Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sugar Cookies - SMS

This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe was chosen by the talented Nina of Nina's Cupcakes. You make a sugar dough that can be used for pie crust or cookies. I thought it was very interesting this recipe didn't give the time or temperature to bake the cookies. Several of the SMS baker's felt this recipe was lacking in flavor. I followed their advice and tried to add some more flavor. I added lemon juice and a little extra sugar.

This sugar cookie dough is chilled and then rolled for cutouts. I have a plastic storage container filled with cookie cutters. As I was going through it trying to find a cutter to use, I found lots of Halloween, Easter, Valentines Day and Christmas cookie cutters. Guess I need to get a few any occasion cutters. I used my medium sized round biscuit cutter. I should have rolled this dough a little thicker, the cookies are too thin.

I baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes. I gave one to Tim to taste. "Kind of blah? What are these?" I decided to turn these into an easy version of black and white cookies by dipping them in chocolate. Doesn't chocolate make everything taste better?!! The chocolate did add some much needed flavor but still I don't think I will make this recipe again.

Shame on Me! No Chocolate With Francois.

Okay you know how you belong to a baking group and you're allowed to opt out of posting a couple of times? Well...this is it for me! To make it worse, I am the leader of this group, not much of a leader, am I?

This reminds me of when my son Justin was in middle school, maybe 7th grade. He had a HUGE school project, Language Arts is Colorful. Amazing how I remember the name, 20 some years later. The night before the project was due, he tells me about it. Had he started it? Nope! We spent hours that evening working on this project. I don't remember what all I did but I am sure it was more than I should have. I still have the project in a drawer and smile everytime I see it.

Well you see this is what I did with the Chocolate Paris Brest, this month's recipe chosen by my blogging pal, Susan of Baking With Susan . I've known about this recipe for months. Why did I save it to the last minute? Shame on me!

Do I have any good reason for saving this to the last minute? (I think I must have asked Justin that, too.) Well...I don't own a pastry bag, it's on my list to buy but haven't gotten it done. I've been sick this week with a horrible sinus infection. Not great reasons but the best ones I have!

You can find the links to my dedicated and better planning CWF blogger buddies here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon

I've started buying vegetables in bulk at Costco. The prices are so reasonable. The challenge with buying in bulk is making sure you use them up. Otherwise, your good deal is no longer a good deal.

I love soups! I am always looking for new soup recipes. I found this recipe on epicurious and it got rave reviews. Tim came into the kitchen and asked what I was making. Carrot Soup??, turning up his nose. I knew I'd get this reaction, as I've mentioned many times on my blog, Tim's a meat man!

Instead of chicken stock, I used homemade vegetable stock. I love the beautiful color of this soup. This is a hearty soup with a nice mild carrot flavor. The addition of the lemon juice and zest gives it a nice kick.

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon
Recipe courtesy of Epicurious
Yield: Makes 4 Servings

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/4 pounds medium carrots, peeled, chopped (about 3 cups)
2 tomatoes, seeded, chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons sour cream

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add chopped carrots, tomatoes and lemon peel; sauté 1 minute. Add 3 cups stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

Puree soup in batches in blender. Return soup to pot. Mix in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more stock, if desired. Ladle into bowls. Top each with sour cream and grated carrot.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Best Presents

Last week I celebrated my birthday. We took a weekend trip to see our friends Karen and Larry in Kansas City. We hadn't seen them since October. The snowy December weather kept up from making a trip to Kansas City at Christmas. This picture was taking during our Saturday brunch at Lidia's, Lidia Bastianch's wonderful Italian restaurant. The gnocci is the best I've ever eaten and such an inspiration.

On my birthday, I received a big box from my son Justin. Justin created this picture from these. I am going to hang it in the bar area of our recently finished basement. What a perfect present! I love it! Thanks, Justin!!!

During our recent trip to the Caribbean, Tim talked me into purchasing a chameleon sapphire ring from one of the many jewlery stores in Cozumel. He said this can be your birthday and Valentine's Day present. :)

On my birthday, Tim brought me home these roses. As they opened, they became even more beautiful. Thanks, Tim!!!

What great birthday presents but the best presents are my friends and family! I love you all!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My 1st Blogversary and My 50!

Happy Blogversary to you! Happy Blogversary to you! Happy Blogversary dear Little Bit! Happy Blogversary to you!

Seems like just yesterday, this blog was only a wild and crazy thought in my mind. A year ago, I was looking for something to challenge my brain and a purpose for my cookbooks and recipe clippings.

Except for a short period of time last summer when my health got in the way, I've been motivated to keep up my blog. I've tried recipes I would have never tried, like this one from Sweet Melissa Sunday's . I've met a lot of great bloggers and continue to meet new friends. There's so many talented and creative food bloggers out there, my list of daily reads continues to grow.

One thing that helps me stay on course is keeping a list of upcoming posts and recipes to try. A couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about my Blogversary, what recipe to post and what to write about. One of the reasons I began blogging was to make recipes from all of my recipe clippings and cookbooks. One of my 2010 blogging goals is to make more recipes from the 100+ cookbooks I own. What do I do? I keep buying more cookbooks. Currently I have a dozen or more on the list of ones I want to buy. My Blogversary recipe is a Creme Brulee from an old issue of First magazine. You know those recipes that are like old friends? You can always count on them? This recipe is one of those old friends. If you haven't made Creme Brulee before, give this recipe a try. You won't be disappointed!

Creme Brulee
6 Servings

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 to 12 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 300. Heat cream and 1/2 cup sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot. Whisk egg yolks to combine. Slowly pour cream into yolks, whisking quickly so the hot cream doesn't curdle the eggs. Stir in vanilla.

Pour into 6 creme brulee dishes, custard cups or individual souffle dishes. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with paper towels and set the filled dishes on top. Set on oven shelf and pour warm water into pan to come half up the sides of the dishes.

Bake until a knife stuck in the center comes out coated with thickened custard, about 1 hour. (For souffle dishes and custard cups bake about 1 hour and 30 minutes). Let stand in water bath 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Chill overnight.

To glaze, sprink about 1 tablespoon evenly on top of the custard, smooth the surface. Using a kitchen torch melt the sugar to form the carmalized top.

I've been working on My 50, a list of recipes I haven't made before. There's lots of other recipes I want to make but these are those more "Julia Child like" recipes. With the exception of gnocci, I have never made anything on this list. I've made gnocci a couple of times but it's been at least 10 years ago. It wasn't all that good, certainly not that melt in your mouth gnocci you get at a good Italian restaurant. Compiling this list wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I had a hard time coming up with 50 but in the end, I am happy with my list.

Julie's Top 50

1 Bagels
2 Baguettes
3 Brioche
4 Croissants
5 Focaccia
6 Pretzels

7 Baked Alaska
8 Baklava
9 Bananas Foster
10 Beignets
11 Carrot Cake
12 Crepes
13 Decorated Tiered Cake
14 Filled Cupcakes
15 French Macaroons
16 Lemon Curd
17 Merinque
18 Panna Cotta
19 Pie Crust
20 Pots de crème
21 Profiteroles
22 Pudding
23 Shortbread
24 Tres Leches
25 Trifle
26 Truffles
27 Bubble Tea

28 Beef Bourguignon
29 Beef Tenderloin
30 Butter Poached Lobster Tails
31 Chili Rellenos
32 Croque Monsieur
33 Dutch Baby
34 Gnocci
35 Gumbo
36 Lobster Bisque
37 Miso Soup
38 Pad Thai
39 Paella
40 Pizza Dough
41 Puttanesca Sauce
42 Ravioli
43 Sage Brown Butter Sauce
44 Sushi
45 Vodka Sauce

46 Duchesse Potatoes
47 Caesar Salad
48 Chutney
49 Polenta
50 Rice Pilaf

Do you have a favorite or no fail recipe for any of the dishes on my list? I'd love to hear about them, let me know!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lavender-Lemon Pound Cake

Two of my favorite things are lavender and lemon. When I saw this recipe on Savoring Time in the Kitchen, I knew I had to make it.

I've been wanting a mini bundt pan. We're making Chocolate Canneles on Chocolate With Francois in March. I don't own the molds but Sarah, our host for the month says we can use muffin tins. Wouldn't mini bundt pans be perfect? Two recipes, for sure I need the mini bundt pan. I bought this pan and I just love the different shapes. I bought mine at The Kitchen Connection and only paid $19.99.

We're lucky enough to have a Pezney's in Omaha. A few months ago, I purchased culinary lavender. I made Lavender Simple Syrup, a wonderful addition to cocktails.

This pound cake is a delightful recipe. The beautiful lemony batter is lightly scented with lavender. It doesn't have a typical pound cake texture. The texture was much more like a traditional cake. This cake was great with a small scoop of the Lemon Sorbet I made last week.

Recipe Courtesy of Monica Glass, Pastry Chef
12 miniature cake molds or cupcake molds

For the cake:

2½ cups sifted all-purpose flour*
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dried lavender, coarsely crushed or ground
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature

For the sugar glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Generously grease two 6-cup mini Bundt pans or muffin cups with butter or non-stick cooking spray and dust lightly with flour, knocking out excess. Do not preheat oven.

Sprinkle the lavender into the buttermilk and let sit for 10 minutes. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating only until incorporated after each addition. Mix in the zest, lemon juice and vanilla.

Mix in the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Beat the final addition only until smooth. Do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into each cup, filling it only ¾ full and distributing it evenly between the 12 Bundt or muffin cups. Tap each pan several times on the counter to eliminate air bubbles and level the tops. Place both pans in the cold oven and turn the oven to 325? F. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the tops (which will eventually become the cake bottoms) are risen and golden. Do not open the oven until at least 30 minutes into baking so your cakes will not fall.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 30 minutes, then run a thin knife around outer edge of each cake to loosen and unmold by inverting the pan over onto a wire rack. The cakes will be right-side-up at this point.

Prepare the glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, heavy cream and lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the glaze is smooth and of drizzling consistency. Spoon the glaze over the top of each slightly cooled cake, letting some run down unevenly on the sides. Zest the lemon over the tops of the glaze and serve.

Wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil, the cakes will keep for 3-5 days at room temperature and for up to 3 months in the freezer.

*Sift the flour, then measure for accurate results.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Strawberry Lemonade - Sweet Melissa Sunday's

Today in Nebraska marks the 78th day with at least one inch of snow on the ground. Even though I have lived in the midwest all of my life, I've never experienced a winter quite like this one. Strawberry Lemonade reminds me of summer picnics. It was so nice to enjoy this reminder of summer on what is yet another snowy winter day.

The lemonade is a delicious, easy recipe and one I will make again. I had a few raspberries leftover from last weekend, so I added those to the syrup. I made the sugar syrup on the stove. I never seem to be able to "melt" the sugar without doing it on the stove.

Thanks to Jessica of My Baking Heart for choosing this recipe to give us a wonderful reminder of summer.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet

Participating in Sweet Melissa Sunday's, Chocolate With Francois and Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club have encouraged me to try recipes I wouldn't have tried otherwise. It's also increased the amount we spend on food. I buy ingredients I don't normally stock in my kitchen. I always try to "Use It Up". It's fun searching for a recipe to use the rest of those ingredients.

I found this recipe for Buttermilk Sorbet. Four ingredients, three really since lemon zest and lemon are the same ingredient. How simple is that? Speaking of simple, Santa brought me one of these. This makes squeezing a lemon quick and easy!

This sorbet is amazingly delicious. It has a nice hint of lemon but isn't too lemony. It's so creamy, you would think you are eating ice cream. I can't wait to make this sorbet with summer berries. I am just loving anything these days that reminds me of summer!

Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet
Recipe from Bon Appetit

Makes approximately 7 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
4 cups buttermilk

Stir sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add buttermilk, stir until sugar is dissolved. Chill until cold, at least 4 hours. Process mixture in ice cream freezer, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer to contained with lid; freeze. (Can be made 3 days ahead.)

My notes on this recipe: I added about 1/4 cup of vodka to this recipe. I drizzled it in while it was in the ice cream freezer. You know how homemade ice cream can get too frozen to scoop? I think the little bit of alcohol helps prevent it from freezing so hard. The recipe says this can be made three days ahead. I made this a week ago and it's still good.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My First Blogger Award!

(With a look of amazement and delight!)

Uh...oh my....I wasn't expecting this and I have no speech prepared. (Wiping away the tears.) Okay, I hope I can remember all of the people I want to thank.

First, I would like to thank the lovely and talented Susan of Baking With Susan for awarding me the (Bald Faced Liar) Creative Writer Award.

If you haven't visited Susan's blog, please take the time to do so. She's funny, generous and bakes the most beautiful cakes!

Second, I want to congratulate the other bloggers who received this award. You'll find them listed here.

Okay, okay, let's see who I am forgetting? Oh my husband, Tim. He's my very patient and talented photographer, recipe tester and all around great husband.

I probably should thank some teacher from the dark ages when I was in grade school. So long ago, I can't remember her name. I am sure she encouraged me to enjoy writing.

Now on to the rules of this award.

1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you.
4. Tell us up to six outrageous lies about yourself and at least one outrageous truth.
5. Allow your readers to guess which one or more is true.
6. Nominate seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
7. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
8. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

As you read my lies or truths, they may not sound as outrageous as some but trust me, some of these are really OUTRAGEOUS!!!

1. I am a natural blonde.
2. I have driven an 18 wheeler from New York to Los Angeles.
3. I competed in a triathalon in Hawaii in 2006.
4. I have fired 9mm and 40 caliber pistols.
5. I am a size 4.
6. I've written a self help book entitled Help Yourself, No One Else Will.

Now the difficult decision of naming the seven blogs I would like to nominate for this award....

1. Candace of Candy Girl
2. Natalia of gatti fili e farina.
3. Velva of Tomatoes on the Vine.
4. Nina of Nina's Cupcakes
5. Karen of Karen's Cookies, Cakes and More.
6. Sarah of Teapots and Cakestands
7. Maggie of The Other Side of 50. This one is a double nomination. Maggie was already nominated by Linda, who nominated Susan, who nominated me. Got that?

If you haven't stopped by these blogs, find the time to do so. I promise you won't be sorry you did!! They are all talented writers and creative cooks!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Smores Cupcakes - Martha Stewart Cupcake Club

Blogging certainly takes committment. In my case, it also takes a wonderful husband. Tim is my photographer, taste tester and never minds when we have to hold up dinner to take pictures of a dish. Thanks, Tim for all you do!!

Last Saturday, after a long day of shopping and errands, I remembered I needed the graham flour for this recipe. Tim thought we were headed home but instead we were headed to Whole Foods. Omaha only has one Whole Foods and it's always crowded. After two circles around the parking lot, we finally find a spot. First we head to the bulk foods graham flour, then to the flour graham flour. The trip isn't a total loss, we walk through the cheese section and taste some wine and cheese. We tasted a robusto cheese. It was so delicious.

Figuring I would use the whole wheat flour I had in the freezer, I went to the freezer to dig it out. Only to discover it was WHOLE WHEAT GRAHAM FLOUR!! Sorry, Tim!

We had too many sweets in the house, so I cut this recipe in half and in half again. It made 6 cupcakes.

I love Smores. They remind me of campfires and childhood. How do you like your marshmallow? As a kid, I always burned mine. Now I can take the time to just toast them until golden. Cake decorating is on my list of things to learn this year. Until then, I don't own a piping bag, so needless to say, my frosting doesn't look at all like the frosting in the book. I did make a couple of these in honor of my childhood smores, a little burned!

I loved these cupcakes. They taste just like a Smore. Once I learn how to pipe frosting, I will be making these again. Thanks to Mary Ann from Meet Me in the Kitchen for choosing a great recipe. You can find the links to all of other Martha Stewart Cupcake Club bakers here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Easy Chocolate Mousse - Sweet Melissa Sunday's

Happy Valentine's Day!

Quick post and iPhone picture for me today. We are in Kansas City with our good friends Karen and Larry!

Easy Chocolate Mousse? I guess it depends on how you define an easy recipe? To me, easy doesn't require three bowls and two different rounds with the mixer. I've never made chocolate mousse so maybe compared to other recipes this is easy.

Mine didn't quite turn out as it should have. Instead of whisking the egg whites into the chocolate I folded them in. I read the recipe SEVERAL times but still messed up. I hate it when that happens. My mousse ended up with little chunks of chocolate in the mousse. Everyone really liked it and we renamed it Chocolate Chip Mousse.

Thanks to Spike of Spike Bakes for choosing a great Valentine's Day recipe. You can find the links to all of the other Sweet Melissa Sunday's members here. I'm sure you'll find lots of pictures of beautiful chocolate chip mousse (without the chips).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pasta, Risotto Style

Do we have a relationship built on trust? I hope so because you will need to trust me on this one. This dish tasted so much better than it looks. I love pasta and risotto. When I ran across this recipe, I knew it was one I had to try. I am so glad I did. It makes a quick and easy weeknight supper.

This recipe has endless posibilities, shrimp instead of chicken, adding broccoli or another vegetable. Broccoli would sure help add color to the dish, something it really needs. Next time I would add the chicken a little earlier. By the time the chicken was done, the pasta was a little too done. Although this recipe says it serves 4. My husband and I ate most of it. Also, it doesn't reheat well, so plan your amounts so you don't have lefovers.

Pasta With Chicken and Mushrooms, Risotto Style
Recipe from the New York Times

2 tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
1 shallot or small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups crimini, shiitake or button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1/2 pound cut pasta like gemelli or penne, or long pasta broken into bits
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
3 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 boneless chicken thighs, diced
Chopped fresh parsley, optional
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional.

1. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When hot, add shallot, garlic and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms soften and begin to brown on edges, about 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then wine. Stir and let liquid bubble away.

2. Ladle stock into skillet 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When liquid is just about evaporated, add more. Mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep heat at medium and stir frequently.

3. Begin tasting pasta 10 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but with a tiny bit of crunch. When pasta is about 3 to 4 minutes away from being done, add chicken and stir to combine. Continue to cook until chicken is done — it will be white on inside when cut — and pasta is how you like it. Taste, adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and Parmesan if using, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Outdoor Wednesday - Winter Snow

We've had more than our share of snow this year. To say people in Omaha are tired of winter would be an understatement.

Last week we received yet another snow. This snow was different from the other snows this season. It was really pretty. Early last Saturday morning my husband and I went to a lake near our home to take some photos. Here's one of our favorites!

Baking Gals

In December I read Susan of Baking With Susan's post about Operation Baking Gals. Operation Baking Gals was started in 2008 by Susan of She's Becoming DoughMessTic. She asked her fellow bloggers to join her in baking for a cousin who was stationed overseas. Susan (Baking With Susan) has baked in 13 of 16 rounds. Way to go Susan!

A couple of week's ago I read Susan's post that she was hosting this round and looking for people to join her team. I signed up and joined her team. We're baking for Dan. Dan is the boyfriend of the grandaughter of a customer of Susan's and a 1st Lieutenant in Iraq.

I baked 6 dozen chocolate chip and 4 dozen oatmeal raisin. I also included a few bags of hard candies for the guys to enjoy. It made me feel so good to be able to do a little something for someone who sacrifices so much for our country.

I plan to bake in every round I can. If you have an extra afternoon and want to show a soldier how much you appreciate all they do, stop by BakingGals, sign up and join a team!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday, is there any other event where the hype is what it is for the Super Bowl? I had the endless hours of pregame coverage on, if nothing else as background noise while I was baking and doing laundry.

What's up with The Who as the halftime entertainment? Can you imagine how many people are watching saying "Who are The Who anyway?". The lightshow was awesome, the vocals...well what can I say?

Of course, there's the commercials. Amazing how many people watch for the commercials. What were your favorite commercials? I thought there were a lot of funny ones, no one in particular stood out.

A few that I liked were the Dog Collar Doritos, Mom's Date Doritos, Casual Friday Careeer Builder, Plane Crash Bud Light and Sock Monkey Kia.

Our Super Bowl snack....

Hooter's Buffalo Chicken Wings
Recipe from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes

1/4 c butter
1/4 c Frank's Red Hot Cayenne Sauce
1/2 c flour
1/4 t paprika
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t salt
10 chicken wing pieces

On the side

Blue cheese dressing
Celery Stick

Combine flour, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl. Put the wings into a large bowl and sprinkle the flour mixture over them, coating wings evenly. Put the wings in the refrigerator for 60 - 90 minutes. This will help the breading to stick to the wings when fried.

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. Combine the butter, hot sauce and garlic powder in a small saucepan over low heat. Heat until the butter is melted and all ingredients are well blended. Put the wings in the hot oil and fry for 8 - 10 minutes. Remove the wings from the oil to a paper towel to drain. Quickly put the wings into a large bowl. Add the hot sauce and stir, coating all wings evenly.

Serve with blue cheese and celery sticks on the side.

Classic Red Velvet Cake - Sweet Melissa Sunday's

It's a good day. A week after returning from vacation, I feel like I am back in the groove. It's Sunday and I am baking Sweet Melissa Sunday's. Unlike a lot of bloggers, I tend to bake and post all in the same day. I always feel really together when I have a couple of posts waiting in my queque. Today, there's....ZERO!!

I decided to make cupcakes instead of a cake. That way, hubby or I or both can take them to work. I also cut the recipe in half. A while back I found the greatest site for decreasing or increasing recipes. Since I am not a math whiz and tend to cut a lot of baking recipes in half, this site is a lifesaver!!!

This recipe is a breeze to make. I frosted them with the cream cheese frosting and decorated with some Valentines Day themed sprinkles. I baked these for 25 minutes but should have pulled them out of the oven at 20 minutes. I read everyone's hints about how the baking soda turns red food coloring brown AFTER I'd baked these. Mine are definetely more brown than red. The flavor of these didn't wow me. They are good but not great.

This recipe was chosen by the talented baker, Rosy of Rosy Lip and Lavender. You can find the links to all the other bakers here. I am anxious to read everyone's posts and see if anyone's cake turned out red.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Scallops with Citrus and Quinoa

At least every couple of weeks, I try to spend an hour or two sufing the blogsphere. A few weeks ago, I came across Tomatoes on the Vine. Velva's recipes and photographs are lovely and definitely worth a look. I know I've added her blog to my daily reading list.

Earlier this week, I was thrilled to find her recipe for Scallops with Citrus and Quinoa. We had Citrus Glazed Scallops on the cruise. They were delicious and I wanted to find a recipe to try at home.

I've been trying to use Quinoa more often as a side dish. It's a nice change from rice or pasta. Plus it's so good for you. My husband came home tonight and said, "Oh we're having King Wah?". I guess to him it's named after some famous king.

I didn't have the oranges, tangerines or the coriander. I used clementines and omitted the coriander. I don't think it was as citrusy as it might have been but they were still delicious.

Scallops With Citrus And Quinoa
Serves 4
Recipe from Food Network

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed well
Kosher salt
3 oranges
4 tangerines
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1- 1/4 pounds sea scallops, tough foot muscles removed
Freshly ground pepper
1 teasppon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Combine the quinoa, 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, ntil the water is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, grate 1 teaspoon orange zest, then juice all 3 oranges and the tangerines into a bowl. Sprinkle the sugar in a skillet and cook over medium-high heat until dark amber, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the vinegar, citrus juices, zest, and the coriander. Return to medium heat and boil until thick, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter; keep warm.

3. Season the scallops on one side with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the scallops seasoned-side down and sear until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more minutes.

4. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and divide among plates. Top with the scallops, drizzle with the citrus sauce and sprinkle with parsley.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Motivates You?

Routine is such an important thing for work and at home. On the other hand, I need a periodic break from the routine to rejuvinate myself. That break came for me last week with our much needed warm weather cruise. Much to my dismay that cruise also came with the stomach bug. Heading back to work on Monday seemed more difficult than normal after a vacation. I am sure that was because this vacation didn't turn out as I had hoped. It only took me a couple of days and I am back in the routine!!! I love my job, so going to work every day comes pretty easily. Considering I need to work OR we won't be taking those wonderful vacations. I guess that means my motivation for working is vacation (and paying the bills)!!

I love blogging and am envious of those of you who are retired and have more time than I do to blog. I have really challenged myself these past months to post at least twice each week. Prior to vacation, I was in the groove and doing a great job posting on a regular basis. Since vacation, I am having trouble finding the energy or the motivation to blog. Tonight I have the time but no motivation. What motivates me to blog is my love of cooking, those comments you guys leave and my family, co-workers and friends enjoying my creations. I so want to be back in the blogging groove this week. It's not that I don't have ideas, I have a great list of future blog posts. I will be back this weekend for sure! Please don't go away, stay tuned.

How do you stay motivated?