Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tortellini with Red and White Sauce

Does that not look like the perfect bite?

A cute little tortellini resting comfortably on a savory Baby Bella mushroom sauce intertwined with ground beef swimming in a garlicy tomato sauce.

That folks, is a whole meal right there, minus the vegetables. You're going to have to come up with those on your own, because we're just providing the main entree' today. And this whole meal can be made in no time at all.

In fact, if you are coordinated enough to operate three stove burners at once - and I think you are - then this meal can be made in the time it takes to boil water and cook tortellini. Of course, I'm assuming you're like me and you keep a pound of cooked hamburger in the freezer for times such as these, because that saves lots of time - AND a burner. I, myself would use that fourth burner to steam some garden green vegetables to make this meal-on-a-spoon truly complete.

If your family or guests are hanging around your kitchen, asking when dinner's going to be served, then make this dish as originally designed. However, if you're thinking ahead to tomorrow or you're bringing it to a family gathering, just layer it up as suggested and do the reheat thing when you're ready for it - keeping the top covered. In it's final moments in the oven, remove the cover and switch to broil mode to get the bubbly cheese effect.

Tortellini with Red and White Sauce

Tomato Sauce

One Tablespoon Butter
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 Cup Chopped Onion
14 Ounce Can Tomato Sauce
1/2 Pound Cooked Hamburger

Mushroom Parmesan Sauce

2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Cups Sliced Fresh Baby Bella Mushrooms
1/4 Cup Chopped Green Onion
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Cups Milk
2/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper

12 Ounces Tortellini, fresh or frozen

1-1/2 Cups Grated Mozzarella Cheese
Grated Parmesan Cheese

To make tomato sauce: Melt butter and saute' garlic and onion until tender. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Add hamburger. Cover and simmer ten minutes.

Cook tortellini according to package instructions.

To make mushroom sauce: Melt butter and saute' mushrooms and green onion until tender. (The original recipe did not specify what type of mushrooms to use, so I took the liberty and chose Baby Bellas, because their flavor is superior to the average white mushroom.) Sprinkle with flour and gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens to consistency of mushroom soup. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Add mushroom Parmesan sauce to cooked, drained tortellini.

To serve: Spread tomato/hamburger sauce over bottom of a large shallow casserole. Spoon tortellini mushroom mixture on top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and additional Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler until cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately.

If making ahead of time, layer as directed and cover with foil. When ready to cook, place in 350 degree oven, covered. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until heated through. Remove cover and broil top as originally instructed.

A whole meal on a spoon!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Calico Corn & Bean Salad

Summer is definitely here, and being Memorial Day weekend, it's the start of all the summer cookouts! We don't know about you, but we're always looking for something new to bring...something to really knock everyone's socks off, if you know what we mean! While there's definitely something comforting about seeing all of the same foods every year, we really have the need to shake things up a bit...get crazy, go wild, and take a chance on a new dish!

A few years ago, I needed something new for Noah's birthday cookout, and I had nothing earth-shattering in mind. NOTHING! All of my recipes looked boring and overused to me, so I went on a quest...and found this little gem in a magazine that was only published for a year (and what a shame, it was a great magazine!). Full of veggies and tons of flavor, it was a definite hit! We've made it many times since with rarely any left-overs, but on the off chance there is... it's still wonderful the next day! So get crazy and shake things up a bit at your next cookout! Your guests will thank you!

Calico Corn and Bean Salad

2 cloves garlic, pressed
1-2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. oregano
2 tbsp. oil
3 c. frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. frozen peas
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. chopped red onion
1/2 c. snipped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. oil
1/4 c. lime juice
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 med tomatoes, chopped

I always start by chopping my jalapenos. I know most people will tell you to wear gloves, but I never do, mainly because I never seem to have any. I just try to be really careful about touching the seeds. Cut those peppers in half and scoop the seeds out before dicing the pepper. In a large skillet, cook garlic, jalapenos, cumin, and oregano in 2 tbsp. hot oil for 2 minutes. Add corn and stir to coat. Add water; cover and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in peas, beans, onions, cilantro and salt. Cool slightly.

In a screw-top jar, combine the 1/3 c. oil, lime juice, dijon mustard, and black pepper. Cover and shake well to mix. Pour over vegetable mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill 4-24 hours. Stir in tomatoes just before serving, and watch everyone smile with delight!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sensational Steak with Raspberry Sauce

We absolutely love this steak recipe for a myriad of reasons, the most important one being that it tastes amazing! But the other reason it's one of our all-time grilling favorites is because it was the recipe, that upon reading the list of ingredients, our initial thought was "yuk". The ingredients they were suggesting we layer upon a perfectly grilled rib-eye seemed horribly mismatched and certainly a recipe for disaster. Or so we thought at the time.

Now, at that point and time in our lives we had not yet discovered how magnificently different fruits, vegetables, herbs, cheeses, and meats, when allowed to perform together, could be such a big hit. After all, we were still cooking in a world where a Cobb salad was our idea of mixing it up and going crazzzzzzzy!

But we trusted this cookbook, we were feeling adventurous, and if truth be told, the picture of this enticing steak was nothing less than slobber-worthy, so we decided to give it a try. Besides, we both love sitting around reading cookbooks for fun and are both suckers for a beautiful photograph of food, so if we see it, and we like what we see, we must make it.

So, right off the bat we X out two of the ingredients because we unanimously decide that (1) we don't want figs on our steak and (2) ham on top of steak is just overkill. Today, however, the figs don't sound like such a bad idea, so we'll leave them in the recipe in case you're a big fig fan. Yes Sarah, we are talking about you up there in Canada. Go crazy with your figs!

We found the rest of the recipe to be pure genius. We made it, we ate it, and we fell in love with "horribly mismatched" ingredients. That day was the beginning of a brand new adventure for us in the kitchen. Nowadays, we welcome recipes that sound a little crazy. We have eaten at our fair share of wonderful restaurants that get creative with food combining, and time and time again, we find ourselves falling in love with a new flavor sensation. Basically, what we have learned over the years is that anything goes!

Between talented chefs preparing our meals and us cooking them up ourselves, we've rarely been disappointed and are super confident that you will not be disappointed with this Gold Medal Winner today. (We awarded it the Gold medal..... ...because it is worthy!)


Sensational Steak with Raspberry Sauce

1/2 Pint Red Raspberries
3 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
One tablespoon Oil
One Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
One Teaspoon Finely Chopped Fresh Rosemary
3/4 Teaspoon Garam Masala (DO NOT SKIP THIS! It is the glue)
Freshly Ground Pepper
8 Boneless Rib-eye or Beef Tenderloin Steaks (2-1/2 lbs)
6 Ounces Blue Cheese, crumbled
8 Large or 16 Small Figs, quartered (optional)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the raspberries, sugar, and vinegar. Simmer for ten minutes, or until reduced by half.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the rosemary, garam masala, and1/2 teaspoon pepper ( and figs) and cook a couple more minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper. Grill or broil the steaks for 12 minutes, turning once, until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 145 degree for medium rare.

Place each steak on a plate. Evenly divide the cheese on top of the steaks and cover with some of the onion mixture. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the raspberry sauce all over it. OR drizzle raspberry sauce THEN the onion mixture. YOU decide!

Take a bite.

Now you know what heaven is like......

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spinach Pasta Salad

It feels like summer here today, and when temperatures rise we tend to think about eating cooler foods. Grandma Cindy brought this fresh and flavorful pasta salad to Noah's 4th Birthday Party and even though we all liked the salad and ate our fair share of it, we found ourselves discussing how we could make it even better!

As refreshing as the pasta salad was, we couldn't help but think that something was missing, so we started brainstorming. What we decided was that this pasta salad needed some cheese! Not just any cheese - Gorgonzola Cheese. We figured this unique cheese was a perfect compliment to the grapes and cucumbers. Also, even though parsley was the original herb used in the dressing, to us, fresh snipped Basil sounded even better.

And since we experimented with this salad on the day it shared a plate with the Goat Cheese Burgers posted yesterday, we opted out of the chicken. Toasted walnuts or candied walnuts, we think, would be a perfect substitution for the chicken if you were vegetarian or just wanted a different flavor.

Whichever way you go, this Pasta Salad is a delightful addition to any summertime meal and the perfect dish to bring to a cookout.

Spinach Pasta Salad


2 Cups Purple Grapes (halved)
2 Cups Packed Torn Spinach
12- 16 oz. Corkscrew Pasta (cooked)
One Cucumber (sliced and halved)
3 Green Onions (chopped)
6 Ounces Gorgonzola Cheese (crumbled)
5 Cups Cooked and Diced Chicken (3 breasts) Optional
One Cup of Toasted or Candied Walnuts (optional)


One Cup Oil
1/2 Cup Sugar
4 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
One Teaspoon Salt
One Teaspoon Dried Minced Onion Flakes
4 Tablespoons Fresh Basil (cut small)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

Mix in pint jar with a tight lid. Shake well before serving. Toss salad with dressing.

As always with a dish like this, it's best to toss everything the day before serving so the flavors have time to mix and mingle and create a NEW and unified flavor!

Coming Soon.... A Sensational Steak on the Grill With Raspberry Sauce

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Goat Cheese Burgers with Onion Jam

Do you know what's great about having a party where everyone brings their favorite dish? You get to have your very own smorgasbord of new and exciting foods to try. You walk through the line, pick out what looks good and interesting, and then have yourself a taste. If you're lucky, you hit the jackpot and taste something new and extraordinary. Once you've realized that you just tasted something spectacular, you go on a crazy mad hunt in search of your now, favorite guest - the one who brought this something spectacular to your party. Once you track them down, you insist that you must have the recipe. Beaming with pride, this guest happily agrees to share the recipe with you. Seriously, is there any better compliment than to have someone on their knees begging for your recipe?

Heck, 90% of the time, it's not even an original recipe. But, just because we didn't invent the winning recipe, doesn't mean we don't deserve a standing ovation for knowing a good thing when we read it. Kate found this recipe on MSN and somehow, she knew it would be a hit. She's good! She wanted to share the joy with us and now we want to share the joy with you!


We had the chance this past weekend to give these burgers a try and to say that these burgers were a hit is a ginormous understatement. There was lots of moaning and groaning going on at the table and our friend, Shawn threw it out there and said, "This might be the best burger I've ever had". Bold statement! But everybody around the table moaned and agreed!

These burgers have incredible flavor and if you make the Onion Jam the day before as suggested, these tasty burgers can be made in a flash. We wish we had prepared the onions the day before because we were super hungry! Neither of us had read the directions thoroughly, so we underestimated how long the onion process would take. Although, to smell the aroma of the onions cooking down and caramelizing into jam was a real treat for us. There was some serious salivating going on in that kitchen!

Also, the recipe calls for Texas toast, but ever since we discovered the wonderful world of Skinny Buns we have found it impossible to use anything else. Shawn and Deetra, who are big fans of Texas toast, seemed a little nervous about the substitution, but they came around to our side when they tasted first hand, how the skinny buns allowed the spotlight to shine brightly on the main event - the burger!

We followed Kate's instruction not to use condiments and we all agreed that this burger can and should stand alone.

Barry, who normally has an aversion to anything involving vinegar, was a huge fan of these burgers and thought this recipe would make a killer meatloaf!

So, if you're looking for that burger recipe that will have everybody on the block talking about your Memorial Day cookout, look no further - the winner is right here!

Thanks Kate!

Goat Cheese Burgers w/Onion Jam

2 Pounds Ground Beef
Onion Jam (see recipe below)
4 Ounces Goat Cheese
2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
12 Slices Texas Toast or Skinny Buns

Additional goat cheese for topping - optional
Golden tomato wedges - optional

1) Combine the ground beef, half the Onion Jam, 4 oz. of goat cheese, salt, and red pepper in a large mixing bowl. Divide into 6 portions and form into patties.

2) Place burger patties on a lightly oiled grill rack and grill directly over medium heat. Grill for 18-23 minutes until internal temperature reads 160 degrees. Turn burgers once halfway through grilling.

3) Grill the Texas toast (or if in a pinch, just heat them in a covered skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes on each side on the stove). Spread 6 slices with some of the remaining onion jam and top each with a grilled burger patty. Top with additional goat cheese, if desired. Top with remaining toast slice and garnish with tomato slices. (No ketchup, mustard, mayo needed - it takes away from the intense flavor of the jam and the mellow cheese).

Onion Jam
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 large yellow onions and 2 large red onions, thinly sliced; cook and stir for 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups chopped green onions. Cook onion mixture for 25-30 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar; reduce heat. Simmer 10-12 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat. Cover and chill for up to one week.

Coming Soon..... Many More Great Recipes for Your Weekend Cookout!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another Guest!

Hey guess what?

We've got another guest coming to the party!

Meet Kate, folks...

Kate has a passion for food, which of course, is one of the things we love about her! She lives in Chicago, where we all know awesome culinary delights abound, and she's always talking about the yummy food she and her sweet hubby are preparing. And even better, she's health conscious, but never sacrifices quality... which is always a plus in our book!

So tune in tomorrow for the recipe Kate sent us. I promise you won't be disappointed!!!! We had friends over and made it last night for dinner, and everyone is begging for more! It was a huge hit!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Make Your Own Vanilla

If you're like us, you LOOOOOVE vanilla and appreciate the real thing over the imitation stuff. If you're like us, you're going to be downright giddy to learn that you can make your own real vanilla at home.

First things first, you're going to need to take a quick trip to the store and buy yourself some liquor - vodka that is. We personally chose to use Skyy Vodka for three simple reasons, listed in the order of their importance....

1. We think the blue bottle is really pretty.

2. It's recommended to use a dark bottle when making your own vanilla, so the beautiful blue 'sky' fits that bill perfectly.

3. It's not the cheapest vodka, but it's not super expensive either, so it's a nice middle of the road choice. We don't want to skimp on taste or quality when it comes to making our own vanilla.

Luckily, we've got family that orders from Frontier, so we can get natural and organic vanilla beans for only 85 cents a bean...

Then using a knife, we cut each bean lengthwise - just enough to open it and expose the magic "beans" inside. This releases the vanilla flavor........

Then we drop around eight beans into the bottle...

Can you see them in there?

More importantly, can you smell them?


Every week or so, pick up the bottle and give it a shake, shake, shake and in six months you'll be ready to use this vodka as real vanilla. The longer the beans steep, the stronger the vanilla will be. We try to hold out for a whole year because we want monstrous vanilla flavor. Rumor has it that once the year is up, you can take the beans from the bottle and recycle those beans, using them for your next bottle - supposedly the flavor is still there. THAT is some seriously powerful beans! Magic beans!

So, go get yourself some vanilla beans and vodka and make some magic today!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I'm fairly certain I was a picky eater as a child. I don't think my mother has ever come right out and said so, but when I think back, there were a lot of foods I turned my nose up at. And I'm not just talking about the obvious gross foods like liver and lima beans that took me hours to eat because of the strict "clean plate club" I reluctantly belonged to. I'm talking ketchup, beans, peas, bananas, sweet potatoes, chili....

But I did like cottage cheese with pineapple. Turns out, not everyone grew up on that unusual combination. For some, it was applesauce and cottage cheese - which I thought was totally weird. Anyway, I remember the first day my mother introduced this Hunza recipe to us kids. She laid the plate down in front of me and there was my cottage cheese, only instead of pineapple, there was a combination of several different fruits on top. That was cool.

What was not cool for the picky eater who lived within me as a child, was the layer of seeds she snuck between them. I moaned and whined that she "ruined a good thing" by adding seeds to a perfectly good dish and I made it very clear that I wouldn't be eating any of it.

Whatever! I soooo lost that fight and eventually I decided to try a bite. And when I did, I was pleasantly surprised by how good it tasted. How incredibly good it tasted. How was it possible that crushed pumpkin seeds actually tasted good between cottage cheese and sweet fruit?

I was dumbfounded. I didn't know what to think. All I knew was that every single bite tasted better than the one before. As an adult, this dish is still a great surprise every time I sit down to eat it. It can be served on a large plate where everyone takes their own serving, or better yet, each person gets their own plate and assembles the amount of seeds and fruit they want. Not many rules with Hunza, which is another reason to love it!


Cottage Cheese
Pumpkin Seeds
Fruit such as Strawberries, Cherries, Blueberries, Apples, Bananas

On a plate, spread a layer of cottage cheese as big or small as you wish your portion to be. Using a chopper or processor or knife, chop up enough pumpkin seeds to create a nice layer to cover the cottage cheese. For the fruit above, I chose frozen organic strawberries, raspberries, and black raspberries. I placed them in a pan on the stove over low to medium heat. I mixed a small amount of water (1/4 cup) with a tablespoon of cornstarch and a tablespoon of sugar together and stirred well. I added it to the fruit and stirred occasionally until a beautiful sauce formed around the fruit. I let it chill in the fridge for about an hour, then I covered the cottage cheese and seeds with it.

As beautiful as it is, it tastes even better!

I do believe the original recipe called for grated apple on top of the seeds, not strawberries, bananas, or blueberries, so your options here are many. Do what feels right deep down in your bones, and it will turn out fantastic!

Coming Soon....Vodka and Magic Beans!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Strawberries - Is Organic Important?

We feel terrible that we're about to break your hearts, but it's inevitable if we are to continue our conversation about organic versus nonorganic and the infamous "Dirty Dozen". We do believe that strawberries are one of America's favorite fruits - it's certainly one of ours, so it's sad to think that this beautiful, red, and luscious fruit tops the list as one of the Dirty Dozen. Who would have guessed the glorious strawberry could ever be considered "dirty"?

Well, maybe it's because all the insects of the world feel as passionately about this fruit as we do and the only way for us to eat it before they do, is to spray, spray, spray. And spray, spray, spray they do. According to Cindy Burke's book, "Some organic growers joke that conventionally grown strawberries are so full of chemicals, you could grind them up and use them as a pesticide." I don't know about you, but we don't see the funny in that one! Sadly, 65 different pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides are registered for use on the much loved strawberry.

According to Cindy's research, strawberries are the most chemically intensive crop in California. Many commercial strawberry growers use methyl bromide, a toxic, ozone-depleting chemical to eradicate all fungus, nematodes, microorganisms, and weeds, effectively killing every living thing in the soil where strawberry plants are grown. AND THEN, for the remaining growth cycle, the plants are drip-fed chemical fertilizers. Because methly bromide can cause poisoning, neurological damage, and reproductive harm, the EPA classifies it as a Toxicity Category One compound, which is a classification reserved for the most deadly substances it regulates. Wonderful.

If your heart is still intact, brace yourself for this. When the PDP releases its annual lists of produce samples with residues present after harvesting, that exceed tolerance levels, strawberries appear more often than any other fruit or vegetable.

Sorry. So So Sorry.

Of course, there is a solution to all of this! You can support your local organic growers, which in turn, will help drive prices down in the future, or you can grow your own - like us!

Coming Soon... A Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner - You Choose! And You Even Get To Eat Organic Strawberries With It....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cinnamon Popcorn

Growing up, I loved popcorn! When all of us kids were young, my parents popped enough corn for all us to have our own little bowl. When it was just my sister and I still living at home, I can remember nights when I would be studying, and all of a sudden I would smell the unmistakable aroma of popcorn in the air.

As if under a spell, I would get up and follow the scent into the kitchen. Sometimes, I would catch my Mom or Dad leaving the room with their big bowl of popcorn in hand, while other times the kitchen would be empty - except for the evidence they left behind. I would then pop my own corn, leave the kitchen, and within minutes, hear the popper cranking out a third batch for my little sister. The smell was so infectious, it was hard not to eat some once you got a whiff of it.

My mother never believed in microwaves, so we always air popped our corn and drizzled good old-fashioned butter right on top. I remember my mom making homemade caramel popcorn for special occasions sometimes and it was delicious! It always took forever to make - at least it felt like forever when I was a kid, which is why I've never bothered to make it as an adult. But my older sister, Terri found this great recipe that tastes like caramel popcorn and it takes no time at all.

I'll warn you just like my sister did the first time she made it for me by saying, "Be careful. It's somewhat addictive - once you start, it's hard to stop." Of course, a warning like that seems to have the opposite effect on me, so I dug right in. I think it's hard to stop once you start because it's a lot more subtle than caramel popcorn. There's just enough of a hint of butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt on each kernel to excite your taste buds, that before you know it, you've completely embarrassed yourself by shoveling it down the hatch like you haven't eaten in days. With that said, it's probably best to serve this sinful snack in small individual bowls, so nobody falls prey to gluttony. Or not!

So, if you're spending some quality time with the family this Mother's Day Weekend and your evening happens to involve a family movie, consider this fabulous sweet treat for the whole family to enjoy!

Cinnamon Popcorn

Pop Enough Corn To Measure 12 Cups

1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

While you're popping your 12 cups of popcorn, melt the butter, sugar, salt, and cinnamon on the stove over low heat. Put the popcorn in a large bowl and pour the mixture over it, stirring constantly. Once you've coated all the popcorn, grab a bowl and dig in.

If you are not eating the popcorn immediately - say, you're bringing it to a fireworks display or a drive-in movie - pour the popcorn into a 9x13 pan and place it in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Place popcorn in sealed plastic bag until ready to eat!


Happy Mother's Day to our mothers, Cindy and Jean!

We Love You!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wingin' It With Chicken

What if you came home from work one night and decided you just didn't feel like playing by the rules when it came to making dinner? What if you're single? What if you're not, but the family isn't home and you're the only one eating? What if it's just you in the kitchen and you can make whatever you want? What WOULD you do?

Go crazy, we hope!

Have fun and explore the possibilities!

Sometimes we don't feel like reading from a recipe and following it to the letter, so we 'wing it'.

Today, we're Wingin' it With Chicken.

Open the fridge and find some crazy sauce to bathe the chicken in. Do you see that Thai Chili Sauce on the top shelf, way in the back, behind the jar of dill pickles? Grab that and dump a big blob of it into your wok or skillet. Fire up the heat and let's get things going.

Start by cutting the chicken breast into pieces - whatever size you like - and drop them into the sizzling sauce. Go back into the fridge, open the veggie crisper and see what you find there. We spy a beautiful red pepper sitting right next to a large red onion - grab them both. On a clean cutting board, start chopping away at these vegetables until you think it looks like enough to compliment the chicken. Add them to the fire.

Okay! Let's see what's in the freezer - besides ice cream!

Right there, in front of your face is some frozen corn - that'll work - grab that! Open her up and dump some in. Stir everything together, add a dash of salt and a pinch of pepper and cover it with a lid to keep all the heat and moisture inside.

When the chicken is sufficiently cooked and the veggies have softened, lower the heat and add just a tablespoon or two of light cream into the mix - just enough to create a slight sauce. needs something else.

Open the fridge again. What kind of cheese do you have in the drawer?

Asiago? - yum! Grab some Asiago and sprinkle that in. Now, mix it all together and then have yourself a taste. Whoa! - it's a little sweet and a little spicy, but that cheese makes it "just right".

Yum! Yum! Good Job!

See! Who needs rules when you can Wing it?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cheese Tasting

If you want to see grown women act positively giddy, sit them at your dining room table and tell them you're going to serve them cheese. And wine. And beer.

Our Food Tasting party this month was all about cheese. The party was held at Jen's house and to say her house was "a hit" would be a serious understatement. The majority of the girls at the party had never seen or been to Jen's beautiful log home, so first, there was some gushing, then there was some drooling, some touring, more drooling, and then several rounds of compliments. Once we got everyone settled down from the excitement of Jen's home, we stirred things right back up when we sat them down to taste some cheese.

Our very favorite Canadian friend and wine connoisseur, Sarah helped us choose some wines to compliment the cheeses along with a beer or two. She helped serve up some white wine, red wine, a lager, and good old H2O in some little Dixie cups so we could taste them with the cheeses.

For fun, Jen, Sarah, and I decided (okay, I decided, but they agreed to play along) to start things off with a little deception. The girls were so revved up and ready to taste some cheese, that since the first cheese up for tasting was Saint Andre - a cheese out of France that's buttery, soft, delicate, and described as a "triple cream cheese", I thought it would be funny to secretly serve up Philadelphia Cream Cheese as the first cheese and just see how it played out.

Since everyone at the table was a cheese fanatic, they ate it up - no questions. Patty and Carrie made the comment that it did indeed, taste like cream cheese, while Karen just smiled and said "Ummmm. I like cheese." When we confessed to the Philadelphia, nobody was surprised and nobody was disappointed because cheese IS cheese. Still, they were anxious to get started with the real good cheeses - no offense Philly!

So, St. Andre - most everyone really liked this buttery, spreadable cheese and it was agreed that it tasted better on a simple cracker compared to a baguette, simply because the cracker allowed the subtle, but fabulous flavor of the cheese to take the spotlight.

The second cheese, that we determined tasted best on soft bread was the Blue Jacket Herbed Chevre . This particular brand of goat cheese is made locally and it had a fabulous flavor that we all agreed would taste great with veggies. Karen told us about a wonderful appetizer that she makes with goat cheese and red peppers and she thought this cheese would be perfect for that recipe. She promised to share.....

Cotswold, out of England, was the third cheese tasted. It's very similar to cheddar, but it's not as hard. It's been nicknamed the "Pub" cheese because it goes so well with beer - particularly the strong, dark ales. But don't count it out if you're not a beer drinker, because this cheese is not just for the bar-stool warmers, this cheese can also be washed down with some Shiraz or Zinfandel - we know - we drank it. Everyone really liked this one! It was a winner in our book, even though I'm not sure there are any losers when it comes to cheese - unless we're talking velveeta - which we're not because it's not cheese. I intentionally showed our lack of respect for this processed product by refusing to capitalize it! Why eat velveeta when there is so much great cheese in the world to be eaten?!

That's for all the cheese lovers who feel the same way!

Moving on...

Cheese number four - Parrano. YUM!
This little number raised a lot of eyebrows and turned some already happy smiles into positively goofy grins. It had a nutty Parmesan flavor with a gouda-like texture. Word on cheesey street is that this cheese is very versatile and can be grated, sliced, or melted - what more could you want? A beer? Have a cold Ale, Lambic, or Lager - Parrano gets along with all of them. Not only that, he too, can hang nicely with a Shiraz or Zinfi.

Side note: The next day I sauteed a small garden of vegetables in my wok for Sarah, Jen, and Noah. I tossed in some orzo to add a little weight and substance to the meal and to top it all off, I shredded in some of the Parrano left from the party - YES! believe it or not, there was cheese left over when the party broke up. Let me just speak for Jen and Sarah here when I say, "Wow! Yum! Deelish! Perfection!"

And then there was Grafton Cheddar. We were told by the extremely helpful and delightful young lady from Whole Foods that helped us choose the best cheeses for this affair, that Grafton is their most popular and best selling cheddar. Sold! It's an aged cheddar that's strong and goes well with apples, pears, and grapes. Toasted walnuts, whole grains, and crackers can hold their own with this cheddar too, because they all have assertive enough flavors to hang with the strength of this cheddar.

Side note: We made cheeseburgers the next day using the Grafton as the cheese and it stole the show. I guess you could say it's a showstopper, eh? (That "eh" is for our Canadian friend, Sarah, who we miss already!)

Sadly, our last cheese may have been misplaced in the line-up. Since all these cheeses were new to us, we only had Google to rely on for information. With that information, we decided the order the cheeses would be eaten in - starting with the mildest, of course. Mahon, our final cheese, was described as sharp, lemony, salty, and tangy. The young lady at WF told us that it was a perfect nibbling cheese.

Unfortunately, Mahon just wasn't enough of a powerhouse to compare to the Parrano and Grafton and everyone decided that even though it was a pleasant cheese, it wasn't a cheese we would cross the kitchen for. It was like trying to get excited about sparklers after watching a magnificent fireworks display - a slight disappointment.

Interesting Side Note: Later that evening, when everyone had left and Kendall and Noah were tucked into their beds dreaming sweet dreams, Jen, Barry, Sarah, and I started to notice our appetites returning. It was nearly ten o'clock at night and we found ourselves with a serious case of the munchies. We open the fridge and what do we see? Cheese. "Let's eat cheese!"
As we all stand at the counter next to the fridge, we start nibbling away at the cheese and crackers. We're eating and conversing, eating and conversing, eating and conversing, when we finally realize that the cheese we're all "fighting" to get another piece of is the Mahon! We couldn't believe it! It was then that we realized how wrong we had been, how judgemental we had been, and how unfairly we had treated this cheese - throwing him into the line-up totally out of proper order. He didn't stand a chance following the strong, aged cheeses, but once he had a chance to stand on his own, he revealed himself as a superstar cure for the midnight munchies.

So, to all the ladies at the party who turned their nose up at Mr. Mahon, like we did, we suggest that you take another taste of this cheese and prepare yourself for the inevitable smile it will bring to your face when you realize that there is yet another cheese out there you WOULD cross the kitchen for!

Before the party was even over, everyone agreed that there definitely needed to be future cheese tasting parties because these six merely put a dent in the wheel. So, after we make it through the tomatoes, apples, and pears, we'll consider hitting the cheese wheel again. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Southern Sour Cream Cookies

When we were growing up, one of the cookies Mom always made was the Southern Sour Cream Cookie. They were one of my favorite to make because I was always eager to grease the bottom of a juice glass, dip it in cinnamon sugar, and smash the cookies with it. What fun for a kid...and also a great way to get them involved!

These cookies are very soft with a mild taste. In fact, upon your first bite, you may think "These are nothing special...what's the big deal?" But I assure you, these cookies will have you coming back for more! For some reason, they call to you from the cookie jar. They're great with tea, and I'm sure they'd be good with coffee too...but we wouldn't know that personally, because Sheri and I don't drink it! So if you're a coffee drinker, try these out with your coffee and let us know!

Southern Sour Cream Cookies

1 c. shortening (I use butter, of course!)
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sour cream
5 c. flour
3 tsp. baking soda
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream shortening (or butter, if you don't fear the butter!!) with 2 cups of sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, and sour cream and mix well. Sift the flour with the soda into the creamed mixture. The dough will get very thick...don't worry about it at all. Drop the cookies by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Now mix the 3 tbsp sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl or ramekin. Grease the bottom of a drinking glass and dip it into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and press each cookie to flatten. You may have to re-grease the bottom of the glass periodically. Slide them in the oven and bake at 350 for 12 minutes or so.

Pour yourself a big glass of milk, or a cup of coffee and sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labor! And then quickly pack up the rest and take them to work! It's the only way to stop yourself, AND you'll be the most popular person in your office...well, for the day anyway. :)