Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Great Blizzard of Oz aka Snownomi

So the start of this week was great, it was President's day, a paid holiday at my place of work. Then Mike stuck around on Tuesday, we went and greeted my friends new little girl Katie (5 weeks old now) and then went out to dinner with my gal Michelle and her hubby Jake and had some laughs and a good time with friends. Of course right now it seems all my friends are either getting married, pregnant (Michelle), or having babies (Kristy). I love them all the same but being a girl sometimes it's a bit of what Mike calls "tick-tock." Yeah there is pressure but I'm sooo not ready and I'm happy with how things are chugging along. That comes when the time is right.

I digress. Then Thursday morning 6 am hits and BAM! The Great Blizzard of Oz hits the Kansas and, as Mike calls it, the snownomi hits Missouri.

Where I live received about 10-12 inches plus snow drift. Mike got about 12 where he lives. I must say my car, Audrey, was buried pretty well. I was able to work from home for 2 days and then found that the plows had come and pushed all the snow up behind my car.

So I bundled up when work was over, pulled on my waders, zipped up my coat and donned my snow hat and pulled out the gloves and headed out to tackle the now 2 foot mound of snow behind my car.

So all I had at the time was my snow scraper and a dust pan. The dust pan broke instantly after attempting to scoop the snow. So then I was left with my snow scraper which just took forever.

After about 45 minutes I was tired and my back hurt but I was still about 6 inches from pavement.

I finally got close to the ground but then then wasn't sure I was going to be able to back up over what was left. I was right, the next day I got myself stuck 6 feet from the curb of my parking spot and was stuck there all day until I could borrow a shovel from the office. At that point I was able to rock my car back into the parking spot.

My dear upstairs neighbor saw me out there and had been off on Thursday as well. She was cooking up a storm that day and brought me some homemade turkey taco soup and some crackers to warm up. It was delicious! Then we spent the evening playing Mario Cart and having a good time with girl talk. I don't get to do that a lot.

So then Friday night after I had gotten my car back in it's spot Mike called and asked if I was coming out or if he was. I said I would. He came out last weekend so it's a fair way of splitting the gas cost.

Of course at that point I had to figure out how to get the remaining bit of snow out from behind my car. So I called up a friend and asked if he had one, he didn't but he came and picked me up, since he had his car free, and took me to Home Depot where we bought garden spades and then shoveled the last 2-3 inches of snow from behind my car so I could back out and leave.

So I arrived Friday night, Mike had me come look at a totally awesome snow fort made by one of the student organizations. It was "Wicked" awesome  Was made with snow bricks and looked like castle turrets and even had flags on them. Then the next day when we drove by to get some good pictures it was ruined by some rude college kids. :( That was at least an all day event to make. It's so sad when mean people come and ruin something so amazing.

Mike and I then decided to go sledding, he has a "jet sled," which is a boat type sled that is used during hunting to haul decoys and gear without bogging yourself down like a pack mule. It makes the most amazing sled for sledding for sure. It hauls ass. We went over to a hill by the frat house and we started at the big hill which all the little kids were using. At that point we went down, one time each, of course because of the bottom of the hill not having any insurance on keeping you out of the road or out of the woods that were just beyond, that caused you to have to bail out of the sled before reaching the very bottom.

Of course to tip that sled over takes some effort. Mike did fine and ended up next to the sled. Me, I ended up bailing and then the sled landed on top of me upside down. So I was a camouflaged snow turtle.

After our adventurous day in the snow we decided to make something delicious after our nap.

Pork tenderloin, rubbed in sweet and smoky seasoning, then baked in the oven. Served with a side of broccoli sauteed with bacon and onion. Then served with portabella mushroom sauce over egg noodles.

The sweet and smokey seasoning we have is found at the Kansas City River Market downtown. It has a great spice station you can buy spices by the scoop. Found this sweet and smokey one day while down there and was told it was like BBQ potato chip seasoning. It is, and it totally rocks with pork. Pork chops, chicken, popcorn etc. It's amazing for sure. I need to get back to the market actually.

So our vegetable side was broccoli sauteed with a small amount of oil, onions and bacon. That glob in the middle is a concentrated pat of chicken stock. Which helped add seasoning and flavor. The bacon we used was hormels real bacon bits that you keep in your fridge. Less oil and less cooking time.

For a starch we decided on egg noodles. Then we were trying to think of a sauce. Then it hit us, Progresso makes those new recipe starters. We picked up one can of Creamy Portabella Mushroom cooking sauce. It's rather plain by itself and I reccomend adding salt, pepper, and some garlic powder. We also added some cooking Marsala wine. This made a very delicious and addicting noodle. This could definnitely be served with chicken or beef. The can even suggests making this sauce into a beef stroganoff. Of course Mike and I tend to stray from actual recipes when it comes to cooking. We find a base and then tweak if from there.

Final product was a tender, moist and totally delicious BBQ pork loin. YUM! Then served with the broccoli bacon sautee and noodles with creamy portabella mushroom sauce was just the perfect combination.

Now there are leftovers and unfortunately it will not last us through the Blizzard of Oz (Snownomi) part 2 that is coming Monday night/Tuesday morning. Another 10-20 inches depending on the area you are in. Mike is pegged to get up to 15 inches at his place, while I should get anywhere from 10-12 inches. Ugh, looks like Tuesday and Wednesday I will be working from home again. I start to get cabin fever after about a day fand with work, it's not like I can just clean the house completely from top to bottom all day like I would if my job didn't provide me a laptop. Ah well, I have a job, it's not so bad, they pay me decent and I really shouldn't complain too much.

So folks, if you're getting snowed in, make sure you have something to cook as well as something to do to entertain yourself, me, I have my neighbor to play Wii games with. If you're lucky enough not to have snow, then enjoy cooking with things you find interesting while leisurly walking down the grocery store aisles with shelves that aren't empty haha ;)

Now go out and cook!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Canadian Goose

So the weekend after Valentine's Day Mike came down to my place to hang out for the long President's Day weekend.

It was a relaxing weekend that took us to Cabela's where Mike was attacked by a random little girl who was insistent on tickeling him with her dolls hair. This was entertaining to watch but then made us wonder why parents would let their children tickle a random man trying out a layout blind in the bargain cave. Maybe I shouldn't question some folks that shop at Cabela's.

Mike found some turkey decoys he really wanted for turkey season, since he now has a connection for that as well. I have to work on getting my hunters safety class done as well as figure out which permits I need for each season I want to hunt in. Yay money! -_-

Speaking of hunting, I pulled out the last of the Canadian goose breast and marinaded it in a whiskey marinade we have used before for "Whiskey Tango Steak Night."

So in honor of using what I had, I had 2-lbs of carrots sitting in my fridge just begging to be turned into carrot souffle. This is by far the best way to get veggie haters to eat veggies. Mike has even said it's good enough that it could be a dessert and that when we have kids, this is what should be dessert so we can sneak in vegetables. Of course if they are anything like us, which they will be, they will like just about everything that is put in front of them.

And in recent discoveries I have taken full hold of the fact that Walmart does price matching to any current grocery store ads. So I took full advantage of it and got center cut bacon 1/2 price thanks to Price Chopper's sale on meat. So then, we wrapped the goose in bacon to give fat and flavor, seared on both sides in the cast iron and then finished in the oven at 350 degrees until it was medium rare, about 45 minutes. We cooked it for an hour and it came closer to medium. But was still tasty.

Then we had to have a starch, which Mike wanted rice, which then turned to risotto which then evolved into wild rice mushroom risotto made with chicken stock. This didn't quite turn out like a risotto. Basically you start with 1 cup of water and cook the rice, then add more water after the first batch is absorbed and repeat. Then do it one last time and that's risotto. Or at least the way my mom does it, hers tastes pretty good. Ours turned out a little on the salty side but still edible.

This is the final product, again, closer to medium than medium rare, the risotto was a bit salt and not quite as soft as it could be but it was overall a success and a good meal. I think we will try a different marinade next time, this was a very subtle taste, we even used Jack Daniels, the good stuff.

But this is what cooking is about, learning what to do differently when you don't quite hit a home run and figuring out what works best with what type of protein, vegetable, and grain.

Live and learn then go out and cook.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Xtra Large Cookies and Valentine's Day

Yes, we are a little late here with our Valentine's day post. Of course neither Mike nor I are huge V-Day people. No reason to not love each other 364 days and only celebrate it only on 1 day out of the year.

I bought Mike a movie he likes, "Looper," and he bought me a cup from his Alma mater. I really like it and it's perfect for work.

So then I made cookies, Mike and I couldn't spend Valentine's day together, so we celebrated the weekend before. So the week of V-Day I made cookies, which I intended to take to work, but then I decided that I was gonna have a shark week kind of week and eat them myself over the course of a week.

Mind you, these are LARGE cookies, EXTRA LARGE cookies. Basically this is a one cookie recipe. Of course, if you wanted to make a tiny batch of cookies out of this I am quite sure you could, however, it's more fun to make these HUGE cookies and share them eat them all by yourself and not give any to your significant other. Sorry Mike, I love you :)

The ingredient lists for any of these cookies is rather simple. Basically it's a cookie recipe, depending on the type, and sized down to make one large cookie, or about 4-6 normal size cookies. But why make things small right? Bigger is better. Or at least when it comes to cookies and trucks.

I found these recipes at the darling "Sally's Baking Addiction" blog. I saw Reese's Peanut Butter Extra large cookie. I was definitely making that. If I had to eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be peanut butter.

To top the recipe off, it has Reese's pieces AND chocolate chips AND peanut butter. Uh DONE, yum. Gotta have.

So you start out mixing your wet ingredients, butter and sugars and peanut butter. Cream those and then start adding your egg,  salt, baking soda, vanilla, and then flour. Once you have that mixed fold in your chocolate chips and Reese's.

You should then have this lovely, thick cookie dough. YUM! I could quite honestly eat this by itself. Of course between Mike and I we could put away cookie dough by itself.

You then have this lovely delicious, moist and yet crunchy cookie. This is literally the size of my entire hand. It's MASSIVE! And I totally ate this by myself, over a couple of days. 

Of course from this recipe comes XXL Death by Chocolate cookie (perfect for that shark week craving).

Also can make a Buttery Soft Sugar Cookie, which quite honestly I didn't care for on it's own, so I cut it out with a heart cookie cutter and frosted it and then wrote "XO" in honor of V-Day. Of course I noticed that I actually had red food coloring AFTER I made the frosting blue and then purple.

Of course with sugar cookies come snicker doodles. Which rolling this dough in cinnamon sugar is impossible. I also think my sugar and snicker doodle dough's weren't thick enough. I may have to try adding at least 1 - 2 Tbsp more flour to help with that.

 So, I"m sure you're wanting the recipes now. Well I will give you the Reese's Giant cookie recipe, the rest you can find sugar here and snicker doodle  here and death by chocolate here.

The XXL Death By Chocolate and the Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cookie's are my favorites.

1 Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cookie

Makes one (1) GIANT cookie

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp beaten egg (crack and egg and beat it, use 2 Tbsp - or use egg beaters)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter (I used Walmart's Natural creamy)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Reese's Pieces
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mixing until well combined. Stir in peanut butter, then add flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold in Reese's Pieces and chocolate chips until combined. With a large spoon, scoop into a ball onto prepared baking sheet. The dough will be sticky. Make sure the cookie dough ball is tall and round. You can top with a few extra Reese's Pieces before baking.

Bake for 17-19 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. The center may appear undone, but it will set as the cookie cools. Let cool ON the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Enjoy.

Of course using this base you can always change it to match what you're craving. Use your imagination and taste buds to figure out what flavor combinations would work.

Go out and cook!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Smothered Pork Chops a la Mike & Sarah

So the folks were in town this weekend. They had some things that needed to be done at the house and so between Mike and I we helped make that a bit easier for them. Help that we don't mind giving at all.

It's always fun to see Mike's folks. I always get a good laugh and have a great time.

So for dinner the other night Mike decided he wanted to make dinner rather than go out. That was fine, but then he remembered the roomie was sleeping. Well poo poopie doo. Then we found out around 5 that the roomie was awake and moving around. It was Mexican Monday and so she goes out on a double date gathering thing with friends and her boyfriend. Ok, sweet, we can now dominate the kitchen!

So Mike called his folks and let them know we could do dinner at the apartment now and then he and I rushed out to Walmart to collect ingredients and hurry back home to cook before the arrival at 6:30. (we left shortly after 5:00) So we have a list and are running through the store like we are on an episode of Bobby's Dinner Battle. Running to find the ingredients needed and figuring up a side dish and then having little time to make dinner in.

We finally figured out a side dish, we could do crostini (which have been done before - see here) but we changed it up and bought some Philadelphia dinner creations Italian herb flavored and then bought mini ciabatta breads and planned to cut them into quarters.

So we rush back home and begin prep work. Turning the oven broiler on and starting the veggie work. I pull out a pan and start arranging the peppers on them to place under the broiler. We bought the mini peppers rather than full bell peppers. They taste great too.

Then I began prepping the ciabatta bread, cutting the little squares into quarter triangles.

Drizzled with olive oil.

Then oiled the pan and popped under the broiler. However, I did burn the first set and had to start over with the other half of the bag. :( Oopsie!

While I was working on toasting my ciabatta bread triangles Mike seasoned the pork chops and seared them in the cast iron.

He then cut up the remaining mini yellow and red peppers, sliced up some onion, garlic, and popped open a small can of peas. After he seared the pork he took the meat out of the pan, placed on a plate and set aside while he sauteed up the onion and peppers. Then made a roux and added everything back into the pan and made gravy. Adding the peas last so not to mush them up any more. So we ended up with delicious and tender smothered pork chops (sadly I forgot to photograph my plate or even the pan! What kind of blogger are we? It was my job this time to take pictures, I failed. But I did get a picture of the finished crostini.

The folks liked it. Though Mike went a little crazy on the seasoning. He used Tony Chachare's Cajun seasoning, which in small doses is great. He seasoned the pork separately from the gravy and so combined it created quite a bite. More than planned but still delicious.

The recipes are simple.

Pork Chops - thin cut - boneless (however many you want to use, I think we had 6 or 8)
1/2 bag of mini peppers sliced and seeded
1 small onion
1 small can of peas
Cajun seasoning of choice
water or some stock to create gravy
and a roux to thicken which is just flour and oil or butter seared in a pan until desired darkness of roux (we usually do a blond roux - even though I prefer slurry's - corn starch and cold water).

-Season meat, sear on both sides in hot skillet.
-Set meat aside.
-Saute onion and peppers together and some chopped garlic
-Set veggies aside when just tender
-create blond roux, add some stock/water
-everybody back in the pan, add peas and cook until warm

Serve with delicious crostini and mashed potatoes.

We bought Betty Crocker Loaded Mashed for a side and it was pretty darn good.

For the crostini

1 small loaf French Baguette (the thin rod kind for bite size pieces)
2 Tbsp ish of extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup cream cheese creations by Philadelphia (Italian herb blend)
1/2 bag mini peppers

Roast peppers either on a gas stove top over the fire or under your oven broiler until the skin is charred. Place in zip lock bag or in a bowl covered with plastic to let the skin steam off.

Cut your bread and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and oil the top side of your bread with a drizzle of olive oil. Pop in the oven under the broiler until golden on each side, careful to watch them as they will burn FAST.

Once your bread is done pull out of the oven and take a garlic clove cut in half and rub on each toast (only on one side). Then top with cream cheese.

Now, get your peppers, the skin should just flake right off when rubbed gently. Slice up into strips and top your crostini.

And serve. These will go fast, they are delicious.

Mike and I have a lot of fun figuring out new things and new ways of doing things. He suggested using the ciabatta bread since the store didn't have a small baguette to use. Then we decided last minute to use the mini peppers rather than the big bell peppers just because. Also, initially Mike had suggested using cream cheese and just mixing it with Italian herbs. Well I went to get some and found that new recipe creations and was all over it.

Just get creative  how can you change a dish? Can you make it better? Can you change the flavor profile from Italian to Mexican, or just tweak to your taste? You can do just about anything with the right seasonings and a little thought. And don't be afraid to high five in Walmart, make life fun. :)

Also while at Walmart this week I found this. Gooey Butter Cake - in Kansas! That doesn't happen often if at all. It's by Paula Deen. Since we have this slight obsession with gooey butter cake I bought it to try it out.

The gooey part was good but I can't say the "yellow cake crust" was great. To me it was too salty. But on a scale of 1 to 10. I give it a 7 because when in a pinch and not feeling like making it, this would suffice. Just definitely is NOT St. Louis traditional. But not bad.

 Now go out and cook!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


No, not the bird. I know. Puffins. What the heck kind of food is that. Well, that my friends, is what happens when you can't remember what they are called but try to remember anyway. Mike has deemed them puffins from now until the end of time. So here we are. With our "puffins." Which is a good name for them since they puff up.

This isn't the first time a food has been renamed. As a kid my brother called hamburgers, 'hammy burgers,' and I call spaghetti 'spisketti.' Then in my early teens I blurted out kibis instead of kiwis while at the store. Yes, this happens all too often. So, onward now that we have had a flashback.

Mike's parents got me a popover pan for Christmas. Which is awesome, even though I've never eaten nor made a popover in my life. Can't say it's something I ever even looked at making even when looking through a cookbook. At first I just thought it was a dessert. Ok cool, I love baking sweet treats. Well, lets talk about that.

So even after seeing a recipe and checking into what I needed I figured it was much like a puff pastry that you fill. Yeah, obviously I'm unsophisticated and thought wrong.

Lets clear things up. They are not sweet, complex, or fancy. They are just super airy rolls that "pop over" the cup of the pan.

So I used a very basic recipe that came on the packaging of the pan.

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp melted butter

Mix dry then add wet. Fill 'puffin' cups 2/3 full. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-23 minutes until puffed and golden.

Note the golden and puffed part. Also, something my recipe failed to tell me. YOU MUST POKE 'PUFFINS' WITH A FOR TO LET STEAM ESCAPE! You can do this on the side as some recipes call for (right at the level of the pan and 'puffin.' Or at the top right in the middle. If you do not do this upon your 'puffins' exiting the oven they will fall A LOT and be super soggy and chewy.

Soggy and Chewy - eww
Blech! But if you do this and not peak at them at all during the baking process they turn out pretty good looking.

Cooked longer and poked to release steam, much better.
Is this something I will make often? No, I will probably find other creative uses for this pan and make the occasional puffin. They are very plain tasting so I'm sure by adding anything from cinnamon to garlic can liven up your recipe. I'm told with jam or butter is best. I will have to make them again so I can figure them out.Also learned a lesson, if you don't know about a recipe or type of food. Research, research, research.

Now go out and make something you've never made :) and have some fun.