Thursday, March 31, 2011

Charlie's Afternoon Pudding Cake - CWF

If you've read my CWF posts over the past year or so, you know they've contained more failures than successes. This month's recipe, however, was actually what I would call EASY! This cake didn't have any unusual ingredients, take forever to make or require several days to assemble. I read the recipe a couple of times to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

I cut the recipe in half and used an oval pan I had purchased when I took my cake decorating classes. It was the perfect size for a half recipe and the oval shape is great for the Easter season!!!

The next time you're looking for a chocolate cake recipe, give this one a try. It's so decadent and did I mention easy to make? The cake has a dense, fudgey texture and is very chocolately. I think I may have baked mine a little too long, although it doesn't taste overbaked. What a perfect dessert for entertaining!

You'll find the recipe on Peggy's blog, Pantry Revisited. Thanks, Peggy for choosing such a fabulous recipe. This could be my favorite CWF recipe so far!!! If you'd like to see what the other CWF baker's did with this recipe you can find the links to their blogs here!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken Salad

I love good chicken salad. Ina's recipe is just that and more, it's a great chicken salad. This salad is delicious served over crispy lettuce leaves or on a delicious homemade bread! In my never ending effort to try and cut out bread whenever I can, I served this over lettuce leaves.

Ina Garten's Chicken Salad
  • 2 chicken breasts (You can also use leftover rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 1/2 cup good mayo (I used light)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves , divided (I used dried)
  • 1 cup green grapes, cut in 1/2 (I used red grapes)
  • lettuce leaves for serving
  • Place the pecans and walnuts on a separate sheet pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.
  • For the dressing, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fold in half the chopped tarragon leaves.
  • Place the diced chicken in a bowl, add the pecans, walnuts and grapes. Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss well. Sprinkle the remaining chopped tarragon leaves on top, and serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.
I am linking this to Souper, Salad and Sammie Sunday's at Kahakai Kitchen, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday's, Tuesday's at the Table , Tuesday Night Supper Club and Eats and Treats Thursday at Bargain Hoot!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pink Saturday

I am always looking for fun things for Pink Saturday! In a recent trip to Garden Ridge, I spotted this picture! It definitely brought a smile to my face.

Happy Pink Saturday!!!!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Champagne Risotto with Leeks and Asparagus

We've been really busy these past couple of weeks. When I went to choose my recipe for today, I realized I had only one recipe in my drafts. Then I discovered I didn't have a picture! I decided to repost one of my favorites, Champagne Risotto with Leeks and Asparagus.

I posted this in my early blogging days when no one was reading my blog, so I don't even think it really counts as a repost. I love this recipe and it's one I've been making for years. Those of you who are leery of risotto, give this recipe a try! You won't be sorry, it's so delicious.

I am linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

From The Good Life

You may remember that Tim's son Michael has been spending his senior year as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Japan. Fortunately Mike was several hundred miles south of the earthquake area. However with all of the uncertainty around the nuclear plants, we felt Mike needed to return home. Last Saturday night, after almost 24 hours of travel and security lines of five hours in Tokyo, Mike returned to Nebraska.

We're glad to have him home and look forward to hearing all (or at least most) of the stories from his seven months in Japan.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cumin Seared Scallop Tacos

I love food tv. I remember years ago when the Food Network was first on the air. A friend of mine in Florida told me about the channel. I couldn't wait until we were able to get the channel in the midwest. Food Network was all about Emeril and Sarah Molten in those days. Now there's more chefs than you can count and there's a sister network, The Cooking Channel. While I don't watch The Cooking Channel as much as Food Network, I do watch some of the programs. One of my favorite shows is Kelsey's Essentials. Kelsey was one of my favorites from the 4th season of Next Food Network Star. Do you have a favorite food tv star?

I am always looking for new and different ways to serve scallops. When I saw the episode where Kelsey prepared these, I knew it was a recipe I wanted to try. I have to admit I didn't make the salsa. I used the salsa we purchased at Whole Foods to go on the Maui Maui we had a few days before. This makes a quick, easy and delicious weeknight dinner!

Cumin Seared Scallop Tacos


* Tomatillo Guacamole, recipe follows
* Cilantro-Lime Rice, recipe follows
* Mango Salsa, recipe follows
* Cumin-Seared Scallop Tacos
* 1 1/4 pounds large sea scallops (about 8)

* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

* Tomatillo Guacamole
* 6 to 8 tomatillos, husked and coarsely chopped (about 8 ounces)
* 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
* 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
* 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped

* 1/2 jalapeno, coarsely chopped with seeds
* 2 cloves garlic, smashed and quartered
* Juice of 1 lime
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon salt

* Cilantro-Lime Rice
* 1/2 cup rice
* 5 sprigs fresh cilantro

* 1 cup chicken broth
* Juice of 1 lime

* Mango Salsa
* 1/2 cup diced mango
* 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
* 2 tablespoons minced onion

* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
* 2 teaspoons minced Serrano chile
* Zest and juice of 1 lime

First prepare the tomatillo guacamole, cilantro-lime rice, and mango salsa and set aside.

Remove the tough ligament from the side of each scallop and discard. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Season both sides of each scallop with salt, and cumin.

In a large cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Allow the skillet to get as hot as possible without burning the butter.

Sear the scallops, turning once, until golden brown on each side, and just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and quarter.

To assemble, toast corn tortillas, if desired, over an open flame just until slightly charred. Fill each tortilla with 2 tablespoons rice, 1 tablespoon guacamole, 1 seared and quartered scallop, and top with mango salsa. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
To make guacamole:
Combine the tomatillos, cilantro, avocado, onion, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, cumin, and salt in a food processor or blender and pulse until combined.
To make the rice:
In a small saucepan, bring the rice, cilantro, broth, rice, and lime juice to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove the cilantro sprigs and serve.
To make the salsa:
Combine the mango, tomatoes, minced onion, cilantro, chile, lime zest, and lime juice in a small bowl. Allow the flavors to macerate. Serve as a garnish for the cumin seared scallop tacos.

I am linking this to Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesday's at The Table and Tuesday Night Supper Club.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spiced Chipotle Honey Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Today's recipe is courtesy of an amazing blogger, Joanne of Eats Well With Others. Joanne is in medical school, is a runner and still maintains one of the best blogs on the blogsphere. Her blog has amazing recipes and some of the funniest and best stories out there. If you haven't been to her blog, run on over there!!! You won't be sorry!!

If you're looking for a new chicken recipe, give this one a try. The flavors are delicious. I am not a huge fan or spicy dishes but I loved this one. The flavor of the sweet potatoes goes so well with the spice of the chile's. If you find it a little too spicy, you can cut back a little on the chile's or even scrape them off your piece before eating!

Spiced Chipotle Honey Chicken Breasts with Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4,
Courtesy of Eats Well With Others, adapted from Melissa Clark's
In The Kitchen with a Good Appetite

20 oz butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
20 oz sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
chopped cilantro or basil for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the sweet potatoes and butternut squash with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray and then spread the sweet potatoes and squash over it. Roast for 15 minutes.

2. While the sweet potatoes and squash are cooking, in a small bowl, mix together the remaining tbsp of olive oil, chiles, garlic, honey, cider vinegar, salt, cumin, and cinnamon, until they form a paste. Rub the paste all over the chicken. Carefully place the chicken on top of the sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Put back in the oven and continue to roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro or basil.

I am linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Irish Soda Bread & A Celebrity Cook-Along!!!

When I realized it was going to be my turn to pick the recipe for Sweet Melissa Sunday's in March, I immediately turned to Irish Soda Bread. A perfect March recipe and a bread we so enjoy. I made Irish Soda Bread for the first time last year. Melissa's recipe includes currants and raisins, while the recipe I made last year did not. Curious, I did some research on the history of Irish Soda Bread. I was interested to find out the ingredients in the traditional recipe. As it turns out, currants and raisins are a later addition to the traditional recipe.

The instructions in Melissa's recipe are to knead the dough lightly, adding a little more flour if necessary. I found this dough to be VERY sticky, so I chose to add a little more flour and use the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid. Much as I've tried, I've never mastered the art of kneading by hand. After kneading for a minute or two and adding a few tablespoons of flour, I still found the dough to be sticky. Rather than make this bread in round loaves on a cookie sheet, as Melissa suggests, I used a loaf pan. As I turned the dough into the pan, I was really hoping the bread was going to turn out. After all I was hosting and I didn't want to be posting about one of my flops!

I checked the bread after 30 minutes and it wasn't done. I continued baking in 5 minute increments until at 45 minutes the wooden skewer came out clean. After the bread cooled, I made a cup of Chai Tea and tried a slice. It's a delicious, hearty bread that would pair perfectly with soup, stew or even Corned Beef and Cabbage.

This is our SMS recipe for March 20th. Yes, I am posting a little early. You'll find the other SMS baker's results here on the 20th. I am also linking this to the St. Patrick's Day Blog crawl at Cuisine Kathleen's, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday's, Tuesday's at the Table.

Irish Soda Bread

From: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book
Yield: One 3-pound Loaf


1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup black currants
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk


Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, combine the raisins and currents. Pour boiling water over to cover and set aside to reconstitute. In a bowl of of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and cloves. Add the cold butter pieces and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the caraway seeds, if using, and mix to blend. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk.

Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to combine thoroughly. Do not over mix. Drain the raisins and currants thoroughly. Add them to the dough and mix on low speed for 20 seconds.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Kneed the dough gently, until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Using a little flour, if needed, form the dough into one large round - or divide it in half to form two small rounds.

Place the round (rounds) on the prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut the traditional "X" cutting about 1 1/2 inches deep into the top. Bake for 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes for the large loaf, or 10 minutes for the smaller loaves. The loaves will be golden, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center wil come out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Irish soda bread is best eaten the day it is made, but it can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for two days. For longer storage, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to three weeks. Defrost still wrapped at room temperature.

Last by not least, I am joining Lynn at Happier Than A Pig in Mud for her Celebrity Cook-along. Her cook-along is featuring the recipes of Ina Garten. I enjoy Ina's recipes and had a hoped to find the time to make a new one for this event but out of town guests and daylight savings time got the best of me. I'm linking to an earlier recipe I made, Ina's Granola Bars. If you haven't made them, give them a try. They're delicious!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pink Saturday

I am linking this to Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

From The Good Life - Sandhill Cranes

Tim and I love to take day trips. March in Nebraska brings the Sandhill Cranes. We saw them from a distance a couple of years ago but have never been up close and personal with the cranes. Saturday morning we set out for Grand Island, about 2 hours west of Omaha. We made a quick stop for Starbucks in York. Tim noticed the sky off to the west was full of birds. Just down a gravel road to the west of Starbucks, remember this is Nebraska, we found the Snow Geese. Certainly the largest flock of geese I have ever seen.

Back on I-80, headed west to Grand Island, we decided to try and find one of the cranes viewing sites outlined on Outdoor Nebraska. Just off the interstate, we started to see cranes and more cranes. I heard on the news last week they estimate the numbers right now at about 500,000 thousand. At their peak, in a couple of weeks, the numbers will be close to a million. Besides their characteristic flight, one of the most interesting things about the cranes is their song. We drove a 2 - 3 mile radius of gravel roads and found many different flocks of birds. Some were just a few birds and some numbered in the hundreds.

Wherever we travel, we enjoy trying local wines. We headed north to St. Paul, Nebraksa and Miletta Vista Winery. The winery is a few miles outside of town and has the most beautiful view of the Loop River Valley. We tried a couple of whites and three reds. Our choice was the Work Horse Red. Heading back southeast, we visited Prairie Creek Vineyards. The view here, not quite the same. This vineyard sits on a corner of flat farmland. Here we tried three whites and two reds. This time we chose a white, Sweet Ass White! (Yes, that's the name of the wine).

We decided to continue on Highway 92 rather than take I-80 all the way back to Omaha. We were hoping to find a quaint local restaurant on our drive home. As we drove through the town of Seward, we saw the Cafe on the Square. The curb appeal was nice. I googled and they had a website. Good curb appeal and a website, okay I am game. It was in a building dating back to 1890. Tim chose a delicious mac 'n cheese. For me, it was a hearty meat loaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. Bird watching makes me hungry or was it the wine tasting?

What a fun, relaxing Saturday. I would encourage anyone who has the chance to see the Sandhill Cranes to do so!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Soup

Do you use canned black beans or do you make your own? Since canned beans can be as much as 1.00 something a can, I decided to make my own. After doing some research, I settled on cooking them in the Slow Cooker. I soaked the beans for about 6 hours and cooked them for about 4 hours on high. The interesting thing was, my black beans became brown beans. It seemed most of the dark color was either in the water from soaking or in the water from cooking. Has anyone else experienced this?

I've seen quite a few recipes for soup with black beans and sweet potatoes or butternut squash. With these recipes as inspiration, I created my own recipe. This recipe makes a delicious but very spicy soup. I love the flavor from the addition of just a touch of cinnamon. You could easily add chicken or even some sausage to this soup.

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 large sweet potato, diced
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups black beans
1 can Rotel peppers
1T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. cinnamon

Chop garlic and onion. Heat olive oil in a skillet until sizzling, add garlic and onion. Saute until soft. Dice sweet potato. Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on low 8 hours.

I am linking this to Tasty Tuesday's, Tuesday's at the Table, Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen and Tuesday Night Supper Club.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Pudding - Sweet Melissa Sunday's

Does chocolate pudding remind you of your childhood? It's one of my earliest kitchen memories. My mom would make Jello Chocolate Pudding for dessert. I remember when I was maybe seven? she let help me stir the pudding on the stove. I don't remember it seeming to take as long to cook as it does today!

I love dessert! It's my favorite food group! I make a lot of desserts from scratch. Pudding, however, I don't think I have ever made from scratch. When I saw this weeks SMS recipe was Chocolate Pudding, I knew I wanted to participate. I also realized pudding is on my Top 50 list, so apparently this isn't the first time it occurred to me I'd never made pudding from scratch.

I made 1/4 recipe and ended up with 2 five ounce ramekins. The recipe called for checking pudding after 45 minutes. To be safe, I checked after 40. Was it done? It didn't appear soupy but didn't really look done. Melissa suggests using an instant read thermometer and if it reads between 150 - 155, it's done. Okay, 152! Interesting though the top of my pudding doesn't appear smooth like I would expect it to look. I wonder if I cooked it too long.

The pudding is denser and thicker than I expect a pudding to be. The flavor is nice, with just the right amount of chocolate. I liked it but I didn't love it!

Thanks to Leslie of Lethally Delicious for choosing this week's recipe. You can find the recipe on her blog. If you want to see the other SMS baker's pudding, you can find the links to their blogs here!

I'm hosting SMS in two weeks, Irish Soda Bread!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pink Saturday

Since it's still cold in the midwest, I wanted to share some beautiful reminders of Spring.

I am linking this to Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Worlds Best French Toast

When we were in Cabo a few weeks ago, we had breakfast at a great little restaurant, Mama's. Mama's boasts they have the "Worlds Best French Toast". It's their version of Stuffed French Toast.

I wanted to recreate this dish! After reading the recipe, I realized I don't really have a flambe pan. Probably not a good idea to flambe in non stick! The only french bread in the freezer was baguettes. Not a good size for french toast. With stuffed french toast as my inspiration, this is my version of the "Worlds Best French Toast". Maybe not the world's best but we thought it was pretty darn good.

Stuffed French Toast w/Banana Syrup

French Toast
1 serving
2 slices White Bread (I used sourdough)
Strawberry Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 Egg
2 T. Milk
1 t. vanilla
1 T. Butter

Spread cream cheese on one side of slices the bread. Make a sandwich out of the bread.
Whisk egg, milk and vanilla.Dip the bread in the egg mixture, making sure it is is coated well.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Once the butter is hot, add the bread and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side.


1 banana, sliced in 1/2 inch slices
2 T. Honey
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 T. Pecans, roughly chopped

Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat, stir in honey. Once combined, add cinnamon and pecans. Once the sauce is bubbling, add the banana and cook an additional minute or two. Don't overcook or the banana will get too soft.

Pour over French Toast. Garnish with powdered sugar, if desired.

I am linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Fat Camp Friday at Mangoes and Chutney.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

From The Good Life - Trek Up The Tower

I am so proud of my husband! This past Saturday he completed Trek Up The Tower. 40 floors, 870 stairs! Trek Up The Tower is held in The First National Bank Building in Omaha. Which by the way, is the tallest building between Denver and Chicago.