Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I had him at potato- Rosemary Smashed Potatoes


'Tis the season to be totally crazy around here! I don't know about you guys but my list seems never ending, my counters seem never empty and my floor seems never clean! I am in what some might call, "busy season" this week so I finally broke down and made myself my own personal to-do list for the next 72 hours just to make sure I get it all done. On my lovely list of things to make for a party is a big pan of my rosemary smashed potatoes. These potatoes are very near and dear to my heart and are the reason I am married with kids. Not really, but kind of. The salesman said that he married me because of my mashed potatoes that I made for him while we were dating. He ate and ate them until he finally crawled to the couch and passed out in a spud coma. I love potatoes of any kind but especially when they have layers of cream, flecks of rosemary and spice of fresh black pepper. I remember growing up that it was always my job to peel the potatoes and I remember thinking that when I grew up I would find a better way to make mashed potatoes happen, and I have. I am a skin on kind of girl and if this is new to you, please trust me. These are so simple and sinful that you almost forget you are eating a "vegetable". I was hesitant to share these with you, but if it will help some of you find your true love this holiday season then I am happy to pass it along.

Rosemary Smashed Potatoes

2- lb washed and cleaned red potatoes with skin on (cut away any bad parts and the nubby ends)
4 oz cream cheese (just a warning, it's only down hill from here!)
1 cup sour cream
1/2-3/4 cup milk
1/2 stick or 4 Tbsp butter plus an extra tablespoon or two
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 -1 Tsp fresh black pepper
1-1 1/2 Tsp salt

Cube the potatoes into even chunks. I typically quarter mine if I have the smaller red potatoes. Place your potatoes into your pot then cover with cold water just until they are submerged. Crank up the heat and allow them to boil for about 12-15 minutes until fork tender. Drain immediately to avoid them getting gummy.
Next, dump in the next 7 ingredients and start with 1/2 tsp of pepper and 1 tsp of salt then taste. You might need to add a wee bit more of both depending on your taste.
Now for me I always prefer to hand smash my potatoes. This allows for some uneven chunk-age and for the potatoes not to get over-whipped  Potato mashers are just a few bucks at any local grocery store and are a great tool to have on hand so go get one if possible. As a back up, you can always use a hand mixer and whip just until they have a creamy consistency but don't over due it. If they are too thick, add a splash more milk but I like mine to be able to stand up on their own and not be a runny pool.
Pour them into your serving pan, put a pat or two of butter on top and another sprinkle of black pepper and dig in!

Happy Holidays Y'all!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Season of Happy Thanks- Nutty Buddy Blessing Bars



What a weekend! Normally on this day, four days past one of my favorite holidays I would be sitting and telling you of all of the good memories and good food we had and recipes we made and trees we trimmed and good times we had. But, this was not that kind of year, at least, not in that way. This was our year to be with my family. For any of you married or part of a family you know all about splitting the holidays and sharing your time equally. This year was the year to "be with my family" since we were with my family during Christmas last year. Since I have been working much more these days we decided to do something we have never done before since it was just going to be our family and my parents. With permission from my mom I called my favorite restaurant and reserved us a spot at my favorite chain restaurant, Maggiano's. I have been telling my parents about Maggiano's for years, about their cream sauce that makes you want to shrink up to the size of a marshmallow so that you can bathe in the Romano cream sauce bouncing from one fluffy chicken and spinach filled manicotti to another, and the 7" high dark chocolate ganache coated cake, so rich and dense it must be followed with a shot of dark coffee. I made these reservations in September and had been dreaming about what their version of turkey and stuffing would taste like and about the pecan streusel topped pumpkin cheesecake. 
Then the storm hit. 
I woke up abruptly on Thanksgiving day to the end of a vividly wild and terrifying dream, the kind that you wake up and say a prayer of thankfulness because it was not real. The kind that has you on the edge of your bed and your stomach in knots...so I thought, until I realized that it was the stomach bug taking over my body. My parents sat and stirred not knowing what to do then finally packed up their bags, took the boys to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, cancelled our reservations and headed home. I stayed in bed for the better part of 22 hours waiting for the alien who had taken over my insides to leave.
The next day while still trying to recover from the violence that had occurred the day before the salesman threw his back out. He became immediately immobile which meant that I needed to quickly put on my nurse hat to begin taking care of him. My plans for black Friday store hopping and cookie baking quickly flew out the door. Then on Sunday when I was finally starting to feel normal again I decided to take some of our left over Christmas decoration boxes downstairs and missed the last two steps which ended with me twisting my ankle in an unhealthy position and my body being thrown on the ground in such a fashion that I am still feeling the aftermath 24 hours later. I let out loud screams and ugly cries, the kind that scared my children the floor above me and ruffled my hair. This is not what I wanted. This is not the plan I had for the day. I just wanted to rest and finish tree trimming and make cocoa and cookies and sing Christmas carols. But that is what I wanted. 
I just finished re-reading my favorite book in the world and in the back she has a chapter called, "Happy Thanksgiving". She says, "even though I did the meal part of Thanksgiving twice, I never did the thanks part, the part where you stop and think about the year, and think about what you're thankful for, or what you've been given, or the gratitude you feel toward the people you love and to God for his good gifts". Whoa. 
It's not about me. It's not about what I wanted. I think that this weekend, in all of this craziness, is just what I needed. My plans of mile high lasagna and middle of the night shopping madness were not what I needed. My "thanksgiving" dinner consisting of saltines and flat ginger ale followed by Phenergan were not what I wanted. What I needed was a good kick in the pants to force me to sit and be still, and that's what I got. I needed to be thankful for my parent’s health that they can make the trip. To be thankful for dear friends who rushed over a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner when they found out about all that was going on. To be thankful for a house I can decorate with meaningless stuff and for children who will hear my cries of pain and come over to wipe my tears away and offer kisses to help my boo boo's go away. Thank you God! Please let me ever be mindful of your goodness. In my daily devotional book for today it states, "Instead of trying to be in control, you relax and make me (God) the center of your life. This is the way I created you to live, and it is a way of Joy." 
So, today as I write to you with one ankle tightly wrapped up and a heart that is striving to make peace with the events of the week I share with you the only homemade item that came out of my kitchen from the past 72 hours. I had promised my muffins we would make cookies all weekend. One thing led to another and since I am so strong headed I knew that I had to do this in order to sleep soundly last night. After resting for hours yesterday and keeping my foot on so much ice that my toes were blue I decided to hobble to the kitchen, clear away a section of counter space and make a batch of sweets with my babies. This recipe couldn't be easier or more delicious. It tastes just like the Little Debbie Nutty Buddy Bars. Being with my babies for a few minutes letting them each take turns with smashing the cereal and stirring the pot was the blessing I needed to end this weekend. That and a prayer for true Thanksgiving to our wonderful and merciful Savior who was, and is, and is to come! 

Nutty Buddy Blessing Bars

2 cups crushed Cap'n Crunch Cereal- crushed (you want some chunks so don't kill it all!)
1 stick of salted butter, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Combine all of the above in a small bowl and stir by hand. Spread into a 9" round pie pan and throw in the fridge. 
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in-between, until it is melted. I usually need three, 30 second rounds. Once melted, spread the chocolate over the peanut butter layer and return to the fridge until it is set. 
Cut in thin wedges to serve. 

Enjoy Y'all!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rollin', Rollin, Rollin- Lasagna Rolls


Yes friend, it's been a while but thanks for coming by. Pull up a chair and let's just pick up where we left off like we always do.
These days I am trying to survive. The busyness of life that has me pulled in a million directions keeps me on my toes trying to maintain my schedules and meeting and orders and kids and events and all of the day to day blessings that are pouring in my door. Since I am working out of my house three days a week I have really had to adjust my menu planning schedule to allow me to still feed my kids at home and not opt out for the easy and expensive take out meals every day. I have started trying to prepare larger meals so that I can freeze part of it for another meal. Don't get me wrong, we have plenty of meals that are based around the kids favorite cereal, but I try my hardest to give them something of substance and in a variety of colors.
One of my favorite quick fix meals are lasagna rolls. They have all of the yumminess of my mom's lasagna but don't require all of the layering and planning (in my humble opinion). I also like these because you can fill them with anything from sausage, hamburger meat or grilled chicken or you can just fill them with fresh sauteed or roasted veggies like spinach, roasted squash, broccoli, mushrooms, etc. This sausage spinach version is what we have the most around this neck of the woods. One of my muffins scoops out the creamy filling eating only the noodle while the other does the complete opposite...so it makes everyone happy in one form or another. These are great to make for when you have company or when you are needing to impress. Don't be scared by these instructions! Just put on your big girl britches and go for it!  

Lasagna Rolls (This version is sausage and spinach)

12-14 curly edged lasagna noodles
Throw these in some heavily salted boiling water and cook until they are al dente or soft but still have a bite to them. Rinse them with cold water until they have come to room temp and just let them hang until your stuffing is done.

1 lb Italian sweet sausage (can use hamburger meet, 2 cups diced roasted chicken, 1 cup diced pepperoni slices, or 2 cups chopped meatballs)
Cook your sausage on medium heat in a skillet with 2 Tbsp of olive oil added and constantly crumble with a wooden spoon or potato masher until it is browned and is a fine crumble.(Use this same method for ground beef but add in 2 tsp Italian seasoning and 1/2 tsp garlic salt )
*If you want to do a veggie version you will use 2 cups of your veggie of choice. Cut the veggies into a small dice size and saute in 2 Tbsp of olive oil adding in the 2 tsp of Italian Seasoning and 1/2 tsp garlic salt until the veggies are soft.

Cream Filling
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese *reserve 1/4 cup for the topping)
2 cups mozzarella (I have also used white Cheddar and provolone) *reserve 3/4 cup for the topping
1 egg
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh spinach (or if you want to go with an all spinach version the squeeze the juice out of a 10oz frozen chopped spinach box and add it in)

Combine all of the above in a bowl. Add in the cooked and crumbled sausage.

2-24 oz Jar canned spaghetti sauce (preferably garlic and herb and the cheap stuff is fine!)
I typically make two different pans of this and freeze one for later. If you are cooking this all at once you will fill up a jam packed 9x13 but if you have an 11x15 that works best.

Ladle in 1/2-3/4 cup of sauce on the bottom of your pan and spread it around to where it evenly coats the entire bottom.

Take your cold lasagna noodles out of the water and lay them out on your counter in long strips. I like to do this all in once step so I don't get my hands gunky.  Spread about 3 Tbsp of mixture evenly on top of each noodle until you have used up all of your filling. I typically get 12 but you could get up to 14, but don't be too skimpy with filling. Start from the bottom of one noodle and roll that baby up and place it in the sauce seam side down. Repeat until you have rolled all of the noodles.

Next, ladle the sauce over all of the noodles. You might not use up both jars but you want to be sure you have plenty of sauce on the top of the rolls or you will get a super crunchy noodle, and no one likes that.

Next, spread your remaining cheese across the top. If you are going to freeze a batch, spray the foil with Pam before covering and putting in the freezer. If you are baking right away, lightly tent the pan with foil for the first part of baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, removing the foil after 25 minutes. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving so things can settle and calm back down before you dig in.
Enjoy Y'all!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Busy Bee- Creamy Chile Chicken Spaghetti

Man, I really can't believe it has been so long since I posted. Sorry y'all! I thought that life was maybe going to slow down a bit after removing a few things from my plate but then a new buffet of options appeared to fill life back up! I have started working three days a week outside of my house and that has made me fall a bit behind on having a camera handy to catch the menu's and meals that we have been eating. We have had a lot of Kraft mac and cheese and cereal for dinner and I have tried and failed and tried and succeeded with some new recipes these past few weeks.
I have been aching for it to be cold around here. I have been leaving with a sweat shirt on in the morning (which is funny since I am the most hot natured person I know) hoping that I will have to still have it on at the end of the day, but it is usually removed before I can get to my car. I purchased some pablano's to make my tortilla chicken soup a couple of weeks ago but they are still hanging out in the bottom of my produce drawer begging to be used. I love Fall. If you have been with me long you know that my heart overflows with fond memories during the Fall. I love everything about it...except for the massive amount of trees that produces a massive amount of leaves in my front yard. Since I have not had a ton of time on my hands I decided to create a new dish that would combine the love of my chicken enchiladas with my love of chicken spaghetti. Now, chicken spaghetti has been around for ages. I looked up some recipes for it and they are pretty much all the same, rotel, Velveeta, pasta, chicken. I have a great recipe for my chicken spaghetti but some times it can have a bit too much heat for my young ones which forces me to eat the whole pan. I also don't typically have Velveeta on hand because 1. It wigs me out, 2. It wigs me out, 3. It is expensive and I would eat the whole pan. So, for this chicken spaghetti I opted to use a cream cheese base because nothing that was bad ever started with cream cheese. This had just a bit of heat from the green chiles and a bright freshness from the parsley and green onions. You can easily double this to make a whole batch and freeze it if you are needing to take someone a meal. This was also kid tested and approved...which is the best compliment this tired mom can get these days! It looks like a TON of steps but it is all super easy and just be ready to throw all of these pots in the dishwasher when you are done!

Creamy Chile Chicken Spaghetti

1 Large bone in chicken breast or 2 boneless skinless
Place your chicken on a foil lined (no washing needed!!)cookie sheet. Rub with olive oil and put a heave sprinkle of salt and fresh cracked pepper on it. Throw it in your oven at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes (bone in) or 18 (boneless) until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Remove and allow to cool before shredding the meat.

1/2 lb. angel hair pasta
1 8oz container cream cheese softened
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup minced onion
2 green onions minced
1 can whole green chiles, drained and chopped (DON'T BUT PRE-CHOPPED if you can help it!!)
1/4 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
2 cups Monterrey jack cheese shredded
2 cups chicken

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add 2-3 Tbsp of salt and throw in the pasta. Cook for about 5-6 minutes until the pasta is tender. Drain right away.
In a small pan, saute 1/2 cup minced onion in 2 tsp olive oil for about 8 minutes until the onion is soft.
In a large bowl, place the cream cheese, cream of chicken, cooked minced onion, green onions, chiles, parsley, shredded chicken and 1/2 cup of cheese. Add your cooked pasta and warmed broth and toss until all is combined. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Top with the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cheese. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 until golden bubble on the outside and the center.
Serve with a big salad and chips and salsa.

Enjoy Y'all!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Now Bring Me Some Texas Pudding

One of the biggest blessings that the salesman had growing up was being surrounded by his family, I mean within walking distance. I grew up with my family living on all sides of the world and it still remains that way to this day. He on the other had had grandparents that lived around the corner that he would go visit on a daily basis. When we came into our marriage I only had two living grandparents left but lost one of them just a few months into our marriage so I was happy to gain three new grandparents when we got married. We lost his Grandpa two years ago but the other two gals are still alive and kicking!  His Granny Dot relocated to the area a few years ago and it has been a blessing to have her close by. Granny and I both have very southern roots but we both married Yankees. She lived in Illinois most of her life where as I have been able to keep my man just south of the Mason Dixon. We had thought at one point that if we ever had a girl then we would name them after our grandmothers, but when we realized that name would be Lottie Dottie (we likes to pah-ty!) we were glad that we were bless with two boys instead.
This past weekend when all of the family was together I was handed a giant accordion file of her recipes to thumb through. For anyone that knows me you know that this is the best gift I could ever get! I sat down and began to read hand written treasures that date back to many moons ago. Because of her Southern roots there are many recipes for southern staples like pecan pie and flaky pie crust but because of her meatasaurus Northern husband there are plenty of hearty beefy dishes like stew and stuffed peppers. I came across the recipe for her peanut butter balls that are legendary in the family that I will hopefully get around to making soon, but when I was in the "Veggie" section I came across a recipe for "Texas Pudding" and I knew that would have to be first on my list. Any time a combination of cheese and rice can be passed as a veggie you can go ahead and sign me up! Now, I did make a slight variation of the recipe from how it is written. I have a strong aversion to green bell peppers, a slight incident when I was younger makes me gag at the thought of them, so I made the adjustment to jalapenos which I feel is more suited to a "Texas" recipe anyway. This recipe is very reminiscent of a hearty Mexican cornbread but is served as a "veggie" instead. I paired this with some yummy black beans and southwestern rubbed chicken breast. I promise to post more treasures soon!
No idea who took a little taste test bite!
Texas Pudding- serves 6 (or I could eat the whole pan)

2 eggs
2 cups cooked long grain rice (I used the quick cook white rice)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 14 oz can cream corn
1/4 cup minced onion
3/4 cup chopped green pepper OR 2 1/2 Tbsp minced pickled jalapenos
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp melted butter (one other addition but I had to!)

Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl. Pour into a greased baking dish with a lid. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let it stand 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy Y'all!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Betta with Butta- Basic buttercream

So y'all know by now that I have this little side hobby of fooling around and baking cakes. I am in the middle of writing material to teach a basic cupcake decorating class soon and figured it was time I should share a good old basic buttercream recipe with you. Now, this is not the buttercream I use in my business (we must have some secrets between us) but this is a great buttercream to use for any flavor cake. This is a spin on the traditional Wilton buttercream that has been around since the beginning of time. This is what some might call the "crispy" frosting because it tends to get a light crisp on it once it has been exposed to the air. I learned quickly in my early decorating days that not all buttercreams are created equal. I am not a fan of using shortening in a buttercream for many reasons. The buttercream with shortening in it can last for months on end on a shelf and that alone is very disturbing to me. This buttercream can be altered very quickly to match whatever flavor cake you are making. The trick is to let it beat for a while to get a light and fluffy texture...and salt. Salt is key to this because it helps just make it perfect, weird as it may sound. So, grab your favorite recipe, wipe the dust off of that big fat mixer that has been lonely in the cupboard and get to cookin'!

Basic Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
1 lb box or 4 cups powdered sugar
3 tsp cream (preferably heavy cream but if you don't have it on hand, half and half or milk will work)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract*

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat your butter for a minute or two until all lumps are removed and you have a good creamy mixture to work with.
With the mixer on low, slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.  One trick I have found is to wet a hand towel and drape it over your mixer while you are adding the powdered sugar. This will help you from covering your entire kitchen with magical sugar fairy dust. Just lift it when you need to add a scoop of sugar then drop it down again. Pour in the cream, salt and extract. Turn the mixer to medium high and let that baby beat for about 5-7 minutes. It will take on a nice airy texture that will be perfect to put no any cake (or dip your spoon into). Use right away. If you have to let it sit for a bit be sure you beat it for a minute or two to make it get nice and soft again. You can keep any unused portion in the fridge for up to one week or you can store it frozen up to one month. Just be sure you let it get to room temp again and beat it.
If you are having a hard time spreading the buttercream onto a cake, add an additional teaspoon at a time of milk until it is right. If it gets too runny then just add more sugar. Easy peasy. 

*So, this is where you can play around with your flavors. You can add any kind of extract at this point and can add up to 2 tsp if you want a stronger flavor.
Examples would be:
almond (great with white cake)
lemon (and add the zest of 1 lemon)
coconut (then fold in 1/2 cup shredded coconut and/or nuts and pair with in Italian cream cake)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder (yumminess with a dark chocolate cake or vanilla)
strawberry (can even add in 2 Tbsp fresh strawberry puree in place of extract)
add in 1 tsp of cinnamon with vanilla (pair with gingerbread cake)....need I go on???

Enjoy Y'all!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Million's of Peaches- Peach Salsa

A few days ago an email came into my box for a local restaurant trying to promote their peach shake in honor of National Peach Month. I had no idea August was NPM but I was thrilled with the idea and immediately starting thinking about my favorite peach dishes. Things like peach cobbler and peach pie came to my mind at first but then I remembered a recipe I had years ago that I knew I would have to share.

My first experience with peach salsa was at a family event with some friends of ours. Their son had just completed a scout program so they prepared a feast of Texas dishes to celebrate the day. Things like smokey beef brisket and spicy pintos were on the table but tucked away was a bowl of beautiful peach salsa. I had never had peach salsa before this day but I remember being struck at how beautiful the dish was. It looked like a summer painting with it's vibrant orange and yellow. The taste stayed on they tip of my tongue for days and I soon went to my local store to try to recreate the flavor for myself.

When it comes to salsas I prefer a very fine dice as opposed to a chunky texture. I have been known to throw a jar of chunky salsa into the blender to chop it up. For this salsa you will cut everything by hand so I am going to include a few photos of how I do it. Not that I think y'all don't know how to cut up veggies but this method will ensure a find dice. I prefer to serve this salsa with Frito's scoops as I love the hearty salty texture paired with the delicate sweetness of the peaches, but it would be amazing in some simple grilled chicken tacos with some cilantro lime crema. Let this be your excuse to get out to your local farmer's market and stock up on this month's prized jewel!

Summer Peach Salsa
Cast of Characters
3 medium to large sized peaches, skin removed and cut into a small dice
1 small or 1/2 of a large red onion finely diced
1 yellow bell pepper finely diced
1 orange bell pepper finely diced
2-3 jalapenos finely diced
3 medium vine ripe tomatoes finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro finely chopped (one large handful will yield this much)
Zest and juice of one lime
1/2-3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cumin

Combine all of the above into a bowl and gently stir. I would start with just a 1/2 tsp of salt then taste it after a few hours, after the flavors have all had a chance to come bff's, then add a bit more if it still needed. 
Serve with a big bowl of Frito's or on top of your favorite grilled meat. Enjoy y'all!

Chopping tutorial:
When I need to finely chop up a pepper I first wash it the stand it up on it's natural base and hold the stem with one hand. I make the first cut directly down, about 1/3 inch from the center. This will ensure that I don't take any of the seeds with me. Next, lay the pepper on the flat side then repeat on the remaining three sides. This will leave you with a square center. Then, take each flat section and using your knife cut it into thin long strips. Finally, go back and cut each of the strips into fine cubes. Repeat for all ingredients.
Square core
Again, square core for jalapenos...which is good since those tiny seeds will light your skin on fire if touched!
 For tomato chopping I always use a serrated knife, you know, the kind with the little teeth. I then set it on it's side and cut off the end cap where the stem was. I then continue to cut thin slices. I then lay the slices flat and with a super sharp chopping knife I proceed to cut the tomato into thin strips then turn the strips and cut up again until I get a small dice. It is okay if you have a bunch a juice, just pour it all into the bowl.
For onion chopping I cut right through the center first. Then I remove the last 1/2 inch of each end to remove the core. Then I remove the outside shell layer. I then start with the rounded edge and cut thin strips. After it is in thin strips I turn it and cut those thin strips again to create a fine dice.
Sorry it is blurry but isn't it beautiful??


Friday, August 10, 2012

I'll Be Seeing You!

Today has been a very bittersweet day for me. It is the kind of day that reminds me that there is a God who is watching over me and is orchestrating this world around me and those who come in and out of my life.
Today a very dear friend of mine is moving to the other side of the world, well, LA might as well be! Back many moons ago while I was working for a health care company a friend of mine called me to tell me to send her my resume as she had just been promoted and a job was opening up in her company. I immediately started sneaking around at my desk and pulled together what info I could and sent it on. I remember that night feeling like everyone at work would see that I was betraying them the next day at the office and would know my secret. Turns out, the next day we had a company wide meeting and found out we were all loosing our jobs and our company had been sold! I waited on pens and needles to hear from my friend and her company and the call finally came just one week before my job was ending. I interviewed and accepted the offer and have not had one regret since saying yes! My new boss at the job was about to go on maternity leave so I quickly had to get in and learn the job so I could be her right hand gal. We became such good friends through the job! I gained such a respect for her and am so blessed that she was brought into my life. She fully supported me when I chose to stay home and be poo (we couldn't afford the "r") as dirt when my new baby came and was there to help welcome my second muffin into the world. I taught her youngest at school, I have catered her neighborhood's party the past three years...our worlds have been carefully woven together these past seven years.
Today I returned to my old job and joined some dear friends as we celebrated with her at her last day in the Nashville office. She will be missed by so many of us, but I now have a huge excuse to save up for my tickets to LA!
MB, thanks for all of the wonderful memories and for allowing my family to have a small place in your heart! We love you and can't wait to eat some Pink's with you on the boulevard!!

You Say Cream, I say Crema - Cilantro Lime Crema

Okay, first off I have had over TEN THOUSAND views. That is crazy!! I am totally blown away. Thanks to all of you who have stopped by a time or two to check to check out what's happening in my neck of the woods. I have loved every moment of this journey with you and I hope you guys have enjoyed some good meals from the Yellow Rose Cafe!
I have decided to share a super simple recipe with you today. I feel bad that I have thrown two whoppers at you this past week, both equally delicious and well worth the time though! I have been a busy woman this week and have had a hankering for some fish taco's to ease my stress. I love fish tacos! Had you put those two words together in one sentence 9 years ago I might have gagged a bit. Not that I didn't like fish, or tacos, but the thought of the two sounded way to weird for this Texas gal. When I first moved to Nashville I came across a local eatery that has had a bit of my heart since. It is a locally run restaurant that serves mission style burritos and they are delicious. I have begged and begged for the ranch dressing but am told that the  mom who made up the recipe many years ago can't even share it anymore! The fish taco's are out of this world. I don't remember exactly when I decided to put some big girl britches on and try some but I wondered where they had been all of my life after I took the first bite. I love fried fish (act surprised!)in fish tacos. Something about the crunch and the batter that soaks up the lime juice just makes me happy. I have started making my own these days and there is really no rocket science to them. But for me the kicker is the cilantro lime creme or cream. It adds the extra bit of creaminess that I like with a bit of tart from the lime. Oh, just thinking about them makes me want to go run out and get the stuff again!!
This sauce is perfect with any grilled meat that has a southwestern spice on it (try my red dirt rub recipe) and is great with tacos, nachos, corn cakes, roasted sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, chicken tortilla soup, black beans, chili...anything where you might put sour cream as a garnish. A batch will stay good for about a week in the fridge so grab a mason jar, mix it up and get to cookin' y'all!

Cilantro Lime Crema

1 cup sour cream
Zest of one lime
½ lime squeezed
1-2 tbsp fresh minced cilantro
½ tsp garlic salt
Dash of cumin

Stir all together and store up to one week.
Cilantro Lime Yogurt Sauce packs a punch of fantastic flavor to chicken, fish, tacos and fajitas!  Use it in place of sour cream on nachos!

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tejas Beef Enchiladas with Red Gravy

Enchiladas are part of my five basic food groups since I am a Texan. They fall right in line behind BBQ, Tacos and sweet tea. The enchiladas that are available in my neck of the woods now with their thin orange bland sauce are nothing compared to the earthy rich sauce I grew up eating. Enchilada sauce should be the forefront of each bite, not the after thought behind the lack of filling. Yes, you can go to the store and buy sauce in a can off of the shelf but it doesn't come close to having the depth of flavor that this sauce will give you. Homemade sauce is worth the few extra minutes that it takes to pour the ingredients into the pan. For some reason when I make enchiladas I always prefer a white cream sauce with chicken or veggies and an intense Salsa Roja or red gravy with beef. If you have read my post called, "The Last Supper" then you know how passionate I am about my sour cream chicken enchiladas....but these are right up there on my list.
I love to make beef enchiladas with slow simmered beef brisket but when in a pinch I will use ground beef. I beg you to try the entire recipe, especially the homemade sauce next time you are in a Mexican food mood and tell me if you can't taste the difference. You will never, I repeat, NEVER go back to the canned watered down gross stuff again! And, you can easily double the amount of sauce and freeze it for later use. 

Tejas Beef Enchiladas with Salsa Roja - Makes 12 enchiladas

Salsa Roja (Red Gravy)
2 Tb butter
2 Tb oil
3 Tbsp flour
1 6oz tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock
1 garlic cube (I buy these in the frozen food section but they equal one large garlic clove minced)
3 1/2 Tbsp chili
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
½ T onion power
1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp salt

In a heavy saucepan on medium heat, gently melt the butter and oil. Once they have melted, stir in the 3 Tbsp of flour. This is called a roux which basically the thickening agent for any gravy base. For this sauce you want to allow it to cook for about 5-6 minutes until it becomes the color of brown sugar. This will intensify the flavor of the gravy prior to adding in all of the other spices. 
Once you have reached a nice light brown color, add in the can of tomato paste and stir it around. 
Whisk in the the chicken stock, garlic and remaining ingredients. Allow this to simmer on low for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Beef Enchiladas
1 Lb. ground beef (I typically buy ground sirloin)
1 small onion finely diced
1/2 tsp salt and garlic powder
1 tsp cumin, coriander, chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 dash cinnamon
1 Block sharp yellow cheddar grated, or 3 cups pre-shredded (but we all know how I feel about that!)* Be sure to reserve 1 cup for the top
12 flour tortillas (you can use corn but I prefer flour)

In a heavy bottom pan on medium high heat, cook the beef and onions and add in the spices. Use your wooden spoon to break apart the meat into fine crumbles. If it seems a bit dry then add in 2 tsp of olive oil to get it warmed up. Once the meat is cooked through turn off the heat and get ready to get your hands dirty!

In a 9x13 pan, pour in 1 cup of the Salsa Roja and spread it around to evenly coat the bottom. 
Take the tortilla in one hand and fill it with a 1/4 cup of meat and a heavy pinch of cheese (about 3 Tbsp) Roll it up and place it seam side down in the pan. Repeat until you have used up all of the tortillas and meat. Once they are all lined up in the pan, gently spoon out the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas and be sure that there is not white peaking through. Next, smother the top of the enchiladas with the remaining cheese. 
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Just like Grandma's - Sausage Gravy

There is something so magical and wonderful about simple biscuits and gravy. Those two elements have been feeding the hungry for generations. They are not stuffy foods that you have to take too seriously, like a good pairing of cheese and wine. They are dishes that when served solo they always seem to be in need of a partner, like butter or jam. The smell of this dish brings comfort to my soul. It is the kind of meal that I crave after I have had a good cry or when the floodgates have opened and buckets of raining are being dumped all around. I like to eat this kind of meal in my pj's with a good book near by to comfort me after my belly is full.  Biscuits and gravy have been a staple in my house all of my life. My mom had her own twist on it which involved chipped beef in place of sausage, which is equally delicious but not traditional. Not that I am a "traditionalist" by any means, but when it comes to this meal, I like to make it the same has it has been made for many years. I love how a few simple ingredients can come together to create a moment that is deliciously unforgettable. It is the perfect meal to serve any guest who is needing to feel loved.
By the way, I am not up to par of my biscuit recipe but hopefully I will fine tune it soon and share. In the mean time you can make your own recipe or get some of those delicious frozen one's from our friend Schubert at the store.

Sausage Gravy - enough for 4 people

1/2 lb (half of a tube) mild sausage - I am a Tennessee Pride gal
3 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk - slightly warmed (I cook it for about 1 minute in the microwave)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 tsp pepper (I am a firm believe in a LOT of black pepper for this dish!)
1/8 tsp ground poultry seasoning (yes! another use for it besides Thanksgiving)

In a large heavy bottom skillet or cast iron set on medium heat, cook the sausage until it is lightly browned. I like to break it continuously with my wooden spoon so that I get little tiny crumbles as I think that is best with sausage gravy. Don't let the sausage get crispy, remove it as soon as the pink has cleared away.
Turn the head to medium-low and remove the sausage with your spoon and place into a bowl. Set aside.
Throw the 3 Tbsp of butter into the pan and let them slowly melt. There will be a brown film on the bottom of the pan for the sausage but that love will come in very handy in a wee bit so don't even think about scrubbing the pan!
After the butter has melted, slowly add the flour and stir until it is combined. It is going to look like a hot mess, but don't be alarmed. It sort of looks like you are cooking play-dough and that is perfect. Let it cook for about 3 minutes so that it looses the flour taste and combines with the butter.
With a whisk in one hand and the milk in the other, slowly add the milk to the flour and whisk constantly to prevent any major lumpage. You will notice that the brown bits start floating around in the cream white sauce and that is JUST what you want! Throw in the salt, pepper and poultry seasoning and stir almost
continuously for about 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
It is still a little too thin. See that? 
This is the perfect thickness. See those bits of flavor?
You can turn the heat up to medium if you are in a hurry but turn it right back down if it starts to boil too fast. Once the mixture has started to thicken pour in the cooked sausage (be sure you get the lovely grease that settled at the bottom). Turn the heat to low and let it continue to cook until your biscuits are ready to be topped. I like to add an extra splash of pepper and salt right at the end.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Confessions of a First Grade mom

Today was the day. You remember last year around this time I dropped off my oldest at Kindergarten for the first time. I was a wreck! I came home and spent the whole day crying and baking yummy cupcakes just knowing that the sugary sweetness would take away all of my heart ache. But, it didn't.
Well, today I dropped off my baby for first grade and it was a great day. I don't know why but I felt so much peace about the whole event. Maybe it is because the terrible storms that came through the night finally calmed and moved on. Maybe it is because his teacher has been teaching longer than I have been alive and has been teaching at this school since before I got my license to drive. Maybe it is because she printed off the parent letter on really cool stationary so I think she is still super hip. Maybe it is because there are a hand full of friends in his class this year that were in his class last year so I know he will not be alone. Maybe it is because his Kindergarten teacher is across the hall so if his new teacher is mean then he can run across to her for consoling. Maybe it is because he was cool as a cucumber and walked right on in and flashed me a precious wave and a smile before finding his chair and getting started with his coloring page. I don't know.
What I do know is that I have been preparing a long time for this and this letting go phase is going to just get harder and harder and I will have to keep extending my arms up to the Father more and more to release all of my fears and worries. Two weeks ago we were at camp with our youth group and talked about this idea of Koininia, the idea of unity and community that what we have here on earth is a mere reflection of what is being prepared for us. I fully believe that we are surrounded by an amazing body of believers who have each had a part in shaping our little ones from early on, and for that we feel overwhelmingly blessed.

So today as I munched on almond kissed pancakes drenched in syrup while being surrounded by freshly sharpened pencils ready to be put to use on reams of crisp white paper, I felt at ease knowing that this is what we were created for. I pray that my baby will make me proud today as he makes new friends and a first impression on many around him. I pray that he will remember the rules of our house, like not hitting and being a peace maker and will put them into use. And I pray that he will remember that no matter how much I let him go that he can always run back into my arms and know that he is completely loved.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What is Love? Plan Ahead Peanut Butter Pie

I remember once upon a time Cracker Barrel selling frozen peanut butter pie. Does anyone else remember this but me?!? It was delicious and was a rare treat that we were able to indulge in. I love peanut butter and I love chocolate and the combination of the two was a match made in heaven.
It is so stinkin' hot outside here, like it is everywhere else in the world. We have been spending our days at the pool and have been ending our nights with sweet frozen treats. I can't seem to keep enough popsicles on hand right now. When it is this stinkin' hot outside I love gobbling up snow cones and creamy frozen fudgesicles.
This past weekend we had some good friends over for dinner so I decided to create a cold dessert to end our meal. I recently purchased some chocolate cream cheese but have been stumped as to what to do with it. I thought about dipping strawberries on it or topping off a bagel with it but I have been too lazy to actually DO any of those things. So, I decided to combine it with a few other friends. And, they all became BFF's when they met. This frozen pie is lovely treat for a hot summer night but you need to prepare it early enough in the day to freeze up for the night. It is basically the love child of a reeses peanut butter cup and fudgesicle. I promise, this is one for the books!

Plan Ahead Peanut Butter Pie

Crust:
2 Cups crushed graham crackers (please, don't buy a pre made crust. This is SO worth the extra two seconds it takes to make one!)
6 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine all of the above in a bowl. Dump into a pie or tart pan and pat down on the bottom and up one inch of the sides. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes until set. Remove from the oven and cool.

Filling:
1 container of Philadelphia Chocolate Cream Cheese
1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 Large container cool whip
small handfull of mini chocolate chips
In the bowl of a stand up mixer (or you can use a hand mixer) beat the cream cheese and 1/4 cup peanut butter until combined. Pour in the milk and beat until combined. Gently fold in the cool whip and fold until combined. You want to keep as much air in the cool whip as you can. Spread the filling into the cooled crust  and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Take the 1 Tbsp of peanut butter and place it into a small ziplock baggie. Microwave the UNzipped bag for 20 seconds. The peanut butter will losen up. Squeeze the peanut butter into one corner of the bag and snip a tiny corner of the bag off with scissors. Pipe your peanut butter drizzle over the top of the pie. Place the pie into the freezer and freeze for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
When ready to serve, remove from the oven about 5 minutes before serving to soften it up a wee bit. Slice into wedges and serve.

Enjoy Y'all!

The Family Secret - Rhodes Rolls Pizza


My Nana has always made the best rolls! They are always a mile high and drenched in butter. When I became of age she let me in on a big secret, a family secret...they were Rhodes. Rhodes rolls, if you are not familiar with them, are availble at your local supermarket in the frozen bread section. Rhodes are frozen roll dough balls that you buy in a bright orange package. You just take them out, place them on a sheet, cover them in plastic and let them rise until they triple in size. We love Rhodes in my house. The salesman could live on bread alone..well, maybe meat soaked bread alone, so we have bread a lot in our house. Rhodes are the perfect addition to Sunday pot roast supper or cozy soup night in the winter. Lately I have been playing more and more with my food, especially my rolls. I have started using Rhodes for everything from meatball sliders to monkey bread. Well, this past week the salesman had a baseball game so I decided to make homemade mini pizzas with the muffins. They LOVE pizza and I thought this would be the perfect way for them to get some hands on time with me in the kitchen. I love watching my little ones observe and explore with me while I dance my way around the kitchen at dinner time. They loved hopping up on the counter and creating their own little masterpieces. One was busy rolling while the other snuck tiny bits of cheese in this mouth. We happened to make meatball pizzas since I had some left over from the night before. These are the perfect meal for a lazy summer night and are great for kids. I also think they are a fun way to clean out your fridge! I will provide you with some basics but you feel free and take the lead at any time.

Rhodes Roll Pizza's

2-3 rolls per person (my six year old ate three!)
1/4 cup grated cheese per person - we did mozerella but you can do any combo of what you have on hand
2 Tbsp of pizza sauce per person (We do a half a can of tomato paste to half a can of tomato sauce ratio then add in our own spices for our pizza sauce. Typically 1/2 tsp garlic salt, dried italian spice blend, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp sugar, dash of cayenne)

Toppings of your choice :
Left over meatballs, grilled chicken, pepperoni, sausage, olives, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc. You need about 3 Tbsp total prt pizza.

Place your frozen dough package in the fridge the morning that you want to make your pizzas so that the bread can thaw but not rise. 

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
I was able to fit five on one cookie sheet at a time.
Use a tiny bit of flour and dust your clean work surface to roll out your dough. Roll out a roll, one at a time, until they dough is about the size of a small saucer, or a wee bit larger. Place on either a pizza stone or cookie sheet (don't spray with Pam). Top off with sauce, cheese and topping. I like to do a sprinkle of parmesan and garlic salt on top right before I bake.

I love Ceaser salad with my pizza!
Bake in the oven for about 6-9 minutes until golden and bubbly. Gobble gobble.

Enjoy Y'all!

Hot Drums with Patriotic Potatoes

I have drums on my brain. I have been dreaming and drawing drums the last two weeks and will continue to for the next two. I am so honored to announce that I, yes moi, am making the birthday cake for a drummer by the name of Ringo. Have you heard of him? From the Beattles, you ask? Yes, that's the one! It's a super long story but it is an honor I am so excited about. I never would have dreamed that my client base for my cake business would include a Beattle and Elvis. This is about as exciting as it gets around here friends. I promise I will post pictures when all is said and done but until that day comes I have decided to sink my teeth into another kind of drum. A hot drum.
A couple of weeks ago some dear friends asked us to dinner. It was a lovely night full of good laughs and finger lickin' good food. Our friends made some hot chicken drums that are basically hot wings but on a chicken drum. They were delicious. I have been dreaming about them, and the other kind, since that night so I decided to make some of my own. There is nothing to them really but they are oh so heavenly. I use to hate hot wings. It is one of those weird things where one day I decided I was going to like them. So I did. And I have had some good ones and some okay ones. For me, the spicier the better. I want my teeth to sweat when I eat a wing. My favorite part is being able to dunk the wing over and over into creamy blue cheese and not think anything of it. Does life get better than that? Well, I decided I would pair up these babies with some blue cheese roasted red potatoes. These are a perfect treat to a hot summer night. Be sure you sip on some house wine of the south.

Hot Drums with Patriot Potatoes

Chicken Drums (Plan for 2.5 per person)
1 cup of Texas Pete (you can do Louisiana too but I stick with my roots on this one)

Dump all of the above in a bag and let it marinate for at least 24 hours and up to 48. Promise, the flavor is NOT THERE unless you have at least 24 hours for these babies to get all happy. When you are ready to cook you can either grill or roast. To grill, preheat the grill to about 400 degrees. Cook these babies for about 30-35 minutes, turning in between until juices run clear when pierced with a fork.
If roasting, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roast for 25-28 minutes until skin is looking crisped and juices run clear when pierced, turning in between cooking. If you want the skin to crisp up more, turn the oven to broil for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. Broil them and turn a few times to get the skin crispy all around. Don't take your eyes off of them because they can burn up super fast under the broiler.

Meanwhile, start your potatoes. I used a beautiful medley of mixed baby potatoes that were Yukon gold, red and purple. They were so great! If you can only find one small potato you can go with either Yukon gold or red. I usually estimate about 3 mini potatoes per person or 2 medium size.

Red white and Blue Potatoes
1 lb of mixed baby potatoes, rinsed and gross spots removed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/4 tsp Dill, Garlic Power, Onion Powder, Paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne

Cut your potatoes in quarters if they are small or cubes if they are a bit larger. You want the sizes to be very similar so they cook evenly. Throw the potatoes directly on to your cookie sheet. Add the other ingredients and toss to coat. Cook in 425 degree (same as the chicken so you have to make them!) oven for 18-20 minutes until fork tender.

1 green onion thinly sliced
2 Tbsp fresh chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

Place your cooked potatoes into your serving bowl and throw in the onions, parsley and blue cheese (feel free to add more) and gently toss. The blue cheese is going to get all warm and melty and heavenly.

Serve potatoes with drum sticks and a side of either ranch or blue cheese for extra dipping.

Enjoy Y'all!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Breakfast of Champions- Cinnamon Toast Crunch Sticks

I put a teaser photo up on Facebook last week of this yumminess and feel terrible that the tease lasted so long! I recently started a new job part time and it has rocked my planned out world! It is my first away from home job I have had since I had my first muffin six years ago so it has been quite a change for all of us. I love the job and feel so blessed, it has just put super fun things like blogging and recipe browsing on the back burner. We love us some cinnamon toast around here with eggs for breakfast. We also love us some Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal. Last week when I was cooking some breakfast I decided to put a spin on the traditional cinnamon toast. My muffins always gobble up the bread until the edge of the crust then pitch it aside. I decided to crust the bread and let is simmer in some love butter...and it turned out to be cinnamon toast crunch perfection. This has a similar feel to a Mexican churro so what's not to love? This is great for any meal or snack!

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Sticks-Made enough for 4, adjust recipe to how many you need
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tsp honey
2 tsp veggie oil
5 slices bread (I used wheat) with crusts cut off and cut into 3 long planks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

Let me preface by saying that I did this recipe in two batches. If you have a super large non-stick then you can do them all at one time. I was too lazy to dig for my giant pan so I did two batches. You really do need a non stick surface to cook this on. Let's begin.

With the heat on medium-low, slowly melt 1 Tbsp of butter, 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp oil (if you are using a giant pan then melt all of the butter, honey and oil at one time). Let the mixture get good and friendly and warm. Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.


Slowly place your bread on top of the butter honey mixture but try not to move the bread around so that there is plenty of butter love for all. Let the butter soak and cook in the mixture for 2-3 minutes until golden. Once it is golden, flip the bread and let it toast on the other side for about 1 minute.
After the bread has toasted, remove the planks one at a time and roll them in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Repeat again until all of the bread is cooked and coated.
Stack them up and watch them disappear!!
Enjoy y'all!

Friday, June 1, 2012