Monday, January 30, 2012

Books: Only His

Only His is part of Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold series. This series has fun, likable characters and Mallery is one of my favorite writers. I can get right into her books (unlike the Nicholas Sparks book I just read).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Books: Until There Was You

Kristan Higgins is a new-to-me author, and I look forward to reading more of her books. A review of the book  said it had lots of laughs and it certainly does. Higgins is the funniest writer I have read yet. Until There Was You had me laughing out loud with expressions like taking Bieber's name in vain. Hilarious. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Books: The Best of Me

I've just finished The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks and it will probably be the last Sparks book I read. About a quarter of the way through the book (WARNING - spoilers!) I thought to myself, since this is a Sparks' book and he writes love stories, which as he defines it, have tragic endings, one of the main characters is going to die. And I knew which one it would be. When I got to the end of the book and it ended as tragically as I'd hoped it wouldn't, I thought, "Why am I reading such a depressing story?" Yes, it's well written. Yes, it will be made into a movie, but I REALLY hope they change then ending. It's just too sad. Guess I'm a romance reader at heart.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Flat Apple Pie with Perfect Pie Crust

I watched the Pioneer Woman's show this past Saturday on the Food Network and saw her make this recipe. Due to being stranded at home for two straight days due to the snow and ice, I decided I had time to make this pie. I didn't have the Granny Smith apples it calls for, so I used what I had, Pink Lady. I tend to buy my crusts whenever I can, because I don't like working with the crusts I make from scratch, but Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pie crust was doable and delicious!

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 recipe Perfect Pie Crust, recipe follows
6 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In large bowl, stir together the apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, salt and lemon juice. Set aside and see how long you can keep from sneaking a slice of apple.
With a rolling pin, begin rolling out the Perfect Pie Crusts into large circles. Roll the dough from the center outward. Be gentle and patient, it'll take a little time to get the dough completely rolled out.
If you think the bottom is really sticking to the surface below, use a nice, sharp spatula to loosen the dough and sprinkle some extra flour on top. Then flip it over to finish rolling. Remember to roll from the center in single, outward strokes, no back-and-forth rolling.
Again with a spatula, loosen and lift the dough and carefully place the circles on large baking sheets lined with parchment. (I baked the two pies on one large jelly roll pan.)
Place half the apple mixture on one crust and the other half on the other crust. Do not add the juice from the apples. Fold over the edges of each crust so that it covers 2 to 3 inches of the apple mixture. No need to be artistic - the more rustic the better. Dot the tops of the pies with chunks of the butter.
Bake until the filling is golden and bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. If the crust appears to brown too quickly, cover the edges with foil for the remaining baking time.
Allow to cool slightly, and then slice into wedges with a pizza cutter. Drizzle with Easy Caramel Sauce.
the bluest one
Perfect Pie Crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold butter
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 egg
5 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add in the butter and shortening. Using a pastry cutter, gradually work the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles tiny pebbles. This step should take 3 or 4 minutes.
Lightly beat the egg with a fork, and then add it to the mixture. Next, add in the cold water and vinegar. Stir the mixture together until it's just combined. Divide the dough in half and put each half in a zip-top bag and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I’ve made this creamy mashed potato recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays for the past three years or so. Once my family discovered they liked my potatoes, they ask to bring them to each family event. I make them ahead at home and then put them in a crock pot on warm. Then there’s no work once the party starts.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs russet potatoes (Yukon is also delicious)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sour cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash, peel, and cube potatoes. Place in large pot and cover with water. Add salt to water. Boil for about 18-20 minutes. Drain. Put potatoes back in pot on low heat for a minute or two to get any extra water out. Slice the butter into tablespoons and add to potatoes. Add the sour cream and mash the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6. (You can also try garlic salt or seasoned salt.)

Chow Mein

My hubby makes a good pork chow mein so I decided to write the recipe down so I'd know how to make it too.

Chow Mein

1-2 carrots
Half a head of cabbage
½ a large onion
12 oz. pork sirloin chops, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon (combined) coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon (combined) sesame oil
Garlic salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Onion powder to taste
1 - 8 oz. Package Chow mein noodles
¼ cup soy sauce

Wash and peel the carrots. Cut into match-stick pieces (the smallest setting on a mandolin). Wash the cabbage and chop it up into bite-sized pieces. Start a large pot of water boiling.

Put ½ Tablespoon of coconut oil and ¼ teaspoon sesame oil in a large sauté pan or wok and heat on medium heat. Add pork and season it generously with garlic salt, pepper, and onion powder. Cook until done. Remove from pan.

Add ½ Tablespoon coconut oil to the same pan and ¼ teaspoon sesame oil. Turn heat up to medium-high and add carrots, cabbage, and onion to pan. Season with garlic salt and pepper. Cut the pork into bit-sized pieces while the veggies cook.

When the veggies are soft and the water is boiling, add the noodles to the water and boil 1-2 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside. Once veggies are fully cooked, move them to the side of the pan and add the cooked pork and noodles to the middle of the pan. Mix it all together and heat thoroughly. Add soy sauce, mix and enjoy.
IMG_0099 IMG_0118

Monday, January 16, 2012

Books: Mockingjay

I finished the third book in The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, last week. I was satisfied with the ending and was very glad I got to read all three books in quick succession as opposed to waiting a year between the release of each book.

When I started with the first book, The Hunger Games, I liked the quick pace that Collins had used in the book, aided by the first-person narrative of Katniss Everdeen. But I'm a romance reader at heart, and I missed my third-person omniscient point of view. I kept telling my husband throughout the first book, "I want to know more!" "What's Peeta thinking?" "What's Gale thinking?" It was killing me. Finally in the third book, Mockingjay, I feel like I got my answers, which is why I can say I'm satisfied with the ending. Very smart writing by Collins.

Now that I'm on to my next book,  The Best of Me, by Nicholas Sparks, which is in the third-person omniscient, I'm missing the first-person narrative of The Hunger Games. Fickle! (Note, I'm not saying Sparks is a romance writer; it just happened to by next on my list.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chicken Penne

This Chicken Penne is adapted from Pioneer Woman's Penne Al La Betsy. In her version, she uses shrimp, which I am allergic to, so I substituted chicken. The whole family ate it, which definitely means a success at my house.
¾ pounds Penne Pasta
1 pound Chicken Breast
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 whole Onion (small)
2 cloves Garlic
½ cups White Wine, Or To Taste
1 can Tomato Sauce (8 Oz)
1 cup Heavy Cream
Fresh Parsley, to taste
Fresh Basil - To Taste
Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste

Preparation Instructions

Cook the penne pasta until tender-firm, also known as al dente. Finely dice one small onion. Mince two cloves of garlic. In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add to pan, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until chicken is fully cooked. Next add the white wine. Let the wine evaporate for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. If you would rather not use wine, you can use low-sodium chicken broth instead (about ½ cup).
Now add an 8-ounce can of plain tomato sauce. Stir well until combined. Then add 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue stirring. Turn heat down to low and let simmer.
Now chop the herbs, about a tablespoon of chopped parsley and about the same amount of chopped basil. Throw in the herbs and stir until combined. Finally add the cooked penne pasta and give it a good stir. Enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Easy Caramel Sauce


I'm trying to get a better picture of my caramel sauce, so here's the recipe again. I would love to always have a jar of this in my fridge.

Easy Caramel Sauce

4 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed
½ Cup Half and Half (I used whipping cream)
Pinch of Salt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

Mix butter, brown sugar, half & half, and salt in a saucepan over medium low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker. Add vanilla and cook another minutes to thicken further. Turn off heat and pour sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Two of My Favorite Things

My husband gave me this beautiful white pitcher for Christmas (from Target). I love the lines of it. Also, these little little seedless oranges, called Sweeties (or Cuties depending on the brand). The kids can easily peel them (even my two year-old), and they are delicious and seedless. Yum!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Amy Lu Burger - Project 52:12 Wk 2

I love this Amy Lu Chicken burger from Costco. It is already cooked and you either heat it up in the microwave or on the stove top. It has caramelized onions and bell peppers (sorry mom) in it. My two year-old can eat a whole one by herself. Yummy and easy!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Books: Catching Fire

I've just finished book 2, Catching Fire, of The Hunger Games series. It's just as good as the first book, and I'm off to start on number three.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Books: The Hunger Games

I can't believe it's taken me this long to get around to reading The Hunger Games series, but there you go. I've finally read the first book and can't wait to get my hands on the second one. Now I have to wait for my husband to finish book number 2, Catching Fire, before he can send it from his electronic reader to mine. As many of the reviews have said, this book is addicting and has non-stop action. I told my husband, "Why couldn't we read addicting stuff like this when I was majoring in English?" It would have been so much more interesting than what I pretended to read for my English Literature classes. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Books: A Whisper of Peace by Kim Vogel Sawyer

I want to try to keep track of the books I read this year, so here's the first one. I came across a new-to-me author: Kim Vogel Sawyer. I think I heard of her on some recommendation list, probably from the library. I just finished A Whisper of Peace. It was a delightful read and I have three more books of hers on my requested list at the library.

Caramel Sauce - Project 52:12 Wk 1


This is Pioneer Woman's Easy Caramel Sauce, which I've made and photographed before, but it's SO delicious and SO easy, I had to make it again. This time I didn't have half and half like the recipe calls for, but I had whipping cream, which also works. I read that you can substitute higher fat dairy products, like whipping cream, which has about 35% fat, for lower fat dairy products like half and half, which is 12% fat.

Easy Caramel Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar, Packed
  • 1/2 cup Half-and-half (I used whipping cream)
  • Pinch Of Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Mix butter, brown sugar, half & half, and salt in a saucepan over medium low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker. Add vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off heat and pour sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Project 52: 2012

I've decided to do another Project 52 for this new year focusing again on food photography. Check back tomorrow for a recipe and picture for Easy Caramel Sauce.