic and pepper. Coat shrimp with mixture.

Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a pan. Make sure the pan is hot before placing in the shrimp. If it sizzles, you are on the right track.

Cook shrimp about 2 minutes on each side. There should be a beautiful golden brown coating when you flip them over. So exciting!

Now comes my favorite part! Dress your plate. The rice should be finished by this point. Scoop a spoonful of rice into each cup, followed by a salsa, and then top each with two golden shrimp.

These can be a bit messy, but they look so beautiful on the plate that I think it is worth the hassle. If you aren’t going for beauty you can always chop up the lettuce and make these into shrimp tacos. Happy cooking!


Apple Spice Soup


My friend Kelly is getting married in a few months and asked me to sew her table runners for the reception. She brought over a sampling of fabric to work with on Tuesday and since I don’t need much of an excuse to make a big pot of soup, I went ahead and experimented with a new combination of veggies for the evening.

This soup was a bit spicy for me but Jack loved it so I recommend deciding what level of spice you can handle before you cut up your jalapeno. If you like just a little kick at the end I would only use 1/4 of a large jalapeno.

Ingredients:

2 apples
1 large sweet potato
1/2 onion
1/2 large jalapeno
1/4 c. white wine
1 32oz. box chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp/ pepper

Directions:

Chop the apples, sweet potato, onion, and jalapeno into thinly sliced chunks. Add ingredients to large soup pan along with 1 tbsp. of butter. Add spices. Mix well. Add 1/4 c. white wine of your choice, mine was a chardonnay. Stir until ingredients are coated. Add half the broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Stir, add the rest of the broth and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

You only have to let it simmer until the veggies are soft but the flavors are better if you let it simmer longer, plus cooking it longer makes your house smell fabulous!

Finally, pour ingredients into a mixer and puree. Presto your soup is complete! If you want a creamier soup, simply add a small amount of cream to the mix after you puree.

I also made this herb quick bread from allrecipes.com to go with the soup. It was quick (which is what I needed) but had an interesting texture. I added rosemary, garlic, and thyme in mine and it paired well with the soup.

Good luck and happy cooking!


Honey Ginger Shrimp with Rice


Ingredients:

10-15 Shrimp (precooked, detailed, and de-veined)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp fresh chopped sage
1/4 c. onion (chopped)
1/2 c. mushrooms (sliced)
1 tsp pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 c. rice

Instructions:

Follow the directions for your rice of choice. Add 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp ginger to the rice before covering. Set the rice aside to cook and get started on the shrimp and veggies.

Warm the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shrimp, honey, pepper, sage, and garlic. Wait until shrimp is lightly browned and add mushrooms and onion. Cook until veggies are tender.

The rice should be done by now. So, now for the best part, dress your plate and enjoy!


Rummy Shortbread Cookies


I made these cookies for our New Year’s Eve get together this year and they were a hit. The cookie is a simple shortbread recipe that takes about 10 minutes to throw together and the frosting was a combination of ideas from Linda (Aunt Willies Wildflowers) and the Pioneer Woman. You can see her original hard sauce recipe here.

I also made these more recently for a catering event and added chocolate shavings to the top, making the shortbread look much more elegant.

Cookie Ingredients:
2 c. butter
4 c. flour
1 c. white sugar
2-3 tsp. vanilla extract (I always put more vanilla)

Cookie Prep:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Soften the butter. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla. Add flour. Mix well. Place dough balls onto a non-stick sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Some recipes have you cook these longer but they tend to harden once you pull them out of the oven so I like to pull mine out early so they are still somewhat soft.

The frosting combines Linda’s powdered sugar frosting and the Pioneer Woman’s idea to add liquor to the mix, she uses whiskey, I went for rum.

Frosting Ingredients:

1 stick of butter
1-1.5 c. powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp rum

Frosting Prep:

Barely soften the butter and mix it around in the bowl. Add in the powdered sugar. I don’t normally measure this out. When Linda makes her frosting she uses more of a pour and stir, pour and stir effort until you get the consistency you want to frost with. Once that is all mixed together, add in the rum. This is really to taste so you might as well start out slow and taste as you go until you are satisfied.

Before you frost the cookies make sure they are cool. If the cookies are not completely cool you will have runny rum sauce all over the place.

Once cool, frost the cookies. My last addition to these cookies was to add a dusting of cocoa powder, really yummy addition. You could also try coffee grounds, brown sugar, chocolate shavings, the possibilities are endless.


Lemon Tilapia with Zesty Salsa


Ingredients:

1 cup rice
2 Tilapia fillets
1/2 bunch of cilantro (chopped)
2 roma tomatoes (diced)
3 stalks of green onion (chopped)
1/4 c. red onion (chopped)
1/2 small zucchini (chopped)
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
pepper/salt/garlic powder

Preparation:

The rice takes the longest amount of time to prepare so go ahead and boil your water and get the rice going before you start in on the following steps.

Chop all the vegetables. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan on low. Add in the vegetables and let them warm up slowly in the pan (do not add in the cilantro now). Add in just a dash of pepper and garlic (or more if you’re like us and can’t get enough garlic).Sprinkle in a bit of lime juice (1-2 tsp). Stir occasionally and leave the vegetables to warm up while you prepare the fish.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in skillet. If you have a large enough skillet feel free to cook both fillets at the same time. We eat so much fish that we buy the prepackaged fillets in the seafood section of the store. These kind are thin enough where they only take about 3 minutes to cook so it doesn’t take long if you choose to cook them separately. Once the olive oil is hot drop in the tilapia and cook about 1.5 minutes on each side (may be longer depending on how thick your fillet is). Sprinkle each side of your fish with pepper and just a touch of salt and well as a spray or two of lemon juice.

Go ahead and add the cilantro to the vegetables and mix it up. With any luck your rice will be finished by this point. This is when I dress the plate. I use about a 1/2 c. of the rice as my base, then I lay the tilapia on top of the rice bed and go back over to the pan of veggies (make sure the cilantro is warm but not soggy looking) to dish the salsa on top of the fish.


Key Lime Pie


This is an extremely simple pie to make and one that I wish I would have added cool whip and a few shavings of lime on top for the picture, but you’ll all do better right?

Ingredients:

5 beaten egg yolks
1/2 c. key lime juice
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
6 tbsp butter
1/3 c. white sugar
1-1/2 c. finely ground graham cracker crumbs

Directions:

Crust:
Combine melted butter, sugar and crumbs until well-mixed. Press mixture into 8- or 9-inch pan. Bake shell at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes to harden.

Filling:
Combine lime juice, yolks, and milk. Mix well and pour into crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and top with cool whip and graded lime rind.