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Just a simple gal living on the outskirts of Portland making ends meet. I have lived in Portland for over 20 years and I am happy to call it home. On this blog you will find everything from cooking to my crazy life. I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Comfort Food

Since my little cold actually turned out to be a bronchial infection with another fun trip to the doctor, two days off work and narcotic laced cough medicine to aid me in sleeping I figured I would send out another soup recipe. This soup recipe is my daughters favorite soup. It is also easy, fast to put together and tasty. The bf called it comfort food, I call it happiness in a bowl, but you can call it Cheeseburger Chowder.
Ingredients 1 lb ground beef, 2 cans fiesta nacho cheese soup, 1 7 oz. can of diced green chilies, 2 1/2 cu. frozen shredded hash browns, 2 Tlb taco seasoning, 2 Tlb minced dried onion, 1 tsp chili powder, 3 1/2 cups milk and a bag of Frito corn chips.
Directions Brown beef in soup pot, add the taco seasoning, dried onions and chili powder. Next add the soup, milk and chilies then a stir until well blended. Then add the frozen hashbrowns then heat soup until the hashbrowns are cooked, but do not boil the soup. Just to let you know the recipe above is a double recipe and around my house there is never leftovers. Top each bowl with crushed up corn chips and serve. This is really a crowd pleaser. If you have kids you will instantly become their superhero.
I am wishing everyone a safe and Happy New Year. I am staying home this evening and having a couple of shots of cough syrup to ring in the new year, and with any luck I will be in bed early and able to get in a bike ride tomorrow if I am feeling improved.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What do you mean I am sick again?!

I really don't understand what is going on with me this year. I usually catch one cold about every 5 years. This year I have caught two practically back to back. I have spent my entire week off with a chest cold. But life goes on and I was still on the hook for dinners. It has been cold here but not seriously cold, and I am aware of how cold other parts of the country are right now. I wanted to share a soup recipe that literally goes together in no time at all and doesn't require any special ingredients. It is my son's favorite soup recipe. It's called Red Potato Soup not because you use red potatoes. Directions/Ingredients In a soup pot brown 1 pound of *hamburger and 1 small peeled and diced onion. When hamburger is browned drain off some of the fat. To the pot add 4 cu. water, 1 regular sized can tomato sauce and 1 small can tomato sauce. Then add 4 cu. peeled and cubed potatoes, 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, 2 tsp salt and a couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce. Bring to a boil turn down to a simmer and put a lid on it. Simmer until potatoes are done. Then the soups done. Want to bring a smile to their faces make up a batch of buttermilk biscuits to serve with this. This soup makes enough for freezing unless they eat it all. * Note: I haven't tried it but I imagine you could easily swap out hamburger for ground venison or elk and adjust your salt and pepper to taste.
Prime Rib Around my house Christmas Day means Prime Rib, but neither one of my children are fond of it (silly kids) I usually only get a two or three rib roast when I order my meat in the fall. This year was only a two bone, and I always fret about cooking it or should I say over cooking it. It has taken me years but I finally have to admit simple is best and babysit the thing while it is roasting. Preheat your oven to 425-450 (since I had a smaller roast I went with 425). Your roast should have come completely to room temperature (mine sat on the counter for three hours) I seasoned my roast with nothing more than Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper (simple works). I lined my 10 in. Iron skillet with heavy duty foil place my roast in the pan, place a thermometer in the roast and slid it into my preheated oven and roasted it at 425 for about 20 min. Turned the heat down and cooked it until my meat thermometer read 120 internally pulled the roast out and let it stand for about 20 min. It came out absolutely perfect. I whipped up some sour cream and horseradish to go along with and dinner was served. We also had buttermilk mashed gold potatoes, shredded Brussels sprouts and fried green beans. Wonderful Christmas day dinner.
The bf came up with a brilliant idea for storing away some of the smaller glass ornaments that I picked up on sale this year. I am also in the process of going through all the boxes of ornaments I have and getting rid of some and repacking everything away for next year. I just wanted to share this idea with you.
I truly hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I will be doing a bit of baking for New Years and hopefully I will remember to snap some shots and share with you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

I know everyone is rushing around with last minute shopping, cooking, baking and all the other little last minute things that need to be done. Strangely I find myself without anything really pressing to do. I did all my Christmas baking yesterday and I made enough cookies to satisfy the sweet tooths coming for dinner tonight, but not enough to linger around the house finally coming to rest on my hips. I made two Christmas cookies yesterday. I made the family favorite Russian Teacakes. Now I am a firm believer that you have to use all butter for these cookies (any Christmas cookie for that matter) and the nuts have to be finely chopped walnuts, and yes they must be rolled twice in the powdered sugar. I mean after all it is Christmas!
The next cookie is one I haven't made since my children were very small (it has been about 15 years)and let me tell you if you have RA (rheumatoid arthritis) like I do it is not easy to make these. This is the same recipe my mom made when I was little. I always loved the Candy Cane cookie probably because even as a small child I appreciated the work that went into making them. Again I use all butter, but here I subtract the vanilla flavoring and I do not use peppermint candy. I do not lightly grease a cookie sheet before baking I use parchment. and I sprinkle my sanding sugar on before they go in the oven.
My son let me off the hook of spending all day cooking an elaborate Christmas Eve dinner this year. He and his wonderful girlfriend (whom I truly adore) have her extensive family to visit so this year we are celebrating Christmas Eve...how did I get out of spending all day in the kitchen you may ask...I simply asked " Do you want me to cook a big dinner?" The answer I got was "No can we have pizza?" Turns out we can...Thank you Domino's Pizza for being open and for tirelessly working to serve the public. Your tip is forthcoming. So tonight we will eat drink and be merry.
Now do not think for one minute that Christmas dinner has been completely derailed. I am cooking for the bf and I tomorrow night and yes it will be delicious Prime Rib, potatoes and a veggie or two. I will make a dessert but it will be on a smaller scale, and after a nap to let the food digest (lol) we will be heading out to go see a movie. I may even do a breakfast after we get back from the family tradition of going out to get coffee.
I am feeling very fortunate to have the rest of the week off, that in a sense, is paid thanks to my Christmas bonus. Now if the weather would at least clear up I need to put some miles on my bike to work off some of the holiday weight gain. Nollaig Shona Daoibh

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle with Cayenne and Vanilla

This brittle is a lot easier than it sounds. It turned out with a nice butter flavor with a little kick. I am sorry there isn't more photos of the process, but since this is a one woman show I have found out it is not easy snapping pictures while stirring a pot of bubbling sugar.
Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle with Cayenne & Vanilla 1 1/4 cup toasted unsalted pumpkin seeds 6 Tlb. butter (salted) 1/2 cu. light brown sugar 1/4 cu. Agave syrup 1/4 cu. Honey 1/2 vanilla bean (split and seeded) 1/4 tsp. baking soda 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 1/8 tsp Cayenne (you could add a pinch more) *I also suggest a lightly greased cookie sheet at the ready and a candy thermometer. Directions In a small pinch bowl put salt, soda and cayenne and set aside. Toast off your pumpkin seeds and set them aside. Keep a close eye on them because you don't want them to burn. Into a non-stick sauce pan (a good sized one) you put the butter, brown sugar, honey, agave and vanilla.
Cook the mixture over medium heat until it reaches a temp of about 280 or so. Toss in the salt, cayenne, and baking soda and stir until incorporated and the temp reaches hard crack stage. Immediately remove from heat and stir in pumpkin seeds until well coated then spread mixture onta a lightly greased cookie sheet to anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 in. thick (I went with 1/4 in.). Place in freezer or fridge until solid then brake into pieces.
I have never made brittle before and my first attempt was pretty perfect and really delicious.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Treats

So I am currently busier that a one armed paper hanger...or some such crazy talk. This is my last week of work until Dec 30th, so I am busy at work, busy with work from home and then someone slipped this holiday called Christmas right into the middle of it. Honestly where in the heck did the time go this month?
I have been working on some snack food type goodies to give co-workers as gifts this Christmas and I am really happy that so far they have gone off without a hitch. I chose goodies that keep fairly well so I can make them ahead and store in the pantry or in the fridge or freezer.
I started with a spiced Pecan recipe from Saveur magazine on line. These nuts turned out smokey with just enough sweet and salt to guarantee that one nut won't be enough, and you will find your self a handful deep into the dish before your realize you were supposed to give these as gifts...maybe that is just me. I did double the recipe overall and made the addition of equal amounts of white sure to the amount of brown sugar and in doing that remember you won't quite use all of the seasoning on the nuts. I still have some left over. I also might possibly reduce the amount of Paprika next time by 1/4 of what is called for. They turned out great tons of flavor. Remember to keep an eye on your oven because nuts will go from nicely toasted to burnt in no time.
The next thing I put together that evening was probably the simplest recipe for fudge that I have ever run across. This fudge is super dense and delicious. I love watching Giada De Laurentis's cooking shows on Food Network and when I remember to turn on the t.v. and catch an episode I feel very fortunate. She made a wonderful, easy and delicious (I have discovered) cinnamon fudge. One of the notes from the recipe states/claims that you can freeze it. This is exactly the kind of recipe I am looking for. I followed the recipe almost to the letter. The recipe calls for 1lb. or 2 cups of chocolate I compromised and weighed out 14oz.. Sprinkled some sea salt on top (just the right touch), cut it into little squares and wrapped it in parchment paper, put it in a container and froze it...all but the couple of dozen pieces I left out for the family.
I still have one more thing to make for the goody bags for work, but that is going to have to wait until later on in the week. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one. Cookie baking will take place on the 23rd or 24th. So keep checking back.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Birthday Cake

So yesterday was my sons birthday, and over the course of the years I have tried to not incorporate too much of the holiday into his day. We used to not get the Christmas tree on the same weekend of his party, not serve anything remotely Christmasy (should be a word) at his party, but last night I took a different approach I wanted to bring some of the Holiday cheer into his party without having it overwhelm.
For the dinner I simply took a 4 lb chuck roast, de-boned it and cut out some of the fat. Placed it in a crock pot with some taco seasoning, 1 diced onion and 1 large can diced green chilies, 1 diced red pepper and put the lid on flipped the switch to high and walked away. Came back after about 3 hours of cooking and turned it down to low for another 3 hours...done...Taco's for dinner.
Last nights cake was fantastic. I used a cake recipe from Epicurious. It was a gingerbread cake recipe that I slightly altered to suit my needs and tastes. In the recipe where it calls for mild flavored molasses and light brown sugar I used full flavor molasses and dark brown sugar. I also incorporated a enough whipping cream into the recipe at the end to get the batter to a spreadable consistency (you could probably use apple cider or liquid of choice to do this, cream is what I had on hand). I also baked the gingerbread in two greased and floured 6 in. cake pans until toothpick test said done. It worked like a charm.
I usually have a hard time finding a gingerbread recipe that has the flavor I am looking for. I really like the addition of fresh ginger in this recipe
Typical gingerbread recipe very dense and thick. The addition of just enough liquid to make it spreadable really helped.
The cakes baked super evenly which is also makes a great platform for frosting.
I was really happy that they rose as much as they did. Made for a really pretty 6 in. layer cake. The frosting recipe was just a simple cream cheese frosting recipe 8 oz. cream cheese, 1 stick butter, 1/2 lb powdered sugar, but then instead of adding vanilla I simply used 2 generous teaspoons of fresh orange zest. The addition of the orange zest really made this frosting pop and added huge flavor that really complimented the gingerbread. Look at how pretty this cake is.
My son really liked the cake and he is fussy about his cake for years his favorite was a chocolate zucchini cake that my mom used to make, but in recent years he decided it was no longer his favorite, so this cake was a real risk. Worked like a charm. More recipes this week.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Homemade Granola

When I have the time and the ingredients on hand I like to make some tasty granola for the bf. It is super easy and delicious and you can easily switch out or add to it to adjust it to your tastes or dietary needs.
The original recipe was printed the publication "Eating Well" April 2012 edition. I love this magazine and get tons of ideas from it. Eating Well had done an article complete with recipes that month from a cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Selma Cafe, and my take on the article is that this granola is served up quite often.
I have tweaked the original recipe to suit our tastes. Dry ingredients 5 cups old fashioned rolled oats, 1 cup slivered almonds, 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds. Toss all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the wet ingredients 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, 6 tablespoons melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup honey, 1 tsp vanilla or maple extract and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix the wet ingredients together until well blended then pour over dry and toss and fold until the nuts and oats are well coated. Place all on a large cookie sheet and bake in a oven that has been preheated to 300 degrees check on granola about every 7 to 10 min. turn and rotate the nuts and oats often to your desired toastiness (should be a word). Remove from oven and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Simple and very satisfying granola for breakfast.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving without an oven

Surviving Thanksgiving without an oven was easier than I thought it would be. I know I sounded very confident talking about it for the past week, but deep down inside I was a tad nervous wondering if I could pull it off. Well pull it off I did, and it literally couldn't have been simpler.
I took two thawed Cornish game hens and gave them an overnight bath in a brine. The brine I used was a mixture of water, Kosher salt, brown sugar, juice of one orange and one lemon with the fruit tossed in the brine, half a cinnamon stick, small palm full of black peppercorns, few whole cloves, fresh rosemary, 1 bay leaf and a few whole allspice. I brought the brine to a boil and turned it down to a simmer for a bit (until all the salt and sugar is disolved) to let the flavors merry. Then turn off the heat and let the brine cool completely you are not looking to cook the hens. While the brine is cooling you you can remove the backbone out of your hens with a sharp knife or a pair of poultry shears. Then submerge the hens in the brine and put a lid on it and place it in the fridge overnight.
Yesterday afternoon I got the smoker out of the garage, brought the racks in and cleaned them up and found the apple wood chips that I wanted to use. You can use whatever flavor of chips you prefer I used apple wood because I had used citrus in my brine and I thought the flavors would compliment. I placed the hens breast up cut side down on the oiled rack and smoked them for 1 1/2 hours using three pans of chips. At this point the hens may look done but they are not.
This is where the boyfriend steps in and fires up the grill. The hens grilled for another 40 min. to an hour at about 300-350 degrees depending on how big they were in the first place and were basted with a 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup quince jelly and 1 1/2 tsp stone ground mustard reduction that I added an additional pinch of black pepper and salt to. So after cooking on the grill they looked like this. Better right?
I also made up some sauteed asparagus. In a large skillet I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter added almost an equal amount of brown sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let that melt together and get hot, add the asparagus and saute for about 4 min. Then to the skillet add about 1/4 cup chicken stock and lid it letting the asparagus steam until desired doneness. This is my sons favorite way to have asparagus.
I also made up some delicious buttermilk mashed potatoes, and all I have to say it if you haven't used buttermilk in your mashed potatoes instead of cream or milk or whatever it is that you use...you don't know what your missing. It also helps if you use Yukon gold potatoes. The flavor just can't be beat. I know, I know what is Thanksgiving without dessert and how did you do dessert without an oven? I cheated thats how I simply found something that was pumpkiny (probably should be a word) and that I would not have a ton of laying around damaging my waistline all weekend. So I give you the store bought pumpkin spice, cream cheese filled and frosted cupcake...pretty dang tasty I have to admit. I only bought four.
This year it was just the bf and I for Thanksgiving I did a real simple table. I used my vintage harvest table linen and put a few sprigs of my fresh rosemary into a antique honey jar. The rosemary perfumed the air just a little which made the whole kitchen smell wonderful even if there was nothing in the oven.
I hope each and everyone of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. This year I was again thankful for my job, home, family and friends but most importantly the one I love. He is a very positive force in my life.