Monday, October 31, 2011

Small Town Life

Way back in the beginning when I originally wanted to start a blog, the intent was to follow the story of our lives adjusting to small town life after being lifelong city people. I seem to do alot more writing about our fun stuff but tonight I had a really great small town America experience, which is exactly what we were hoping for when we decided to flee the city.

The coolest thing about the small towns is the amazing architecture. Old storefronts, courthouses well over 100 years old, it's amazing to me to think about how they actually built these glorious buildings. I need to brush up on my History of Stuart, because I don't know what the building above originally was, but it was built in 1894. It's in beautiful condition but sadly the street level storefronts are vacant, sad reminderss of a once vibrant past when White Pole Road was the major thoroughfare before they built the interstate and bypassed all the small towns.

Tonight was Beggars Night in Stuart and I was invited to join one of the business owners to pass out candy to all the goblins. It was really a fun time. I've never experienced this small town ritual- all the businesses on main street set up a table, or a tent, or just pull up a chair, grab a big bowl of candy, and wait for the herd of hungry ghouls and princesses and superheros.

More than 700 pieces of candy were in that bowl !!! A neighboring business was kind enough to refill my friend's bowl twice becase she ran out !!! Another example of the small town mentality- the neighborly atmosphere is so heartwarming. So many people stopped to talk to me and say hi, and they'd never met me before in their lives, yet acted like I've been a lifelong neighbor.

Lucky for us, the other neighboring business is a restaurant and lounge, and besides handing out candy to the kiddies, they handed out jello shots to the weary moms and dads, and even tho we weren't walking the main street with kids in tow, they felt sorry for us girls sitting there swarmed by wave after wave of trick or treaters, and sent us over a couple.....

As the sun settled in the sky, the air turned chilly and all I could think was that I really had a nice evening, really felt "at home" for probably the first time since moving out here.

Life is settling into exactly what we wanted when we made this decision. Still not 100% there, but every day we're closer and closer, and happier still......and this year as Thanksgiving approaches, I will have many many things to be thankful for.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

One for the NEVER AGAIN File

Usually when I try a new wine, I like to buy more than one bottle, so I can try it in different circumstances. Different temps, with different pairings- you get the idea. Last night, the first Friday of the first week of my new job and the Chef and I decided to just have a few drinks at home to celebrate.

Easy enough to choose for him, he likes a couple different kinds of beer or a mixed drink on occasion. Me, there is another story. Sometimes I'll take a beer, sometimes I want a cocktail (not those girly concoctions with umbrellas and flowers and an entire fruit salad on a skewer) but a nice martini (dirty, cosmo, apple) or maybe Campari and soda, Captain Morgan and something. I've been known to thrown down a jager bomb or four.

Most occasions though I will opt for wine. So last night I chose a couple bottles from a local Iowa winery, Santa Maria in Carroll. Beautiful winery- looks like an Italian piazza but in the middle of small town Iowa. They have some of the best reds in the state and usually, if I'm buying wine there, I go with the reds.

Last night however, I chose two whites. I'm only going to talk about one because I never got around to opening the second bottle, so I'll save that for next Friday.

Thinking it was a Riesling style wine I picked the Frontenac Gris. It's a nonvintage wine. The label claims a tropical fruit palate with hints of honey on the finish. My impression was old grapes fermented in a musty basement with bits of old match heads floating around before straining. The actual flavor of the wine wasn't that bad, it was a little too sweet for me, more like a dessert wine than a sipping wine, but what I couldn't get past was the aroma. It had a very pronounced sulphur smell that just made it very unpleasant to me. I drank the first glass well chilled and that brought the fruitiness out but couldn't hide the smell. The second glass I had let warm slightly to cool room temp and still, same thing, the fruitiness was slightly less pronounced and the alcohol was more "there" but again, that smell...... I didn't finish the bottle.

Overall it was such a bad experience that I didn't want to open the second bottle. I felt like my palate and ability to taste with an open mind was done for the night.

Santa Maria has some very amazing wines. Besides using Iowa-grown grapes, they purchase grapes from other regions and have a Syrah that is fabulous, a Riesling reserve that is a standout and probably my favorite of all their wines, Tempranillo. They have a beautiful winery with a restaurant and loads of party rooms and such.You can check it out at .

The Chill Air of Autumn

I've been seeing it all over the news- that word that brings so much dread to others, yet so much JOY to me- SNOW !!!!! 8 inches of snow in Denver the other day, a massive winter storm to the east. What do I have to do to get a little flake action in my part of the world ???

Since moving to the lake in March, we really haven't experienced any real winter weather. We had a couple snows, an inch or two at the most, but it was always gone by the next day. Nothing to even shovel. Shoveling snow is my favorite thing in the world. Pile on my coat, warm shoes, hat and mitties and hit the driveway. The peace and serenity is just so incredible. It's like I'm the only person on the planet (except sometimes I hear the far-off drone of some snowblower but that will probably be less likely out here at the lake. The weekenders won't be here to worry about the snow). That's the Minnesota girl in me. I'm sooo looking forward to the first REAL snowfall at the lake.

Even though we don't have any snow yet, the boats are all out of the water and driving through the area I see people tuning up and preparing their winter toys- snowmobiles, 4 wheelers. A frozen lake is a playground just as much as the summer water.

One of the best things about this time of year is the "winter food". I love anything that simmers all day, roasts for hours, filling the home with the scents of something delicious to come. Tonight on the menu it's chili. And I've been sampling- it's going to be a killer !!!!

As always, we start with the best quality ingredients we can get. No, not talking a slab of Kobe beef or Wagyu steak or anything like that, but we picked out a nice boneless roast, trimmed it myself, and cut into small cubes. Not big beef stew cubes, but smaller dice, pea size or so. Sometimes we like ground beef instead, sometimes I've even used both in the same pot. I'd even give a pork roast a shot in the chili pot. Ground turkey ? Maybe.....

One medium yellow onion, chopped, a few cloves of garlic, chopped, a small bell pepper, chopped, and a diced habanero all went in the pot with a little hit of olive oil and the meat. As soon as the onion was softened nicely, a quart of home canned tomatoes, can of tomato juice, about 1/2 cup of tomato paste, a handful of our dried tomatoes (you could use sun dried tomatoes or omit this if you'd like), salt, pepper, chili powder and a SMALL bit, like 1/2 tsp. or less, of crushed dried ghost chile went into the pot to simmer.

It's only been a couple hours at this point and I'm already anxiously awaiting dinnertime !!

We served the chili with shredded cheese sprinkled on top and crackers instead of cornbread this time. It was sooooo rich and thick and tomatoey and spicy all at the same time. And it was spicy !! Not melt-your-face-off spicy but it warmed me up nicely.

Absolutely perfect for a cool fall night with scary movies on all the channels. In fact, right now I'm home by myself watching Halloween H20, and very bravely I might add !!!!  I don't like scary movies !!! And I'll say this much, if I hear a strange noise in the dark back yard, or the neighbors dogs bark away at an unknown something, I will NOT be putting on a pair of high heels and heading out in the darkness armed with a candle and a screwdriver !!!

Before I go enjoy another bowl of chili, I'll share one more look at the lake in winters past.
(all pictures are courtesy of  I cannot wait to have a few pictures of my own to share !!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm all about recycling !!!

Recycling. Going green. Electric cars (speaking of which, our little Chevy dealer in Stuart had a Chevy Volt on the lot yesterday- I really liked it !!!). Those seem to be the big buzzwords these days. So, not wanting to be socially irresponsible, I've decided to do a little recycling of my own tonight. Food recycling that is !!

You might remember a couple weekends ago I had a little all-day cookathon for myself. The Four Raviolis (sounds like superheros doesn't it ?). One of them was a seafood ravioli with a yummy filling of ricotta cheese, shrimp, crab and langostino. I had more filling than I needed so I tucked it away in the freezer for safekeeping. While sitting at work today munching on Puffcorn my mind wandered into the freezer......and thought about that filling......and since the grocery store is right next to my office, I toddled over there and grabbed a package of mushrooms.

Once I got home the rest was easy- thaw the filling til it's soft enough to spoon/mound. Melt a little butter. Mix some dry breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and parsley in a shallow dish. Pull out the mushroom stems. Mound the seafood filling in the mushrooms, dip the tops in the crumb mixture, drizzle with melted butter and bake. Voila !!! Seafood stuffed mushrooms, or as an environmentalist might say, Mushrooms with Recycled Seafood Stuffing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Tale of Two Moscatos

You've undoubtedly heard me say many times, I am not a moscato drinker. Generally. Usually. But after finding the two wines that I've been looking for for some time, Lulu B and FlipFlop, loving the pinot grigios and rieslings by both wineries, and seeing that they both also have a moscato, I just had to break down and try them. I shouldn't say I don't like it if I don't try it, right ??

FlipFlop Moscato 2010 is a nice little "girl wine". By girl wine, I mean a nice beginner wine. No tannins whatsoever, pretty sweet, and very fruity, it's a nice wine to sit and drink a big glass of. It reminds me of summer, sitting on the patio in a nice warm breeze. While it's not a wine I would typically choose, it was a pleasant wine and a very good buy at about $6. It has an alcohol level of 9.5% which is pretty "warm" for a moscato- but I think that was something that helped me like it more. Not that I have to have a high alcohol wine, but what I mean is, the higher the alcohol, the less sweet the wine.

Lulu B Moscato (nonvintage) is more up my alley. Ya, ya, I know it's still a moscato but it's a little more acidic and a little more like a sweeter riesling- which is my favorite of all grapes. Most people prefer moscato served very chilled but I let this come to cool room temperature and liked it much more than ice cold. It seemed to hide the sweetness better and brought the fruit more forward. It was a little higher in alcohol than the FlopFlop, at 10.5%, and that also made it seem more like a riesling. Like the FlipFlop, I have been searching for Lulu B for a couple years- I had it at a wine tasting and didn't buy a bottle, figured I could grab it later and then didn't find any for a long long time. It's also a very inexpensive wine, right around $6 a bottle.

I think next on the agenda, I'll look for some nice big reds- it's that time of year after all. Time to say goodbye to the light summer whites for a few months and dive into a big juicy cabernet !!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gobble Gobble Gobble !!!

Oh, if you could only hear my turkey impersonation...... maybe it's good that you can't !!!

I am a Thanksgiving baby and therefore, I love turkey, and I have lots to be thankful for right now. Two simple facts. We also happened to have a boneless turkey breast in the freezer, so......why not ??  It's fallish outside (if you call the 70s in Iowa in October "fallish") and almost November !!! And with the Chef's and my new work schedules, we haven't really done a lot of real cooking the last couple weeks. All the more reasons to spend a leisurely Sunday puttering around the kitchen with the sounds of NFL football in the background.

So I planned my little mini-Thanksgiving menu without having to make a single trip to the store for something I was missing- amazing !!! Roast turkey breast with chestnut stuffing. Roast baby yukon gold potatoes and baby carrots, and cranberry sauce (can't have turkey without cranberries !!) Easy enough !!

I started with a FULLY THAWED boneless turkey breast roast (about 3 lb). This one came with that little net bag on it, but I always cut that off before I cook it, I think they are messy and unnecessary and if you like the crispy brown turkey skin, that stupid string thing always messes up the skin.

You can still see the imprint from that net but after it roasts, that goes away. I sprinkled the roast all over with freshly cracked black pepper, some lemon herb seasoning and crushed dried thyme, and then cut a couple bacon strips in half and laid them across the top.

I should probably specify that I used just regular bacon, not maple or apple or any fruity flavor- just plain old regular bacon. Into a 350 degree oven the yummy little bird went for a nice roast. After about an hour and a half I added enough baby carrots and baby yukon gold potatoes to the roasting pan for the two of us.

I didn't think there was enough drippings yet to really coat the veggies so I added a couple tablespoons of browned butter with sage that I had in the fridge (but you could use just butter, or a little butter and a pinch of sage if you like or even bacon fat if you have it). Back into the oven for another hour and it came out perfectly juicy with the veggies absolutely perfect. Total roasting time was just about 2 1/2 hours for our 3 lb breast, if you rely on a thermometer, you want to shoot for 170-175 degrees.

And I'm not gonna lie- I stink at making gravy, so I used the little gravy packet that came with the turkey- just added some of the turkey drippings to it.

Besides the turkey and veggies I also made a small batch of chestnut stuffing. I loooooove chestnuts and I try to get some every fall to use in different recipes. For my stuffing I used 6 hot dog buns, cut up into small cubes and left out to dry most of the day,

about 1/4 chopped celery with leaves, 1/2 small onion diced, 1/4 chopped chestnuts (I used the roasted jarred chestnuts from Williams Sonoma),

about 1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken broth, a couple tablespoons butter, freshly cracked black pepper and crushed dried sage leaves (1/2 tsp to a tsp to taste).  Melt the butter in a small skillet and saute the onion and celery until softened but not brown.

Toss the cooked vegetables with the bread cubes n a large bowl.

Drizzle with chicken broth and toss until evenly moist. Pile into baking dish that's been sprayed with cooking spray and dot with a little bit more butter. Cover with foil and put in the 350 degree oven with the turkey for about an hour. I remove the foil the last 15 minutes or so to brown and crisp the top.

Dinner turned out really good- just like real Thanksgiving !!! Except with no pumpkin pie.....bummer......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Goodbye Garden Days

It's over.........and I'm not all that unhappy about it..... I'm talking about gardening season of course. Today is the Official End of Joe and Monica's Garden- the furnace was switched on. Frost in the forecast. Temps in the 30s. The Chef actually speaking the words "I'm actually a little tomato-ed out".

I knew today would be the day when I first opened my eyes this morning. And could see MY BREATH. Someone forgot to shut the window in the Man Cave. Brrrrrrrrr........ I'm not sure what the low was last night but it was mighty chilly in the house !!

My summer of leisure is also coming to a close. It's back to work for me starting next Monday and I'm more than ready for it. Having a summer off is nice in some ways, pretty boring in others, and downright stressful in yet others. But I'm thankful for all that I acomplished over those months, the jars of tomatoes, pickles and jams lining the cupboard shelves, and all those dried herbs and hot peppers. I'm looking forward to cooking some wonderful winter foods in the coming months and sharing with everyone.

I wonder what a winter in the country will be like ?? ..............

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beautiful Day For a Marathon

A cooking marathon that is !! What better to do on a Sunday than crank up the oven, break out the utensils and throw together something really delicious ? That is exactly what I did today. After grocery shopping the other day and got the inspiration to make some homemade ravioli I stocked up on loads of ingredients, not quite sure what kind I wanted to make. My indecisiveness gave way to a day long cooking event.

On the menu tonight: Seafood Tortellini with Brown Butter and Sage. Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta Ravioli with red sauce. Spicy Pork Ravioli also with red sauce. And, Pumpkin and Winter Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage.

Before I got started, I assembled my ingredients. I had an acorn squash from my garden and a pie pumpkin.

Fresh baby spinach, mushrooms that I had dehydrated a while back (got them soaking), onions, garlic, herbs, cheeses. Great big shrimp, flaked crab meat (never never EVER use that fake stuff- you're not fooling anyone) and langostinos. I had a couple slices leftover roast pork and an idea. And of course, the easiest way to make ravioli in the world- wonton wrappers.

I got the pork started, simmering slowly to get it nice and tender and flavorful.

Cut up the pumpkin and squash and got that roasting.

Shredded some mozzarella. Chopped about 5 cloves of garlic, chopped an onion. Chopped the baby spinach and mushrooms. Chopped the shrimp and langostinos, mixed with the crab and set aside.

Once everything was cooked, shredded, mashed, seasoned and assembled, I had a ravioli assembly line. Ready for the recipes ?

Seafood Tortellini (or ravioli)

1/2 package small wonton wrappers (20)
1/2 cup flaked crab meat (canned is ok but NO FAKE CRAB)
1/2 cup finely chopped cooked shrimp
1/2 cup finely chopped langostino tails
1/4 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
big pinch chives
2-3 tb white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese FINELY shredded
couple teaspoons beaten egg (beat one egg and use a little for each filling)
salt and pepper

Combine seafood and set aside. In small skillet melt about a TB butter and one TB olive oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened but not brown. Add wine. Cook until wine is mostly evaporated. Mix into seafood along with chives and all cheeses. Stir in beaten egg. Salt and pepper. To assemble, place one wonton skin on dry cutting board. Moisten all edges. Place a tsp filling in center, fold over to make a triangle.

To make tortellini, moisten two corners and fold them together to look like an envelope. Set aside on waxed paper lined baking sheet (paper towels may stick so I don't recommend them). When ready to cook, add to boiling salted water and cook 3-4 minutes or until cooked thru, drain well. Drizzle with Brown Butter with Sage and serve. You can freeze uncooked ravioli/tortellini. Cook from frozen 4-5 minutes. I had extra filing so I froze it to use for stuffed mushrooms later.

Spicy Pork Ravioli

1/4 lb pork roast (I used a couple slices leftover, you can use fresh if you have it)
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tb finely minced onion
pinch crushed red pepper or other hot pepper (I used one fresh aji limon chile)
small palmful sun dried tomatoes or TB tomato paste
1/2 package wonton wrappers

Combine all ingredients (except wonton wrappers)  in small saucepan. Cover and simmer 1-2 hours until meat is very tender. Remove meat and let cool. Continue cooking sauce until it is reduced. Shred meat and add just enouh sauce to barely moisten it (meat should still be fairly dry). Use cooled meat to fill wonton wrappers. Set aside on waxed paper lined pan. Cook in boiling water 3-4 minutes until pasta is done and meat is hot throughout. Drain and serve with red sauce if desired. These can also be frozen uncooked and later cooked from frozen.

Spinach, Mushroom and Cheese Ravioli

1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, stems removed
1/2 sliced fresh mushrooms
1 clove garlic, mined
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
couple tsp beaten egg
salt and pepper
20 wonton skins

Saute onion and garlic in 1 TB butter and 1 TB olive oil until softened but not brown. Finely mince mushrooms, add to skillet. When mushrooms are browned, add wine and reduce. Add spinach, cook until wilted. Set aside to cool slightly, then add to cheeses and egg. Fill ravioli and set aside. Cook the same as the seafood ravioli above. These can also be frozen, and any leftover filling can be used for stuffed mushrooms too. Drain and serve as desired- we used red sauce, alfredo would be good also.

Pumpkin Ravioli

1 small pie pumpkin
1 small winter squash- acorn, butternut, whatever you like (I used acorn)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch mace
pinch cinnamon
pinch chili powder
salt and pepper
couple tsp beaten egg
20 wonton skins

Cut pumpkin and squash into quarters. Remove seeds. Place on baking sheet, tent loosley with foil and roast at 350 degrees an hour or until very tender. Meanwhile, in small skillet, saute onion and garlic in butter and oil as above until onion is starting to caramelize. Scoop pumpkin and squash into bowl. Add onion and garlic and seasonings. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in ricotta cheese and egg. Fill ravioli as desired and cook the same as above. Drain and serve with Brown Butter with Sage. If you'd like a little texture boost, toast some chopped almonds and sprinkle on the finished dish.

Brown Butter with Sage

1 stick unsalted BUTTER (you absolutely CANNOT substitute margarine !!!)
1 tsp crushed dried sage leaves or 3 tsp minced fresh
dash salt and pepper

Melt butter in skillet over low heat. Cook and stir until butter foams and begins to brown. Remove from heat and add sage, salt and pepper. Serve.

So there you have it !! My Sunday in the kitchen. Now......a mountain of dishes awaits me.......

Lady Gaga and Me

If you know me personally, you know I have a very WEIRD musical preference. Death/doom metal and Lady Gaga and speed metal and Michael Buble ?? Yep....that's me in a nutshell. But today I'm not talking about THAT Lady Gaga. This is a different Gaga and I love "her" alot !!!
But first, just gotta throw in a plug for a very very special wine store that I love and always recommend- Vintage Wine and Spirits at Jordan Creek.

(I borrowed the pic off their website......)
Curt is the owner and a nicer guy you will never meet. He knows everything about the wines in his store. He always has several bottles open for tasting. Today he had a group of impressive reds- cabernets, blends- dry wines which I love and the Chef loves and we had stopped in there because Curt was kind enough to order me 3 bottles of Gaga, and they arrived yesterday. Not many stores offer that kind of service. If you're in the Des Moines area, stop in and see them. You can also buy a bottle to enjoy on the patio or one of the high top tables by the floor to ceiling windows. He often hosts tastings with big name wineries, hosts events on the patio, and does the occasional beer tasting as well. Something for everyone and in all price ranges in this store.

Ok....... on to Gaga. Gaga Blanc 2009 to be exact.

When I try a new wine I often will buy three bottles, one to drink at the correct by-the-book wine temperature, one to try with a meal and one to try with a dessert. Well....... I never got to Bottle #2 because I enjoyed this one so much. The label says "Blanc" so I am lead to believe it's at least a blend of sauvignon blanc and other grapes. It reminded me of a riesling and a pinot grigio too so it's likely a blend of some combo of those grapes. The label gave no clues, and neither did their website.

Tasting this wine was great- it was really bright and fruity. A little green appleish, maybe some slightly underripe pear. It was 13.5% alcohol so had a little sting to it. I started off drinking it very chilled (fridge temp) and then held the bottle out so as I continued to pour it would warm up a bit. I liked it best at cool room temp (65 degrees or so) and enjoyed most of the bottle until a nasty insect (this was Wine on the Deck Night) decides to go for a swim in my glass.

My remaining two bottles have been safely squirreled away for future enjoyment and I did save about 1/2 a cup from this bottle to use in cooking tomorrow (wait til you guys see what we're cooking up tomorrow !!) and at $13 or so a bottle, this is an amazing value for the money.

Lulu B Pinot Grigio

I swear, whoever designed this label had ME in mind when they drew Lulu- that's totally me during the City Girl years. And this is a great girlie wine too.

I'm a pinot grigio fan- I can't remember ever trying one I didn't like. And they can vary WILDLY from sweet to super tart and acidic. This was a slightly acidic pinot grigio and was far enough away from sweet for me to really enjoy it. I think this is a perfect wine for sipping, and it would pair equally well with something hot and spicy (think spicy asian foods, wasabi, sushi) or light like a salad. I think it's too tart to go with a dessert.

This wine has 12.5% alcohol, so a nice warm in the mouth. I drank it the same way as the Gaga, cold from the fridge and gradually warming to cool room temp. It was better colder, the warmer it got, the more acid bite I thought it had.

This is a cute wine for a Girl's Night and a super bargain at $6.00. If you're hosting a bridal shower or bachelorette night and the guest of honor is a wine drinker, I highly recommend this !

I also bought a Lulu B moscato but haven't tried that one yet, so I'll have to fill you in when I eventually open that one.

Oh, and one final note- for all of my friends who like sweet wines, and have had Stella Rosa (which I always recommend to wine newbies who want to take a baby step away from moscato and try a red) I saw at Vintage that they have a sparkling version of Stella Rosa now- so, next time you're celebrating, pop a cork on that baby and enjoy !! I KNOW that's going to be a winner and I don't even have to try it first !!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dining al fresco in my own yard

Autumn in Iowa is such a lovely time of year. Warm breezy days and cool evenings make it perfect for a light dinner on the deck. The Chef and I were celebrating a little good news (more on that to come.....) with a couple cocktails (Jager bombs for me and ice cold brewskis for him) on the deck and I thought a nice light dinner of appetizers would be great.

The first recipe is another one of my "MacGuyver Recipes"- which is an old family inside joke about me taking ice cubes and black pepper and creating a 3 course meal. I've been hearing about something at a local restaurant called Chinese Cheesesticks and knowing what they were, figured I could wing it. That restaurant serves them with marinara sauce, not very "chinese" if you ask me, so I worked some magic on a bottled sauce and came up with a sweet spicy dipping sauce I hope you'll love.

The second is a bittersweet recipe for me, one shared by an old friend with whom I have lost touch. A misunderstanding and some interference from a not-so-nice person caused the friendship to end. I miss her, but I still have the recipe for Sandy's Stuffed Mushrooms to remind me of happier times.

Ok, so, let's start with my version of Chinese Cheese Sticks

1 block mozzarella cheese
1 pkg small wonton skins
oil for frying

Cut mozzarella cheese into small sticks or slabs

On clean work surface lay one wonton wrapper (these are the smaller square ones so cut the cheese slices so they will fit as shown below)

Place one piece of cheese diagonally across the wonton wrapper

Moisten the edges all the way around the wrapper with a little water then tuck the corners over the ends of the cheese

Fold one corner over and roll up to look like a little burrito. Set aside until you've finished all the rolls.

Heat oil in pan or deep fryer until 375 degrees. Fry, turning if necessary until golden brown on both sides.

They brown up quickly and you want to make sure you've sealed them up really good so the melty cheese doesn't leak out. Drain on paper towel and keep warm til all are fried. Serve with dipping sauce.

Pineapple Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup pineapple sundae sauce
1 tb dark rum
salt and pepper
1 tsp crush dried hot pepper flakes (use whatever kind you like)
2 or 3 dashes hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco

Mix all and heat about 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir and serve with cheese sticks. Also would be good with eggrolls or chicken wings !!

Since the Chef and I are mushroom lovers, I thought I'd whip up some of Sandy's Stuffed Mushrooms and see what he thinks- they were, as always, a HIT !!

Sandy's Stuffed Mushrooms

1  oz package whole mushrooms ( a little on the small size works great for one-bite appetizers), wiped clean and stems removed
1 pkg cream cheese with chives (you can use plain cream cheese and add chives, I used a pkg of Boursin cheese - spring onion and garlic flavor)
palmfull shredded asiago or parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
additional couple TBs cheese
melted butter
chopped parsley if desired

Allow cheese to soften at room temperature until easy to spread. Mix in palmfull of cheese. Using small spreader, fill mushroom caps with cheese mixture, mounding slightly.

Melt butter and place in shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs with additional cheese and add a little chopped parsley if you like (I think it looks prettier)

Roll the mushrooms in the melted butter and coat with breadcrumb mixture. Place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle a little butter over them if desired. Bake at 425 degrees about 15 minutes. If you like, run them under the broiler to brown up a little if needed.

Sprinkle with additional parsley if desired and serve !!

Now tonight the Chef is working some magic on chicken wings....I heard the words "ghost chile" being used in the kitchen.......YIKES !!!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

So I cheated a little !! It's Monday !!

Monday. The word that draws scorn the world over. The grim reality of the weekend being officially GONE, the beginning of the work/school week, the re-start. I've never been a Monday hater (yes, I was hopelessly hooked on Melrose Place in the 90s and secretly wished the weekends would hurry up so I could find out what happens next !!) and I always look forward to Monday Night Football but I know it sometimes does get a little hectic. Getting back in the work mode, getting the kids back on track for the school week. Goodbye to sleeping in for 5 days.

Mondays often mean a rushed dinner time too. Opting for the drive-thru. Frozen pizza night. It's no different at our house. Whatever we did all weekend, seems like Monday is just a little more blah and a little harder to want to cook big. So we opt for quick cooking meals, something we can throw together before kickoff and enjoy during the game.

I wandered the aisles of our little grocery store with absolutely NO IDEA what to cook. Kinda feeling nachos, kinda feeling burgers.....wings ??.....maybe......but even the idea of football food just wasn't all that inviting to me. I finally settled on some vegetables with an Asian twist and thought a quick stir fry would hit the spot. Asian cooking is NOT my area of expertise so I enlisted the help of a purchased stir fry seasoning (I know, I know...cheating.....) and it turned out pretty good !!!

Spicy Pork Stir Fry

2 boneless pork loin chops (about 3/4 inch thick)
2 ribs celery, bias sliced
1 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 large onion, cut into wedges
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 can baby corn
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 bottle stir fry sauce (use whatever brand/flavor you like. I used House of Tsang)
1/2 tsp crushed hot pepper flakes, if desired
1 clove garlic, minced
couple dashes soy sauce
cracked black pepper
1 cup uncooked white rice (cook and keep warm)

Halve the pork chops lengthwise then slice across the grain to make small bite sized pieces of pork. Place in small bowl with garlic, soy sauce and cracked black pepper. Set aside to marinade. (If you have an Asian seasoning blend such as Pampered Chef or something like that you can add a tsp or so at this point)  Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat until very hot. Add a tablespoon or so of oil. Add celery, peas, onions and carrots, stir fry over high heat until heated but still crisp/tender. Remove to bowl. Add additional oil if necessary. Stir fry pork until cooked through. Then add about 1/2 the bottle of stir fry sauce, the hot pepper (if using) and return all vegetables (including corn and water chestnuts) to pan. Heat through. Serve over rice with additional soy sauce if desired.

Remember- when you're making a stir fry, make it your own !! Use whatever meat you like or have on hand, or go vegetarian and leave it out. Use tofu !! And for veggies, you are only limited by your imagination and what's on hand and in season. If you use a stir fry sauce like I did, there are LOADS of different flavors on the market- everything from sticky sweet to hot and spicy. I like a little of both so I went with the basic stir fry sauce and added my own Jamaican Yellow Mushroom pepper- dried and crushed.

That was easy !!! And delicious !! And now that I'm done sharing it with everyone, it's time to get into the last item I grabbed at the grocery store today- wedding cake ice cream !!!! How could I say no to that ??