Thursday, August 22, 2013

Anyone still home?

Anyone still there?

I know I fell off the bandwagon big time after the holidays this past year and then only followed up with 3 posts in March.  I had every intention of making my return to the blogging world a regular one.  I absolutely love it, after all. So March came around and I got all excited with those 3 posts.....and then the hubs and I decided to put our house up for sale.  Little did I know how many changes such an endeavor would bring.

It went something like this: the Saturday before Easter the hubs and I went to look at a few homes to see if we could find any we liked.  If we could, then we agreed that we would put our house on the market.  Of course, we toured THE house that day.  You know, THE ONE.  You walk in and just know from the moment you step inside that it's where you're supposed to be.  It just has a peace about it and feels like home.

A lot of times this gets confused with a home just being super nice.  This home wasn't the biggest or the most expensive home we toured, but it had the most charm by a long shot for us.  It had character and we loved that so much attention was paid to the details.  You know those mammoth homes you walk into and it seems like they just went big for the sake of going big?  We wanted plenty of room to grow as a family down the road, but certainly didn't want the aforementioned feeling.

People kept reminding me that home is wherever you make it and that you can be incredibly happy in several homes.  While I know without a doubt this is so very true, I still kept going back to "Yeah, but this is different because I just know we're supposed to be there".  I even referred to it as "our house" when talking to other people.  Lordy.  Dramatic much?  My poor husband....when we walked out of the house after touring it I looked over at our real estate agent with a big cheshire grin and shouted "We'll take it!".  I turned back to my hubby only to see a look of pure bewilderment, as we obviously had yet to discuss it ourselves.  Whoops.  Too late to shovel the words back in now.  He kept telling me I was a real estate agent's dream.

To make a long story short, we listed our home 2 weeks later on a Wednesday, sold it to the first potential buyers 3 days later, offered on "our" home 2 days after that and closed on both 4 weeks later.  To say it was a whirlwind would not even come close.  A good whirlwind though. 

We've been in the new place for a little over two months but it still doesn't feel anywhere near settled.  We were lucky that we didn't have to do any major repairs, but there were several cosmetic things I wanted to take on.  Of course there is this little thing called a budget (smile) and I have been trying to spread the projects out.  

One of the things that needs to be replaced is the double oven.  It's a great brand (Thermador), but it's an older model and never heats evenly.  I've tried to bake 3 different layer cakes only to have them burn and/or cook so unevenly that they weren't edible.  While we have certainly been busy moving, one of the biggest reasons for the lack of food blogs is this issue with the oven.  Because of its issues I don't feel like I can even begin to give someone instructions as to how to prepare something.

Exhibit A: The Culprit

Hopefully there will be some food posts soon!  I certainly hope so because I miss this blog something terrible.

Below are a few pics of our new home and things we want to work on.  I figured this could be a peace offering since I don't have any food pictures to share at the moment.  I won't regularly post pics of my home and/or household projects considering it's not an area in which I hold any ounce of expertise.  Rather it's just a means to help explain my absence.  That and several out of town friends kept asking for pics.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Mint Brownies with Fudge Frosting

As I've mentioned before in a previous post, I've always been a bit indifferent to the idea of making brownies from scratch.  It just seems like there are so many steps when a boxed mix is quite frankly (in my opinion) just fine.  And by just fine I mean that I would have no problem finishing off the whole pan by myself :)  I always end up loving any brownies I make from scratch, but my preconceived notions still somehow manage to persist.

But during a Pinterest search for some St. Patrick's Day recipes I kept coming across mint brownies.  And the more pins I saw the more I was craving some for myself.  Typical, I know.  I swear I believe Pinterest is responsible for 99.9% of my food cravings!

There are tons of great mint brownie recipes out there, but I decided to try my hand at coming up with something new that would have all of the aspects that I was craving.  i.e. a soft brownie base, a thicker layer of mint and then a fudge frosting on top.  These brownies are extra minty in flavor because I used mint chocolate chips for the fudge frosting instead of semi sweet chocolate chips.  If you're not looking for as much of a punch you can stick with semi sweet.

I don't really have a lot of green in my closet, so hopefully I can placate anyone who might pinch me for not proudly bearing the color with one of these least that's my plan :)

Happy {early} St. Patrick's Day!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

A while back I fixed this tomato basil soup and had the idea of adding grilled cheese croutons.  I've always loved the Campbell's tomato soup with grilled cheese on a cold day and thought that surely the presence of basil in my dish wouldn't throw things off too much.

Apparently this is a pretty popular idea though, seeing as how I glanced over at a Food Network magazine last night in line at Publix and saw this exact dish on the cover.  Great minds think alike, right??


This was the first tomato soup I have ever made, unless you count the aforementioned Campbells.  While I'll probably tweak it as I make it more in the future, I must say I was pleased with how it turned out.  It was creamy, but not so thick that I felt like I was slurping down whipping cream.   And even with 4 cups of basil the tomato flavor still took center stage.  The only thing I might change next time is that I might remove the skins of the tomatoes that I roasted before adding them to the stock pot.  That's just a weird texture preference though :)

Just make sure not to add the croutons until you're ready to eat them.  Otherwise they tend to sink in the soup and get really soggy.  Yuck!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Red Velvet S'more Bars

Anyone still there??  Anyone??  Geez it's been a long time since I've posted.  Almost three months to be exact.  This blog is something that I've been (for the most part) pretty regular with for quite some time and then I just stopped cold turkey not too long after Thanksgiving.  [pun intended]

I guess I could come up with some pretty good excuses:
1. I battled a gnarly sinus infection for about 8 weeks there.  No lie.  Nothing would get rid of it.  The netty pot became my best friend.
2. Then I got the flu.  For the first time.  Ever.  It was awful.  103.7 degree temps are no fun.
3. Because of the aforementioned excuses I lost my sense of smell and thus taste.  And when you can't taste you can't cook.
4. Who wants to eat food prepared by someone who's sick???  Even if I had cooked something, I wouldn't have felt right asking someone to eat it.
5. I still haven't been able to transfer all of my old food photos onto my new laptop and thus can't blog them.
6. By the time I get home and cook something there is ZERO daylight left which means I can't take photos in our sunroom the way I like.  I've tried shooting with artificial lighting and I never can get it to look the way I want it to.

And honestly I just needed a break. I tried to take a break here and there for a while, but 1 or 2 weeks just wasn't enough. I needed a breather. This blog is just a hobby, but it takes a great deal of time and I think I just got burnt out.

I felt like every post there was an apology for the week of silence followed by a promise that I was back in action. But really I just needed to step back from everything a bit.

So for my return post I wanted to feature something that I absolutely loved.  And these red velvet s'more bars fit the bill :)  I always loved sitting around a fire, whether I was camping or just in someone's back yard, and toast a marshmallow until it turned that perfect golden color.  That meant it was just crispy on the outside, but still warm and not burnt to a crisp on the inside.  And of course you always had to have half a Hershey's bar for each smore.  I don't know how some people can use just one or two of those tiny little squares.

This recipe is the perfect solution when you want to have a great comfort food-type dessert for a get together, yet you don't have a fire pit in sight.  These little guys were super easy to make and certainly won't last long once you bring them out!
*More pics coming tonight!  Apparently they didn't save on the draft, but I didn't want to delay the post just for that reason. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars

Kind of like the last post on pecan pie, these gingerbread pumpkin bars are a wee bit tardy.  I realize that although there's no law stating you can't whip up a pumpkin based recipe after Thanksgiving, Christmas always takes over and most of the recipes are geared towards all things red, green and peppermint.

[Just a forewarning though...I still have some homemade pumpkin puree to post....]

But alas I couldn't let this recipe go to waste.  I saw a ton of pumpkin recipes floating around Pinterest all throughout the fall, but these bars caught my eye because they deviated just ever so slightly from your standard pumpkin pie bars....these bars have a gingerbread base and a streusel topping.  I know, it sounds kinda funny; gingerbread AND pumpkin?  Isn't gingerbread supposed to be reserved for Christmas and gingerbread boys and girls with those cute m&m buttons?

I know it sounds weird, but somehow it works.  Gingerbread is a bit spicy, pumpkin pie is a bit together they go, right?

I only made one change from the original Land O' Lakes recipe and omitted the glaze.  These bars were sweet enough on their own and I didn't feel they needed it.

While the bars are so delicious they probably won't last that long, I will admit that these little guys did get a bit soggy by day 2.  So just a word of warning:  if you're making them ahead of time for an event I wouldn't do so really far in advance.  To combat this I might bake the bottom layer solo for a few minutes while preparing the filling the next time I make these.

And there will definitely be a next time.  Yum!

PS If you want lots of streusel you can make extra.  There was just enough, but I might try doubling the amount I use next time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pie Crust

Now for the follow up from Wednesday's post....the pie crust!  For me this is always the hardest part.  When I mentioned before that making pies is really an art I was referring more so to the crust than the filling.

For me, making pie crust takes practice.  And lots of it.  Just like with anything else, the more you do it the more comfortable you are and the better you become.  It's kind of like my grandmother who doesn't measure any ingredients for her biscuits, but rather claims that it just has to "feel right".  With some practice you'll be able to tell as you work if the recipe needs more flour, water, etc.

I've used a few different pie crust recipes over the years, but this one from Smitten Kitchen is my favorite.  I completely agree with her reasoning regarding mixing the dough by hand instead of with a food processor.  I know everyone from Ina Garten to Alton Brown advocates the food processor method, but I've always found that (for me) it's much harder to overwork the dough by hand than with a food processor.  The food processor always seems to leave me with tiny bits of dough down at the bottom that get overworked and larger pieces at the top that never get down to the blade.  But hey, if you're a firm fan of the food processor you can certainly use the below recipe with one.

This past Thanksgiving I used this recipe for a pecan pie and for a custard pie.  But when spring rolls around the flavor of this crust will also be a perfect pairing for fruit and meringue pies.

The recipe below makes enough for two generous pie crusts, which I loved.  So often a recipe leaves me rolling the dough super thin just to try to get it to stretch over the pie pan by the time it's divided in two.

Also, make sure to read the tips down at the bottom.  I compiled that list based on things I learned from other food bloggers and also some insight that I learned myself the hard way :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

No Fail Pecan Pie

Oh my dear!  Where to start??  First off, let me apologize for the silence.  My beloved macbook officially bit the dust last week and I've been in the process of mourning the loss.  You know the stages:  denial (pretending that my mac would somehow come back if only I plugged it into so many different outlets), bargaining (if I buy it a new screen maybe that'll do it!) and acceptance (finally realizing that my time with my first ever macbook was done....I've officially become one of those crazy Apple converts and saying goodbye to the piece of technology that was responsible for this was tough).  I got a new Macbook Pro this weekend and finally began the process of transferring photos and getting some new posts put together.  Woohoo!

Today's post is a little late due to the aforementioned issues, but I figured it is better late than never.  Pecan pie reminds be a lot of Thanksgiving, but you can also eat it year-round, which is why I decided to still do a post on it.  I mean, I would never turn a slice down.

I don't bake a lot of pies.  I love eating them, but making them really is an art.  It's not making cookie dough, rolling it into a ball and then you're good to go.  If you're not used to making your own crust it can be quite a daunting task.  Remember this terrible awful scenario from my last year's Thanksgiving pecan pie attempt?  Yeah, I'd like to forget it too.  

Because of that terrible awful experience I did a LOT of research with regards to recipes and techniques.  I absolutely love caramel pecan pie but wanted to stick with a traditional recipe since it's the kind my hubby's grandad loves so much.  I also knew I wanted something that wouldn't leave me with that dreaded watery/wet middle which can sometimes happen.  

I ended up settling on a pie crust recipe from Smitten Kitchen (hello obsession!) and a filling recipe from King Arthurs flour which had received rave reviews.  Luckily for me (and the hubby's family), this pie turned out just as I had hoped and I was actually able to bring an edible dessert to this year's get together.  [Insert loud sigh of relief}  I loved the flavor and texture of the pie crust and thought the filling had the perfect amount of richness while still keeping with the familiar flavor that everyone loves.  I definitely found my new go-to!

Today's post will only feature the filling recipe....I tried to post both the crust and filling recipe and it was WAY too long!  Check back Friday for the crust recipe and details!