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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 Recipes from 2011

Admittedly, I had a slower year for recipes here at 2 Kids and Tired Cooks.  I'm hoping to gain back my cooking groove in 2012 though and have lots of new recipes to share with you.  Still, it's always fun to go back and see which recipes received the most hits.  There are several repeats from 2010 on this list and a couple of new additions this year.

Raspberry Pretzel Jello Salad continues to be the top draw here at 2 Kids and Tired Cooks.

Armadillo Pie is a close second.  My family has grown to the point that I make two of these each time I fix it for dinner.  My husband could eat this every day.

Pizza, Pizza was quite popular.

Carrabba's Style Italian Seasoning is a new addition this year and is a fantastic recipe and drew many visits.

Beef Enchiladas is one of our family's go-to recipes.  This is a surprisingly fast dinner to put together and I always have the ingredients on hand to make it.

Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars  returns from the 2010 list.  To. Die. For.  Rich and delicious and an impressive dessert to take to a potluck.

Cocoa Brownies which are, seriously, the best brownies ever.  Boxed brownie mixes do not enter my house.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup also returns from 2010.  Such a comforting meal, especially during the cold winter months.

Peanut Blossoms is a new addition to this years Top 10.  This is one of my favorite cookies, ever.

And new this year, Cinnabon Clone Cinnamon Rolls, which made the Top 10 in under a week.  Thanks, in part, to Pinterest!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

French Silk Pie

Printable Recipe

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 squares (3 oz) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 baked pie crust
Cooking Directions
  1. Beat sugar and butter together until fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in chocolate and vanilla.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. As in, beat for 2-3 minutes after each egg.
  4. Scrape sides continually.
  5. Pour into a baked pie crust, cover and chill for 24 hours.
  6. Do not skip this step. Seriously.
  7. It needs to sit at least 5-6 hours, but overnight is best.
  8. When ready to serve, top with real, sweetened whipping cream.
  9. Do not commit sacrilege and put canned whipped cream on this masterpiece.
Holly's Note:
My husband calls this the Roy Orbison of pie, because Orbison was called the Big O.  I'll let you draw your own conclusions to that one, given that he can't eat chocolate and has only seen my reaction to this pie.  However, this is a roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head, curl-your-toes good pie.   

I use the recipe found in my old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  The recipe currently on BHG's website uses semi sweet chips and this one uses unsweetened chocolate, which I think makes a richer pie.  

After adding each egg, beat well for at least 2-3 minutes.  It's key for a fluffy, smooth pie. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cinnabon Clone Cinnamon Rolls

Printable Recipe

  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 t. yeast
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 T. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
Cooking Directions
  1. Place all ingredients together in a kitchenaid and using a bread hook, let it all mix for about 10 minutes.
  2. Cover and let it rise. (You can also use your bread maker on the dough cycle.)
  3. After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  5. Roll dough into a 16x21 inch rectangle.
  6. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  7. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. (After I cut the rolls, I dip the tops in melted butter and more cinnamon/sugar before placing them in the pan. I then sprinkle the remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top of the pan.)
  8. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan.
  9. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.
  10. Bake rolls in preheated 400 degree oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  11. While rolls are baking, mix together the frosting of your choice:

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 (3oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1/8 t. salt
Homemade Frosting
  • 6 T. butter, softened
  • 3 cups powered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
After removing rolls from oven, immediately invert the pan onto a serving plate and let all that cinnamon/buttery goodness recoat the rolls.

Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

Holly's Note:
I love Pinterest.  Seriously. I have found so many awesome ideas and recipes there and many I have actually used or tried, including this cinnamon roll recipe, which originally came from Allrecipes.  The original recipe calls for a breadmaker, but I just mixed it in my Kitchenaid.  This dough is super easy to use and it makes 12 large rolls.  

I made these Christmas Eve and just let them slow rise in my fridge.  I pulled them out Christmas morning and let them rise in a warm oven for about 40 minutes before baking and they were just perfect.

My kids aren't cream cheese fans, so I use my handy dandy Homemade Frosting recipe instead. I had made a batch of it the day before to use on cookies and had some leftover that I used on the rolls.  I just softened it in the microwave so it was very soft, but not melted.

I was afraid that 2 tablespoons of cinnamon would be too much, but it wasn't. In fact, after I cut the rolls, I dip the tops in melted butter and more cinnamon/sugar before placing them in the pan.  I then sprinkle the remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top of the pan.

A big key here also, is to invert the pan of rolls onto a serving plate to let all the cinnamony goodness recoat the rolls, instead of staying in the pan.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good Chocolate

As I sit here drinking my morning cocoa, I must confess…

My husband says that I am a chocolate snob. I am. I love chocolate. I always have. And I will eat chocolate, anytime, anywhere, and pretty much any brand. Well, not exactly any brand because chocolate from Kazakhstan wasn’t very good. I won’t eat it again. I haven't been to Kazakhstan, my former boss traveled the world on business and every time he came back from a trip, he brought me chocolate. And just to clarify, chocolate is different depending on where it’s made. If you buy Cadbury in America, look on the package. If it says, “Manufactured in Hershey, PA” it will NOT taste like true Cadbury chocolate. It will have Hershey overtones. Trust me. Not that Hershey's isn't good.  It is.  But, if you want Cadbury, you don't want it to taste like Hershey's.  I buy Hershey's when I want Hershey's. I don't buy Cadbury when I want Hershey's. Funny side note: I picked up Cadbury Chocolate Bunnies at Wal-Mart this past Easter.  My son took one bite and said, "Mom, this doesn't taste the same." I hadn't said anything and the package looked the same.  But, he knew.

European chocolate is different. Cadbury that is manufactured in England tastes better than that manufactured in America. The same goes for Kit Kat bars. The Kit Kats you buy in Europe are darker than the ones made in America. I have taste tested them both, you can trust me.  I enjoy both, as well.

Moving on: I particularly love hot cocoa. It’s my indulgence. I love a cup of hot cocoa in the morning, and sometimes in the evening. Now this is where the snob part comes in: I must have Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Chocolate. It’s absolutely divine, especially when you top it off with a splash of real whipping cream. I am from Northern California; I love San Francisco and Ghirardelli Square. (Scharffenberger is good too…) In California, I could buy this cocoa at the grocery store. In Idaho, for along time the only place I could find it was Cost Plus Imports. Before I discovered that Cost Plus sold it, I would have my sister get it for me as she could get it at Harmon’s in Salt Lake. As that wasn’t always an option, I was on a quest to find a different, yet suitable hot chocolate. Other than making it myself, with shaved, good chocolate, I wasn't successful. Now, my local Wal-Mart sells it, which is much more convenient.

For awhile, I had an expensive alternative. Starbucks used to sell what they called, “Chantico, a drinking chocolate.” It was like drinking a melted chocolate bar; it was similar to a true Italian hot chocolate if you’ve ever been to Italy. It was expensive and small and I could only get it if I was in Boise. But, it worked. Until they discontinued it. I haven’t been to Starbucks since. So, onto my quest.

And let me tell you, there are so many inferior hot cocoas, it’s amazing. People up here rave about Stephens and how good it is. Here’s the truth: if you put Swiss Miss in one cup and Stephens in another and didn’t tell someone which was which, they wouldn’t be able to tell. The problem with these “gourmet” cocoas is that they put too much powdered milk in the mix, thinking that it makes a “creamier” cocoa. It doesn’t. It makes a watered-down cocoa or a milked-down cocoa. The thing that is so great about Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate is that it doesn’t add powdered milk. It is only sweetened ground chocolate and cocoa and you make it with milk not water. When you add a splash of real whipping cream it is an absolutely divine taste experience. And, as I am in the process of trying to lose weight, I still won’t give it up. Ever. I have a ½ size mug and I’ve figured out how to make my cocoa and have it only equal 4 Weight Watcher points.

My boys have inherited the chocolate thing too. Their grandpa always had a stash of mini Snickers bars in his home office and they loved getting chocolate from Papa. They don’t like hot cocoa (the sacrilege), but E loves Cadury Mint Aero bars, Hershey's Mr. Goodbar, Ghirardelli Mint Chocolate. J loves M&Ms, Nestle Crunch and Lindt Dark Chocolate Truffles.  I think he's the only child in his elementary school who gets truffles in his lunch box.

We would be a true chocolate family, except for the fact that my husband can’t eat chocolate—he’s allergic. But, that means more for the boys and me!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The What's for Dinner Solution?...Review

About the book:
For many women, dread turns to panic around 4:00 in the afternoon. That’s when they have to answer that age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” Many resort to another supermarket rotisserie chicken or—worse yet—ordering dinner through a drive-thru intercom.

In The “What’s for Dinner” Solution, popular author and speaker Kathi Lipp provides a full-kitchen approach for getting dinner on the table every night. After putting her 21-day plan into action, women will

* save time—with bulk shopping and cooking
* save money—no more last-minute phone calls to the delivery pizza place
* save their sanity—forget the last-minute scramble every night and know what they’re having for dinner

The book includes real recipes from real women, a quick guide to planning meals for a month, the best shopping strategies for saving time and money, and tips on the best ways to use a slow cooker, freezer, and pantry.

With Kathi’s book in hand, there’s no more need to hit the panic button.

I don't know any woman responsible for a home who hasn't, at some point in her life, stood in the middle of her kitchen at 5:30 and wondered what she was fixing for dinner.  I think this scenario happens to most of us on a very regular basis.  I'm a fairly organized homemaker who plans menus, and I still hit 5:30 on some days and have no idea what I'm doing.

Kathi Lipp has put together a terrific resource for not only the experienced cook, but also the novice.  She has a very straight forward way of writing and the book is short and easily read in one or two sittings, or by chapter.

In a nutshell, we're better cooks when we take the time to plan and organize.  It's as simple as that.  It's not new information.  It's not the proverbial light bulb.  It's something we all know.  Here, however, Kathi gives us solid ideas and ways to be more organized and on top of things.  With chapters covering grocery shopping and shopping strategies, using your slow cooker and your freezer, organizing your kitchen and pantry and planning for leftovers, Kathi shares tips and tricks and lots of family-friendly recipes.

As I read this book, I noticed a lot of things I already do (planning menus according to my family's schedule, using my crock pot and freezer cooking) and I discovered a few new helpful hints and suggestions, as well as more than one recipe I want to try out.

I think this would be a great gift for any cook/homemaker, and it would be a terrific resource for someone out on their own for the first time.  Wrap it up with a dish towel and casserole pan for a cute presentation.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Kathi Lipp here.  You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here
Read 10/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Recipe Finds

Pinterest is evil.  I'd just like to go on record and say that.  I have found so many great ideas and so many new recipes to try.   These are just a few of the new ones I've discovered...

Homemade Ho Ho's  These look dangerous and delicious.

Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake

Ciabatta Bread

Healthy Breaded Shrimp

Southern Chicken and Corn Chowder

What new recipe are you excited to try?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Recipe Finds

I love finding new recipes. I have bookmark after bookmark of new recipes to try.  Here are a few that I found this week:

Lemon Crumb Muffins

Raspberry Limeade

Raspberry Lemonade Spritzer

Over the Top Andes Mint Cupcakes  Oh. My. Goodness.

Rolo Brownie Bites

What new recipe are you excited to try?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer Bounty

A few of the onions are purchased, but everything else is home grown.  Isn't that awesome?  All the fixings for salsa, right in the backyard. (Well, my aunt's backyard...)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pork Tenderloin in the Crockpot

1 pork tenderloin
3-5 potatoes, depending on size
2-3 carrots or a couple of handful of baby carrots
1 onion
3-5 garlic cloves

Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning. Brown the tenderloin on all sides.  I used some bacon fat which is what the original recipe called for, but you could certainly use oil.

Transfer the browned pork to your crock pot and deglaze pan with a cup of water or stock.  Using stock would add more flavor. Pour liquid over pork.

Peel and chop the potatoes and carrots.  Chop the onions.  Peel the garlic. Spread the veggies over the pork and add enough liquid to almost cover the vegetables.

Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours.

When finished, transfer meat and veggies to a platter.  Pour the liquid into a pan and bring to boil to make gravy.  I make gravy by blending a tablesoon or so of cornstarch into a 1/2 cup cold water and adding it to the boiling mixture.  Let simmer for several minutes and serve.

Holly's Note:
I had a pork tenderloin in my freezer that needed to be eaten.  So, I found the original recipe at How to Cook Like Your Grandmother and like everything I do, I modified it.  I used our favorite all-purpose seasoning in addition to salt and pepper and we still thought this was a little bland.  I'm thinking of adding some chopped apple to it as well, because apples and pork go so well together.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sweet Chic...Review

About the book:
Today’s baker faces a great challenge: With little time and a limited repertoire, she often needs to whip up a delicious dessert that’s dressed to impress. Rachel Schifter Thebault, founder and head confectioner of Tribeca Treats in New York City, knows all about making a sweet statement. Combining a confectioner’s expertise with fashion sense, she shares a scrumptious cache of popular dessert recipes that can be accessorized to fit any occasion.

What’s more, transforming a basic dessert into a masterpiece brimming with personality and flair can be easy, quick, and fun. In the same way you’d plan an outfit,
Sweet Chic pieces together a Devil’s Food Cake—the little black dress of delights—with such irresistible accessories as Caramel Buttercream (think knee-high boots) for ultimate decadence, turns Vanilla Cookies (the crisp oxford shirt) into Strawberry “Shortcakes” ideal for casual or dressy occasions, and blends brownies (the cashmere sweater of confectionery) with a swirl of mint for a showstopping number.

Gorgeous and appetizing color photos throughout reveal how a change of icing here and a substitute topping there can take a simple dessert from Sunday brunch to a date-night treat. Mix and match more than seventy recipes for cookies, cakes, and confections, including Peanut Butter and Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, Brownie Sundae Parfait, Mini S’mores Cupcakes, Wasabi-Black Sesame Truffles, and so much more.

Whether you’re a novice baker hoping to master the basics or an experienced one looking to add a little versatility to your existing creations,
Sweet Chic is a clever and practical guide for memorable desserts, a one-sweet-fits-all way to make a tantalizing impression.

Fancy desserts are the trend right now and Sweet Chic capitalizes on that trend.  The premise to the book is kind of cute: that just like in fashion, it's easy to accessorize and dress up an otherwise ordinary outfit, or in this case, dessert.

There are quite a few pictures (not a picture for every recipe, which is my big cookbook pet peeve, but this one has a good many), and go-to recipes you can use as the basis for desserts, such as a devil's food cake, a white cake, and a sugar cookie.  Rachel has included lots of tips and ideas for baking, decorating and serving your desserts.

I thought this was a lovely little cookbook.  It would be a great bridal shower gift along with a baking pan and utensils.

Thanks to Ruby at FSB Associate for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Rachel Schifter Thebault here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, June 10, 2011

Chicken-Fried Steak (PW Style)

Printable recipe

Photo from Pioneer Woman.  I didn't get my own taken, I will replace this one with mine the next time I make this.

~3 pounds Cube Steak (tenderized Round Steak That's Been Extra Tenderized)
1/2 cup milk plus about 2 cups for gravy
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour plus extra for gravy (I just used some of the remaining flour from coating for the gravy)
2 t. seasoned salt
3/4 t. paprika
1 1/2 t. black pepper
~ 1/2 cup oil for frying

Instructions (from Pioneer Woman)

Begin with an assembly line of dishes for the meat: milk mixed with egg in one; flour mixed with spices in one; meat in one; then have one clean plate at the end to receive the breaded meat.

Work one piece of meat at a time. Season both sides with salt and pepper, then dip in the milk/egg mixture. Next, place the meat on the plate of seasoned flour. Turn to coat thoroughly. Place the meat back into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat. Place back in the flour and turn to coat.
(So: wet mixture/dry mixture/wet mixture/dry mixture.) Place breaded meat on the clean plate, then repeat with remaining meat.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop in a few sprinkles of flour to make sure it’s sufficiently hot. Cook meat, three pieces at a time, until edges start to look golden brown; around 2 to 2 1/2 minutes each side.

Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm. Repeat until all meat is cooked.


After all meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup grease back to the pan. Allow grease to heat up.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix flour with grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Keep cooking until it reaches a deep golden brown color. If paste seems more oily than pasty, sprinkle in another tablespoon of flour and whisk.

Whisking constantly, pour in milk. Cook to thicken the gravy. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Add salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until gravy is smooth and thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.

Serve meat next to a big side of mashed potatoes. Pour gravy over the whole shebang!

Holly's Notes:
I have 1/2 a beef in my freezer or, rather, what's left of 1/2 a beef. We're making inroads on it very quickly.  Included in the mix of cuts are some cube steaks and so I prevailed upon the Pioneer Woman's cookbook for a recipe to cook Chicken-Fried Steak.  Her original recipe called for cayenne pepper and while I added it, I don't think I'll add it again.  It gave the crust a kick that I didn't think it needed.  

This was a hit.  My family enjoyed it and said it was definitely one to fix again.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The First-Timer's Cookbook...Review

About the book:
The First-Timer's Cookbook is the one cookbook that teaches all the basics. With simple techniques and easy step-by-step instructions for cooking almost anything, now you can learn how to cook, not just what to cook. Easy to follow step-by-step instructions. Lots of descriptive photos. Easy to understand and fun to use.

About the author:
Chef Shawn Bucher holds business degrees and a culinary certificate and has worked in the food service industry for over 12 years. Having been involved in most aspects of the industry “from grocery stores to restaurants, hotels, schools to corporate training and development,” he brings a unique and overall perspective to cooking and the food service industry.

When the book says it teaches the basics, it really does.  This is a book that contains no recipes, but photographic step by step instructions for basic kitchen procedures.  From menu planning and table set-up to cooking vegetables and using knives and food safety, this is a great beginner's cookbook.  This would be perfect for a teenager learning to cook or a college student or newlywed who has little culinary experience.

I'm a fairly experienced cook and I learned a few things as well.  It's a short, easy read.  I wish there had been a Table of Contents or an Index which would be nice if you just wanted to find the section on poultry or slicing a particular vegetable.

Thanks to Cheryl at Media Guests for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Shawn Bucher here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Friendship Bread...Review

About the book:
An anonymous gift sends a woman on a journey she never could have anticipated.

One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others. Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread.

When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, Illinois, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is laboring to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.

In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.

About life and loss, friendship and community, food and family, Friendship Bread tells the uplifting story of what endures when even the unthinkable happens.

A charming, heartwarming story.   You will laugh and cry with Julia, Hannah and Madeline as you learn each woman's story, heartbreaks and regrets, and you will cheer as they discover joy and happiness among friends.

A lot of characters are introduced throughout the book and, at first, I was concerned that it would get confusing.  It doesn't.  The main, core characters stay the same throughout the story and the extra people we learn about all come together at the end in a fantastic show of small-town support and friendship. I didn't really like the prickly Edie, but as she is kind of the antagonist, I guess it's to be expected.  She redeems herself which is nice. 

I love Amish Friendship Bread.  I'm not one for passing around starter bags, so I just keep them flattened in my freezer and bake a couple of loaves whenever I feel like it. For some, a bag of Friendship Bread starter is a death knell and only good for a big dose of guilt and pressure.  I personally think it's a delicious treat and it never lasts long at my house.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading a story based around Friendship Bread.  Darien Gee completely captures the essence of community, friendship and good food.  This is a delightful story and one I can easily recommend.

My only complaint is the present tense narrative.  I hate present tense more than I hate first-person, if that's possible!  It's so awkward and I don't understand why writers choose it.  I find myself distracted and annoyed while reading and, for me anyway, it detracts from the story, which is sad because this is a terrific story.

I love the inclusion of Amish Friendship Bread recipes at the end of the book.  It never occurred to me that I could use the batter as a base for other things.  What an awesome idea!  I'm excited to try some of these new recipes.  I think this book would make a lovely gift for a friend and if you gave it with a bag of starter, all the better!

Thanks to Cheryl of Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Darien Gee here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pasta Carbonara

Printable Recipe

1 box (1 lb) pasta (many people like spaghetti or linguine, but we like penne or farfalle)
4 eggs
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 t. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1 12 oz package of bacon or about 8 slices, diced
1/2 cup diced onion
Parmesan Cheese

While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the eggs, cream, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Brown the onions and bacon together until done.  Drain all but about 2 T of drippings.  When the pasta is finished, drain it and immediately return it to the hot pan.  Pour the bacon/onion mixture over the pasta.  Pour the egg/cream mixture over the pasta and toss it together until coated.  The hot pasta is what sets the eggs.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley if that floats your boat and serve.

Serves 4.

Holly's Note:
You can also add 1/4 cup of butter to the pasta when you add the egg mixture.  I cook the bacon and onions together because I think it gives a better flavor.  I also leave some of the bacon drippings in because of the flavor and, let's face it, this isn't a recipe you make when you're looking to count calories anyway.  So, why skimp?

As far as the eggs go:  you want at least 1 egg for every 100 g of pasta, so a one pound box of pasta would take 4 eggs.  Traditionally, you'd probably do about 1 cup of dry pasta per person, so a 1 lb box is about 4 cups. I usually use 1/2 a box of mini pasta and 4 eggs anyway.  It's creamier that way.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter...Review

About the book:
After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

As a young woman with Asperger's, Ginny has always been protected and sheltered by her parents.  After their sudden death, Ginny is suddenly on her own.  Her dominating sister insists on selling their parents house and having Ginny live with her, even though Ginny prefers staying in the home she's always known.  Frustrated with the fact that Amanda won't listen to her, Ginny cooks, finding comfort in the order and ritual of recipes and preparation.  When she prepares her grandmother's soup, her Nonna appears to her and they are able to speak, but her Nonna disappears after giving her a cryptic message. 

As Ginny struggles with expressing her feelings to her sister, she discovers family secrets hidden in her home.  Wishing to find answers to her questions, she continues cooking, finding recipes from her mother and father which enable her to speak with them.  What their answers reveal teach Ginny more about herself than anything else and she learns that "normal" is different for everyone.

Ginny is a fantastic character.  Jael McHenry has completely captured the essence of Asperger's syndrome and the reality that it's a spectrum and it manifests differently in people.  I loved her notion that there is no "normal".  I have a son with Asperger's.  I could see much of him in Ginny.  He has coping mechanisms just like Ginny does.  He has some of the same tendencies as Ginny and many of her thought processes and reactions are what I see in him.

The narrative is lyrical and well written with mouthwatering descriptions of food and cooking. There is mild, non-gratuitous use of the F word.  There are also some great sounding recipes that I can't wait to try. With magical realism elements that evoke Sarah Addison Allen, this is a terrific, engaging story.  It's not a ghost story, but a story about determination, acceptance and family.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jael McHenry here and here.  You can purchase your own copy here

You can see other tour stops and reviews here:

Monday, April 11th:  girlichef
Wednesday, April 13th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, April 14th:  She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, April 15th:  Book Club Classics!
Monday, April 18th:  The Singleton in the Kitchen
Tuesday, April 19th:  Back to Books
Wednesday, April 20th:  Coffee and a Book Chick
Thursday, April 21st:  Books Like Breathing
Monday, April 25th:  Simply Stacie
Tuesday, April 26th:  Book Reviews by Molly
Wednesday, April 27th:  Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, April 28th:  2 Kids and Tired
Monday, May 2nd:  The Brain Lair
Tuesday, May 3rd:  Stephanie’s Written Word
Friday, May 6th:  Book Addiction
Monday, May 9th:  Farmgirl Fare
Tuesday, May 10th:  Overstuffed
Wednesday, May 11th:  Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Friday, May 13th:  The Literate Housewife Review

Read 3/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blackberry Crumble...Review

About the book:
Modern Miss Marple: A Magnet for Murder?
by Jane Seeley, feature reporter, The Denver Post
Local "celebrity" Sadie Hoffmiller has been involved in a number of unfortunate situations that have taken her to crime scenes from London, England, to Miami, Florida, and even in her own backyard of Garrison, Colorado. But is she truly an unwitting bystander in all these investigations? Or is she something more? Is she, perhaps, even the cause...?

The word is out about Sadie Hoffmiller's amateur detective work, but it's not the kind of publicity Sadie wants. When Jane's article threatens Sadie's reputation in the community, she accepts her first investigation-for-hire and travels to Portland, Oregon - if only to give herself some space from her whispering neighbors. And from Pete, who is sending her mixed signals about their budding relationship.

Sadie hopes the Portland air will clear her head, and she is eager to get to work for May Sanderson, who has suspicions about her father's untimely death.

Putting her detective skills to the test, Sadie delves into a complicated past that includes a business partnership that didn't end well, several unsavory family secrets, and more than a few motives for murder.

Sadie is afraid she might crumble under the pressure, but in a new place with new recipes, she finds herself more determined than ever to uncover the answers buried in scandal, insatiable appetites, and pure and simple greed. 

Sadie Hoffmiller strikes again!  This time, however, she has accepted her first paid investigative assignment.  That she isn't a licensed detective doesn't matter.  Armed with a lock pick set and a fake ID, she heads off to Portland to put some space between herself and her hometown.

In true Sadie fashion, she gets herself in trouble and has many cringe-inducing embarrassing moments.  But, also in true Sadie fashion, as she uncovers motives and clues she also discovers families that need to be reunited.  And, along the way she discovers some terrific new recipes, some of which sound absolutely delicious.

Simply a fun story.  An easy enjoyable read.

Thanks to Tracee at Pump Up Your Book for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Josi Kilpack here.  Check out Lemon Tart, English Trifle, Devil's Food Cake, and Key Lime Pie. You can find other Blackberry Crumble reviews here. You can purchase your own copy of Blackberry Crumble here.

Read 3/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

White Cake

Printable recipe

2 1/2 cups flour (all purpose)
2 cups sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
1 1/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup butter (softened)
2 t. vanilla
4 egg whites

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer on low for about 30 seconds.  Scrape the bowl and beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Scraping the bowl occasionally.  Add egg whites, and beat for 2 minutes more.

Pour into greased and floured pans (2 nine-inch square/round pans or one 9x13 pan) and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.  I did 24 cupcakes and baked them for about 20 minutes.

Holly's Note:
The original recipe came from my old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  My husband and I thought the cupcakes were a bit heavy, not light and fluffy. My son loved them and couldn't get enough.  I think that next time I will change the order for mixing and do it more traditionally:  cream the butter and sugar first, add the egg whites one at a time, etc.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chili Kenos

Try Chili Kenos, of our favorite, quick, stove top dinners here.  You can have this on the table in, literally, 30 minutes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Key Lime Pie...Review

About the book:
When Sadie Hoffmiller's new friend, Eric Burton, receives word that his missing daughter's body may have been found in Florida, he immediately packs his bags, but Sadie is determined to stay home and prove to everyone that she is not a busybody.

But when she senses Eric is hiding something, Sadie is compelled to take action. Before she knows it, she's in the heart of Miami, trying to piece together a trail littered with broken relationships, mysterious strangers, and forged documents that might just provide Eric the answers he's been desperately searching for - or reveal a truth he may not be ready to face.

Sadie must also face a difficult question: Where is her heart leading her? Onward into Eric's adventurous arms? Or back home to the stable and steady Pete Cunningham? Of only love was as easy as following a recipe.

Once again, Sadie finds herself in the company of some colorful characters and on the hunt for some good old-fashioned Southern cooking. But despite the drama and intrigue, all Sadie really wants is to go home ... as soon as she does just one more thing.

Includes eight new mouthwatering recipes, tested and approved by the official bakers of Sadie's Test Kitchen

As Sadie is finishing up her community service sentence (after her arrest in Devil's Food Cake), her friend Eric rushes to Florida to because of new information regarding his missing daughter.  Sadie soon finds herself involved in another investigation.  As is typically Sadie, she gets into trouble, but also uncovers information the police can never find.  She's also conflicted about her friendship with Eric and her relationship with Pete and she has an obsession with finding a good Key Lime Pie while she's in Florida!

While I have loved all the Sadie Hoffmiller books, this one is probably my least favorite.  Sadie's antics are never quite plausible, but they border the extreme here.  Nevertheless, the story is entertaining and a great diversion.  I love Sadie Hoffmiller.  She's just a kick.  I'd love to have her for a neighbor. I think this is a fabulous series and I'm looking forward to Blackberry Crumble.

Thanks to Tracee at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Josi Kilpack and download Sadie's recipes here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews here.

Read 10/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pizza, Pizza

Printable recipe

1 cup plus 2 T. water (70° to 80°)
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. olive oil
1-1/2 t. Italian seasoning
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 t. active dry yeast
1 T. cornmeal
1 cup meatless spaghetti sauce (I use Ragu)
~4 cups (16 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
toppings of your choice

In a mixer with a dough hook, mix together water, Parmesan, olive oil, Italian seasoning, sugar, salt, flour and yeast.  Mix it for about 7-8 minutes.  Cover the mixer and let the dough rise for about 30 minutes.  Remove from bowl.

Roll into a 14-in. circle. Sprinkle a greased pizza pan with cornmeal. Transfer dough to prepared pan. Spread sauce over the dough, sprinkle with cheese and toppings.

Bake at 400° for 25-30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Holly's Note:
I found the original recipe in my Simple & Delicious magazine.  As with most things, I modified it!  It made one, cookie sheet size pizza that I thought was a little thick.  I think that I will split the dough into two thinner sized crusts next time.  This was a huge hit with my picky eater.

The original recipe called for mixing the dough in a breadmaker, which you certainly could do. I just mixed it in my kitchen aid with a dough hook.  

This post was shared at Carole's Chatter

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BBQ Chicken Enchiladas

Printable Recipe

2 T. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/4 t. salt
2 cans (10 oz each) red enchilada sauce
½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays Original)
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1 T. BBQ seasoning
1 pinch/sprinkle cayenne pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 whole wheat tortillas

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on low-medium heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt, and let caramelize until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.

While onions are cooking, whisk enchilada sauce and BBQ sauce together until combined.

Add shredded chicken, BBQ seasoning and cayenne pepper to onions. Mix together thoroughly. Pour in about a half of a cup of the enchilada/BBQ sauce mixture and add half of the cheddar cheese. Stir until mixture comes together and remove from heat.

Pour a drizzle of enchilada/BBQ sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Take each tortilla and fill it with a little over half a cup of the chicken mixture. Roll each up and set it in the baking dish. Pour remaining enchilada/BBQ sauce on top of tortillas and add the remaining cheese. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes.

Serves 4.

Holly's Note:
I found the original recipe at Tasty Kitchen from How Sweet It IsNow, the thought of BBQ sauce mixed with enchilada sauce was a bit weird at first and I wasn't sure how they would be.  But, these were fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic. I prefer them over regular enchiladas actually.  I might mix in some cooked rice next time

When I asked my husband if this was a keeper, his response was, "Oh, hell yes!" 

**This recipe works just as well with ground beef or shredded beef.  If using ground beef, just brown a pound of ground beef and drain it.  Then add it to the onions instead of the chicken.  If using shredded beef, you want about 2 cups cooked and shredded beef, the same as with the chicken.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mini Vanilla Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Beat in the butter one heaping 1/4 teaspoonful at a time, using an electric mixer set on low speed, until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Beat in the sugar a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture resembles fine damp sand. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and milk, beat on medium-high, just until blended. Do not over beat.

Divide the batter among two lined 24-cup mini-muffin pans.
Bake at 400 for ~10 minutes.

Frost with cupcake glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
6-7 tablespoons cream
Food coloring

Whisk together until smooth. Add more cream to reach desired consistency. Then dip.

Makes 48 mini cupcakes

Holly's Note:
I saw a really cute post at The Farm Chicks about mini donut-shaped cupcakes. I don't have the donut pan, but I have a mini muffin tin and the recipe sounded delicious. It was ok, but it wasn't special. My husband commented that these little cupcakes were simply a sugar delivery vehicle. He'd prefer them larger-sized. I agree. I thought the glaze was nice and easy, but very, very sugary. These are orange, because my son didn't want pink ones, because pink is for girls. The boys really didn't like the cupcakes anyway.  It wasn't simply a dump and mix recipe and for the effort required to make it, I don't think the results were all that worth it.

So, bottom line, I don't think we'll make these again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Honey Mustard Chicken

Printable Recipe

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed and tenderized
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
2 T. mustard
1/4 t. salt

Place chicken in shallow baking pan.  If chicken is overly thick, pound it a little to flatten.

In a small bowl, combine butter, honey, mustard and salt and whisk well. Pour over chicken. Bake for 45 minutes. 

Serves 4.

Holly's Note:
My girlfriend gave me this recipe and I believe she found it at We Are EatingIt's terrific: very light, very mild.  My boys were a bit suspicious of the golden yellow color, but both admitted to liking it. I served it with baked potatoes but my husband suggested that it would be perfect simply with a salad.  I am also going to marinate the chicken next time to infuse the flavor a bit more.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Keeping the Feast...Review

About the book:
A story of food and love, injury and healing, Keeping the Feast is the triumphant memoir of one couple's nourishment and restoration in Italy after a period of tragedy, and the extraordinary sustaining powers of food, family, and friendship.

Paula and John met in Italy, fell in love, and four years later, married in Rome. But less than a month after the wedding, tragedy struck. They had transferred from their Italian paradise to Warsaw and while reporting on an uprising in Romania, John was shot and nearly killed by sniper fire. Although he recovered from his physical wounds in less than a year, the process of healing had just begun. Unable to regain his equilibrium, he sank into a deep sadness that reverberated throughout their relationship. It was the abrupt end of what they'd known together, and the beginning of a new phase of life neither had planned for. All of a sudden, Paula was forced to reexamine her marriage, her husband, and herself.

Paula began to reconsider all of her previous assumptions about healing. She discovered that sometimes patience can be a vice, anger a virtue. That sometimes it is vital to make demands of the sick, that they show signs of getting better. And she rediscovered the importance of the most fundamental of human rituals: the daily sharing of food around the family table.

A universal story of hope and healing, Keeping the Feast is an account of one couple's triumph over tragedy and illness, and a celebration of the simple rituals of life, even during the worst life crises. Beautifully written and tremendously moving, Paula's story is a testament to the extraordinary sustaining powers of food and love, and to the stubborn belief that there is always an afterward, there is always hope. 

This is another one of those books where the review doesn't come easily, but the story stays with you. Paula Butterini and John Tagliabue were recently married journalists living abroad when tragedy struck and John was shot in Romania.  Prone to depression in the past, John settled into a deep depression following the shooting.  Keeping the Feast is the story of their experience with getting him healthy again.  Having lived in Rome and having a deep love of Italy, due to the Italian heritage they both shared, Paula and John returned to Rome in an effort to find comfort and healing.

The feast part of this story comes from her focus on cooking. Shopping for the day's food and cooking those meals were the two things that helped keep her grounded as she struggled with the day to day unknowns.

This is very much Paula's story and how she reacted to John's life changing experiences.  I would like to read John's version of their experiences.  And I wished for some recipes, as so many of her meals sounded delicious, but I also understand that not cooking by the book is somewhat liberating and refreshing.

While not a completely happy memoir, I found it well written, enthralling and quite lyrical.  It also ends on a happy, positive note.  Paula certainly has a way with words and descriptions and her story is moving.  It's a terrific account of how depression truly is a sickness; a sickness that affects whole families, even if it is only one person who actually suffers from the illness. That Italy and Paris happen to be the settings is simply a bonus.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can learn more about Paula Butterini here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars