Thursday, September 29, 2011

Winner of the Espresso Shortbread Cookies!!!!

Okay, I guess I should get around to declaring a winner of my last contest.  I would have posted the winner earlier in the week, but once again I had to go out of town unexpectedly.  So far the Fall is proving to be a trying time for my family, and not so great things just keep happening.  Hopefully October will be kinder to us then August and September were.

1) Thank you for your feedback on your coffee drinking habits.  Very helpful, and appreciated.

2)  I was going to respond to your comments as they came in, but again, I was away from my computer for most of the week.  Since you all took the time to answer my questions, I would like to respond to your comments.  Bear with me...and skip down to see the winner if you don't want to read all this.

Patty: Bialetti stove top espresso maker...I think I need to check that one out.I agree, coffee is comforting : )

Ntdolphin: I wish I liked decaf coffee, maybe one day I will convert. : )

Brigid: What a funny name...just kidding : )  At least your name isn't "Dagny in the garden".  Iced chai tea latte, I think I need to try that one out...sounds delish

Wilde in the Kitchen:  Sorry to hear you don't like coffee, you are missing out : )  It is fabulous.  I come from a large family and 1/2 of them don't like coffee, so you are not alone in your dislike

Aldebaran:  Yes, I have been to Caribou Coffee, can't remember if I liked it or not.

Miriel:  Pretty sure Grad students would die without their coffee fixes.  Extra shot would kill me if I tried it!

Jens:  Thank you!  Ironically most of my cookie recipes are in the metric system, I just convert them over because most American cooks are foreign to that idea.  Maybe one day we will switch over, dreams do come true don't they?  : )

Hilary:  School got me hooked on heavy cream as well, darn school and all those extra calories and fat we "had" to consume in order to graduate

Laura:  "Dirt Cowboy Cafe" and not in Texas, are you sure about that : )

Branwen:  I am with you on the Mochas...we should be friends, pretty sure we would get along since we drink coffee the same way. : )

Salome Ellen:  Great minds think alike, must run in your family : )

Torie:  Strong coffee is good, you would like Southern is wicked strong!

Maggie:  Iced coffee is the best when I can't afford a Mocha!!

Paisley's Pixels:  French Press is such a stylish way to make coffee!

Charissa:  Sugar in the raw is what I use too, I like the crunchy sugar in my iced coffees.

Ann:  Umm, "Fat B" coffee maker...totally don't remember, my memory is already failing me : )  One day I will have to visit your home town and drink some hard core coffee!

Mimi:  Lazy as usual : )

Marie:  So glad you like coffee, really I hold you responsible for getting me hooked on it.  Mocha is a way of life for you : )

Wannabeacook:  Thanks, so glad you like my blog!

Kdawg:  Predictable, really it is true. 

 WINNER IS:  Miriel!!!!!  Please contact me at to claim your free Epresso Shortbread cookies!

Pancake Apple Rings and "The Chew"

ABC just launched a new day time talk show based on food, called "The Chew".  You can watch it on Hulu if you are interested in checking it out.  I have only watched one episode so far and the verdict is still out.  Daytime talk shows seem to be just a bunch of people trying to talk over each other, and so far this lives up to that standard.  The show is hosted by Clinton Kelly from TLC's What Not to Wear...still not too sure where his connection to food is...he does a segment on hors d'oeuvres and plating...I can totally see how his background in fashion makes him an expert on food...not.  The only reason I might actually watch the show every once in a while is because Carla Hall from Top Chef is one of the co-hosts.  I like the way she cooks, and her food is so comfy looking.  I saw her making these apple rings last night and decided then and there that was what I was making for breakfast.  What a creative and fun way to eat apples and make pancakes!  How have I never seen this idea before?  Imagine the possibilities of things I can coat in pancake batter and cook...bacon...pears...sweet potatoes...what am I going to try next?

I just so happened to have some pancake batter in my fridge so this was wicked easy to assemble.  I used my recipe for crispy crunchy pancakes, which I have decided is my all time favorite pancake recipe now.  Try it, you will love it.  I just added some spices to my batter...cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice...or you can just use pumpkin pie spice to make it easier.

Basically this is how it goes:

1.  You core an apple either with an apple corer or a small knife.  Then you slice the apple in thin rings.
2.  You dip each ring in the pancake batter of your choice and then pan fry it on a hot pan coated with butter or coconut oil.
3.  Enjoy with syrup!

Make these, watch the chew and let me know what you this show going to make it?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old School Chicken and Rice casserole revamped and canless

If you live in the US of A you have probably consumed your fair share of the classic Campbell's soup chicken and rice casserole.  I have fond memories of this dish from back in the day when I couldn't reach the kitchen counter and my Mom cooked every once in a blue moon.  This was one of the dishes I remember her making.  It was also the only reason we kept paprika on our spice rack, and cream of mushroom soup in our pantry.  Long gone are those days, now we use paprika liberally like salt and pepper, and condensed cream of mushroom soup has been banned from our home...due to a decree from me.

I searched for a "can less" version of this recipe and had no luck.  So I went to work and came up with this version which turned out far better then I expected.  My version is healthier, less cream, no cheese, and lots of added veggies.

While we are on topic I just have to say, I really hate the word "casserole."  The only thing that comes to mind when I hear that word is fatty, over cheesed, greasy food, and cats.  It is actually the French word for "saucepan".  How could such a lovely French word make my stomach queasy? On the other hand, the word "casserole" also carries with it a degree of comfort, caring, and home.  Casserole is the natural response to so many things in life...if someone is sick, someone had a baby, someone passed away, someone lost a job, someone just moved in to the neighborhood... you bring a is the right thing to do. 

Do I sound heartless?  This is why nobody likes to cook for me.  I am a snob, I won't deny it.  I am high maintenance when it comes to the food I eat, sorry, that is how I am.  Next time I get sick, or loose my job I will completely understand why nobody brings me a casserole.You are forgiven, I understand, really I do. : )

Chicken and Rice Casserole
from my kitchen to your bellies

I used chicken thighs, but really you can use any part of the chicken that you prefer.  I know the white meat is apparently "healthier" for you, but I really enjoy the flavor of dark meat I am not changing my mind on this one.

6 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup flour

  Mix together the dry ingredients.  Dredge (dip and coat) eat side of the chicken with the flour mixture.  Heat a large frying pan to medium high heat, coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Once hot throw (well don't really is more like a placing motion) the coated chicken into the hot pan.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown.  We aren't trying to cook the chicken through at this point, just trying to get a nice golden crusty sear on each side.  Remove chicken from pan and put into a casserole know the classic white ones with clear glass tops...yeah, one of those.

In same frying pan...don't wash it or remove the juices the chicken left behind.  Add the following and saute 4-5 minutes over medium high heat until slightly caramelized:

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

After the onions and garlic are cooked add:

1 cup short grain brown rice to pan, stir, cook 3 minutes while stirring.  

Then Add:

1/4 cup wine to pan (white is better, but I used red and it worked just fine), this will help De-glaze the pan.  

Then add: 

one box frozen spinach, defrosted and squeeze as much liquid out as you can
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Continue to stir and over high heat boil for 3-4 minutes (we are trying to jump start the cooking process of the rice here.  Turn down heat to medium and add the following:

1 1/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt

Stir until combined and pour over chicken in casserole dish, cover with lid.  Bake in 375 degree oven for about an hour until rice is tender.  Check half way through and make sure there is enough liquid, if there isn't just add a little water.  Taste the rice and spinach mixture, if it is not salty enough for your taste add a little more and stir.  Enjoy!

A few notes about substitutions:
Rice:  I used short grain brown rice, you can use white, or any kind of rice you like, you just have to adjust the water and time a little since brown rice usually requires more liquid and time to cook.

Spinach:  I used a box of frozen spinach because we had it, but I think you could use fresh if you wanted...just not too sure how much...cook it down first and remove the liquid it leaves behind.  Also, if you don't have spinach try broccoli or another vegetable.  I added this for nutritional value, so be creative and use what green veggies you have on hand.

Flour:  If you are gluten free try using a gluten free flour instead.  I breaded the chicken for flavor and also to help thicken the liquids.

Milk, cream, and sour cream:  I used these to create a creamy base, if you are dairy free try using coconut milk and see what happens.

Chicken:  I used bone in, skin on because it enhances the flavor of the dish.  You can use boneless skinless chicken if you want to make it healthier.

Don't forget to take my coffee survey in the previous post, only 5 days left to enter and possibly win some delicious espresso shortbread!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rambling on about Coffee and a Give Away!!!

my makeshift coffee maker, ghetto but great
Coffee and I have an on and off relationship.  I drank it in high school, but then stopped in college...yes, I realize that is messed up, but that is how I roll.  If it was up to me I would drink it consistently every day, but unfortunately I am very sensitive to caffeine.  If I drink a cup in the morning I have trouble falling asleep up to 12 hours lame is that?  I love the taste and smell of coffee, I mean really it can't get much better then that!  When I do drink coffee I never have more then one cup a tolerance is low just like with alcohol.  Seriously, I can take up to 5 hours to finish one rum and, I am always broke so I really can't afford more then one drink.  Moderation is the key to not going broke...someone put that on a bumper sticker. : )

Do you remember a time when Starbucks didn't exist?  What on earth did we do before that?  I honestly can't remember.  I am not a Starbucks groupie, I probably only go there 2 or 3 times a month at the most.  I stopped by the other day while running errands and as I was sitting in the drive though line I sat there pondering how brilliant the creators of this chain are.  I mean come on, they created something for everyone, that no one knew they needed, and now people can't live without it.  Genius, sheer genius.  I mean come on, try to imagine a world without Starbucks...honestly, I can't.

I had no idea there were so many ways to brew a cup of coffee.  People are getting really creative and innovative with their methods of obtaining their caffeine fixes.  Last Fall I visited my sister and her husband in NYC for the first time.  One of the many stops we made included a visit to the blue bottle coffee bar in Brooklyn.  They use the pour over method to brew their coffee.  America's test kitchen just posted a video on how to use the pour over method without any fancy gadgets.  I tried it, and it worked, it was nice, and pretty to watch .  Also, the Kitchn has a post about this method as well.  Try it out, let me know what you think!  I wish I was a coffee connoisseur, that would be awesome.  

I want to hear from you!  
 I am trying to do some research on coffee and people's preferences, so help me out!  Answer the following three questions by leaving a comment. In one week I will pick a random winner and send them (or anybody they like) a box of my delicious espresso shortbread cookies.

1)  What is your favorite brand of coffee?
2)  What method do you use to brew your cup of joe? (did you know "joe" and "jo" are both acceptable scrabble words?)
3)  When you go to a coffee shop what do you usually order?

ADDED BONUS ENTRY:  This time around I am giving you an extra chance to win.  Refer this give away to a friend, and tell them to use your name when they leave a comment, and I will enter your name an additional time for each person who was referred by you.  Comprende?

Here is a sample comment:
Referred by:  Dagny Syversen
1) Community Coffee or Rutamaya
2)  French Press
3)  Coffee with milk and one pump of mocha

PS. Here are some cool ideas of things to do with old coffee cans...

saweet...these might just be regular cans...that is okay, I want to do this anyways
Wish I had a green thumb
I want one
waking up to a cup of coffee like this every morning would be so happy

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Crispy Goat Cheese, and a spinach salad in the background

Writing a blog is a lot like therapy, only better.  I talk, you listen, and I don't have to pay.  Works out nicely, don't you think? 

For the past few months I feel as if I have been in a funk cooking wise, and everything I was making just wasn't turning out the way I hoped it would.  The good news is that the winds have shifted and suddenly everything I am making is turning out lovely and wonderful.  Score.  So what to share with you first, where do I begin?  Let us begin with a healthy yet satisfying lunch or dinner option. 

I now bequeath upon you a scrumptious recipe for Grilled Chicken spinach salad with crispy goat cheese, cranberries, walnuts, and a maple balsamic dressing.  Say that 10 times fast, I dare you.
Yes, this plate is balancing on the edge of the not try this at home : )

Make the Chicken:

Heat a frying pan.  Coat with olive oil.  Throw into it the following and cook until cooked : )

4 chicken breasts diced into pieces
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 TBSP lemon juice

Once cooked add the following and stir, cook a few seconds then remove from heat.

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Make the fried goat cheese:

Pop 16 oz of goat cheese into the freezer for 10-15 minutes.  This will make it easier to slice without falling apart.

Set up your breading station:

Bowl 1:  1/2 cup flour
Bowl 2:  2 eggs
Bowl 3:  1 cup panko bread crumbs, 2 tsp dried parsley, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Slice the goat cheese with a serrated knife into 1/3" slices, or use dental floss...really it does work.

Dip the slices first in the flour, then the eggs, then the bread crumbs.  Place on plate, and continue until all slices are breaded.  Heat a frying pan to medium high heat, coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Place each slice into the pan.  Cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.  Set aside.

Make the dressing:

Whisk together the following:

6 TBS Olive oil
1 tsp Dijon
2 TBS maple syrup
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to season

 For an added bonus you can quickly toast the nuts in a frying pan.

Assemble the salad:

Toss salad with, walnuts (or any kind of nut), cranberries (or any dried fruit you like), and dressing.  Place on plate and top with chicken and fried goat cheese.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Millet Banana Bread

This bread was delicious and surprising.  The use of raw millet was strange sounding, but the end result was crunchy and awesome.  I received a great positive response to this bread from people.  It was even great 5 days later toasted with butter!  Yum!  I am now going to become a raw millet adding person, and add it to all the quick breads I make!

Make this bread, and as you do offer up a prayer for our little Mira Joy and her parents.

Thank you.

Whole Wheat and Millet Banana Bread
Adapted slightly from Joy the Baker
makes 2 8×4-inch loaves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup canola, vegetable, or coconut oil (if you use coconut oil be sure to melt it first)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk (or milk with 1/2 tsp lemon added to it)
4 medium bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raw millet, rinsed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together butter, oil, sugars, and eggs.  Beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Whisk in the vanilla, buttermilk, and mashed bananas.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Stir in millet.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Carefully pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients.  Use a spatula to fold the batter together.  Do not over mix.

Divide the batter between the two prepared baking pans.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Banana bread will last, well wrapped at room temperature, for up to five days.

Eat this bread and listen to this happy song.
P.S. This song reminds me of summer camp...I don't even think we ever sang it at the one camp I did go to, but I really think we should of. : )

Mira Joy

Death is a funny thing.  I have seen it tear families apart, and I have seen it bring families together.  There is a great amount of sadness that comes with death, but also a great amount of joy knowing that person is in the arms of our loving Father.  Death is such a contradiction, a constant human struggle, an inevitable thing we all will have to face some day.

I was hoping to write this post under happier circumstances, but God had other plans.  My older sister went into labor this past week, and as we got the news it was go time I started to make this banana bread...guess it was my way of nesting with her. : )  She had an overall healthy pregnancy, and took such caution and care as she carried her precious child.  There were no signs of complications, and no reasons to be worried.  We anxiously awaited the good news from Massachusetts here in Texas, and stayed up late waiting by the phone.  For still unknown reasons our beautiful little angel only lived for a few minutes.

Mira Joy was a beautiful little girl with dark hair, a sweet face, and tiny lips.  Perfect in every way.  She had a serene look of peace about her, and looked far more mature then a newborn.  She had a beauty and a grace to her, that is not common in newborns.  It breaks our hearts, and aches our souls to not have our little Mira with us.  She was a daughter, a grand daughter, a great grand daughter, a niece, a and a cousin that we will forever hold in our hearts.

It feels wrong to post a recipe after writing a post like this.  However, I found this recipe on the Joy the baker blog, and I thought it was ironic and apropos that I was making this bread from Joy as Mira Joy was entering and leaving this world.

Rest in heavenly peace little love!