Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I did it ALL by myself mommy!

When I first started cooking a was a stickler at following a recipe to the letter. As I get a bit older, more lazy or maybe just more skilled, I realize you can tweak recipes and make them your own without messing up! (most the time) Well there are a lot of dishes I make like casseroles and such that I know the basic ingredients and kind of just throw them all together. You really can't mess us a casserole! Sometimes when I don't know the exact ingredients for something I will browse allrecipes.com and foodnetwork.com and get the basic idea for a dish and then create something from all the ideas I got. Well the other night I was trying to think of something simple, yummy and different to make for Paul.

I decided to ask my clients to name a dish they loved growing up and the first answer I got was Shepherd's pie. YUMMY, you can not go wrong with meat, veggies, cheese and potatoes in one dish! BINGO, I was going to make Shepherds pie! Well remembering back in my last post where I do not make anything for Paul without getting his opinion? Well I texted him asking if he liked shepherd's pie. I got the response "What is THAT?" UM HELLO, Again I wonder, is he even American? Then again I remember, farm, small town, Enterprise Utah. HAHA If you have met Paul he does NOT seem like a small town boy.

ANYWAYS. I explained the basic ingredients and he was in! I have made it before but it had been awhile and I always forget what tomato based product is best mixed with the meat and potatoes. Well checking out my fav food websites I found numerous recipes with a cream of mushroom soup base. Now I have always grown up with a tomato base but this sounded awesome! Also Paul tends to not like things with a tomato base so I decided to do a cream based shepherds pie. Well can I tell you I came up with a FABULOUS dish that is a mix between stroganoff and shepherd's pie. SO was born.......

Shepherd Street Stroganoff Pie
(I grew up in mass on Shepherd street so I thought it was fitting!)

1 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can of corn
1 can of green beans
8 medium red potatoes
1 cup sour cream
1 small can cream of mushroom soup
2 TBS butter
splash of milk
1 cup monterey jack cheese(or more if you like it cheesy!)
salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Wash and cube red potatoes(I like skin on) and cover with cold water and salt. (tip alert-If you put potatoes in warm or hot water to start with the outside cooks faster and the potatoe gets mushy on the outside and harder on the inside!) Bring to a boil, turn down slightly and boil until the potatoes are tender enough to mash. Drain.

In a deep skillet brown the ground beef and drain. Return to the skillet on medium heat and add onions, garlic and mushrooms. Do not cook all the way through, the veggies will finish getting tender in the oven. Next add 1/2 cup sour cream, mushroom soup, corn, beans and a bit of salt and pepper. Place in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Return potatoes to pot, add butter, milk and the remaining sour cream and mash to the consistency you like of mashed potatoes. Also add salt and pepper to taste. Spread Potatoes on top of the meat mixture and cover with cheese. You can use any kind of cheese, I like monterey jack or colby jack best! Cover with tin foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove tin foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and fully melted! As Rachael Ray would say. YUM O!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

No apples for him...

SO the best part about having a boyfriend is having a willing participant to cook for. He is not particularly picky and even if he does not end up liking something I cook he will still eat it but will tell me honestly if he didn't like it and I know not to cook it for him again. I am totally ok with this, I like honesty. Sometimes the food really just was not good(like my attempt at Pad Thai, NOT good) but most the time its just not something he really likes, which is fine with me.

There is only one time he would not eat something I offered. Now a little background story for you is he always likes to tease me with the statement "Woman, I am hungry! Go make me a pie" He knows it always makes me laugh. Well one day when I was at the store getting ingredients for steak and mashed potatoes I got this bright idea of getting him a pie. I am scared to bake so I bought a frozen Marie Callendars apple pie and vanilla ice cream. I was SOOO excited to surprise him with a pie and could not wait to get to his apartment. Well I show up and as I am unpacking the groceries he happens to see the pie. His face turned into a frown and he said "I thought you knew I don't like apples, and especially apple pie" WHAT?? WHAT?? Who does not like apples or apple pie???????? That is just NOT american!! I attribute it to him growing up in Enterprise Utah on a farm! ha ha JK I was glad that I had not spent the time to actually MAKE one! He also does not like tomatoes(which is tragic BUT a bit more normal) Well now I know, NO more trying to surprise him with things. I now always ask if something sounds good before I purchase it! haha

One of me and Paul's favorite restaurants to go is Olive Garden and get the soup, salad and breadstick lunch at Olive Garden. For 5.95 and all you can eat, who can pass that up? Especially with their amazing soup Zuppa Toscana! About 6 months ago I set out looking for a recipe that was similar and little did I know it was right in my recipe collections! My aunt Karen Larson compiled a family and friends cookbook a few years back(which is awesome and if you look at it has been well used!) and right above my moms clam chowder recipe is a replica that my Aunt Richelle put into the cookbook, thanks Richelle!!! So I set out to make it and it is SOOO good! Paul says mine is a bit better than olive gardens because I add red pepper flakes and he likes it a bit spicier! SO here is my Aunts recipe for Zuppa Toscana (with a few changes, I use ground sausage instead of links and I add red pepper flakes) CIAO!!

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

1 pound sweet ground italian sausage
(TIP- you can use links, bake them and slice the sausage but if you are going to do it my way dont get the links and try to get the meat out of the casings, it does not work well! Most grocery stores have ground italian sausage)
2 medium potatoes, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4 inch slices
3/4 cup onions, diced
6 slices of bacon
3 cloves garlic minced(1 1/2 tsp)
2 cups kale leaves choped into bite size pieces
2 Tbs. chicken base
1 quart water
1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream
red pepper flakes to taste

Place sausage, onions and bacon in a large saucepan and saute until sausage is fully cooked. Remove bacon and crumble. Add garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Add chicken base, water and potatoes, simmer 15 min. Add bacon, kale and cream and simmer 4 min. You can either put red pepper flakes(I usually add about 2 tsp) in the whole pot OR you can give everyone the option to use it to their liking! ENJOY!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

So it is still my birthday. The other posts were done right after midnight after I got home from work. Its funny how I get SO tired after working but when I get home I am all wound up! Usually eating winds me down but I am trying to not eat so late so now I am going to use blogging as my wind down. I did not sleep well last night and sleeping in was not in the cards! I kept being woken up by Birthday texts and calls! It's my fault for leaving my phone on, no hard feelings for the texts before 8 am!! Thanks from all the birthday wishes. My friend Adrianne is a 1st grade teacher and she had her class sing to me, it was cute!!! So this will be a quick post, its sooo nice out! YEAH SPRING! I am going to get all gussied up and buy myself a new outfit for my birthday.

I get to go to Tepanyaki with Paul tonight for my birthday so I have to look HOT! For those of you that don't know what it is, its a Japanese steakhouse that cooks your food right in front of you(like Bennihanas). Its good food and a show in 1! The chef's like to throw shrimp at you and make onion volcanos. It can be a bit pricy so it's a once in awhile place to go. I like to eat out but me and Paul are pretty frugal and like to go to restaurants that have good food but tend to be lower cost, our favorite being Texas Road house(http://www.texasroadhouse.com/). Their ribs are some of the best, and for 11.95 for ribs, salad and mashed potatoes, its a steal!

Well for my recipe today I am giving my FAV cake recipe. Growing up my mom would make us our favorite cake and meal for our birthdays. Mine was always clam chowder(amazing recipe I am sure I will share eventually) and JELLO cake. If you decide to read my blog frequently you will see I am not much into cakes and sweets, I would much rather have a heaping bowl of homemade soup over any chocolate or sweets ANYDAY! I know, I am weird! Well this is one cake that I LOVE and its simple, not too sweet and everyone loves it!

JELLO cake

Yellow or white cake mix
Box of Jello ( you can use whatever flavor you like, i prefer orange or strawberry)
(I like a lot of jello so I use the bigger box))
Package vanilla instant pudding
Container cool whip (my mom uses packages dreamwhip you have to mix, its good but cool whip is easier!)

Prepare cake as indicated on the box. Once cake is done, prepare jello with 1 3/4 cup hot water and 1 3/4 cup cold water(for the bigger box). This helps the jello set better in the cake! Next poke holes with back end of a wooden spoon all over the surface of the cake. Pour jello evenly over the cake so every hole gets soaked. Set cake in fridge for 2-3 hours(covered). Once Jello is set mix the pudding as indicated on box, let set in fridge for 10 min. Next mix pudding and coolwhip together in a bowl and spread on top of the cake. TA DA, its done! Make sure any leftovers get refrigerated!

same day, new recipe!

I have so many recipes to share its hard to stop at 1! So awhile back I was a hostess and server for a restaurant called McGraths Fish House in the Gateway. It turned out to be such a GREAT job for me (thank you Nathan Green for getting me this job!) and I loved the time spent there. Anyone that has been there has tried the amazing crab and artichoke dip they serve with garlic toast and sourdough bread. Well I have always had a recipe for crab/art dip I liked but nothing to compare to this!!! Well little did I know that a few years later I would have a boyfriend that ended up working there. I once mentioned it would be AWESOME to have the recipe and low and behold one day he found the recipe and copied it down!! WOOHOO!!! Welllllllll the recipe was at a restaurant size scale and I attempted to scale it back! Paul, PAT and Lindsey LOVED it but I didn't think it was QUITE like the stuff they made in the restaurant( I am my own worse critic!) SO here is the large recipe, I will let you scale it down... Seriously it is WORTH IT!!! also note it is NOT a figure friendly dish but its great to entertain with or if you are PMS'ing its a great source of OIL and FAT! lol! I am trusting your scaling down abilities because I don't trust mine!

McGraths Crab and Artichoke Dip
lb cream cheese
3 qt mayo
4 1/2 cup snow crab meat
3 qt shredded parm
1 galon can chopped artichoke hearts
1 qt diced yellow onions
1 qt diced celery
1 can strained diced red peppers
2 bunches diced green onions
6 TBLS Lemon juice
2 TBLS chopped garlic
1 1/2 Tsp tobasco

Soften cheam cheese in a mixing bowl. Gradually beat mayo into softened cream cheese. fold the remaining ingredients into the cream cheese. Bake in a 350 oven until golden brown and bubbly
Serve with french bread, garlic toast or crackers!

Today is the DAY!

So today is my 25th birthday. Yeah I know, DREAD is imminent! I do dread that I am closer to thirty but I know I am still young. My mom is 50something(don't worry mom, i won't reveal your true age) and I realize, 50 is the new 40! She looks amazing for her age! To realize I am not even halfway to that point, I am hopeful!!! So my main goal for this sight is to share interesting times in my life but also to share recipes that I love from my childhood or new ones I try(or fail) at. I am kind of a nerd and like to check out food blogs online. I have found a few I like but their recipes are so gourmet and NOT for just the average woman that just wants to make SIMPLE, yet YUMMY meals for their friends, husbands, kids or to impress the new or old boy in their lives!!!! The main goal of my blog will be recipes but at times I will give fun insight into my life as a youth drug counselor and my times there and just quotes, lyrics or songs that inspire me. I have always wanted to be a chef but circumstances have led me to being a full time at my job and for now I quite love it! I am able to cook for my clients since its a residential center and we have full kitchens including any ingredients I desire to use for them! So WELCOME to my site!

Here is my first recipe...
I have always had a disdain for brussel sprouts ( there are only 3 green veggies i dont like, peas, green peppers and brussel sprouts) and one day at work the clients wanted me to make them. The nurse at my work is this awesome guy named Manny who always has an irreverant thing to say to make me laugh. ANYWAYS on this particular day I was discussing my HATRED for brussel sprouts(ick) and he swore he had a recipe that would change my mind(yeah right i thought) So he strutted his stuff into the kitchen with me and showed me this recipe that changed how I feel about BS AND gave me great ideas for any green veggies! I do not have an EXACT recipe but eyeballing it works great, you just have to alter the amount for how many veggies you cook!

Sweet and Spicy greens!

Extra Virgin Olive oil (or EVOO as RR says)
fresh garlic(or garlic powder or garlic salt if no fresh is available)
red pepper flakes
salt(no salt if using garlic salt)

So I used frozen Brussel sprouts when I did this but you can used blanched fresh ones! OR I have done this is broccoli AND my fav. Asparagus! Drizzle enough EVOO to coat the veggies, then do a quick drizzle of honey(depending on how sweet you want it), then mince or grate 3-5 cloves of garlic(AGAIN depending on how much veg you are using and how much garlic you like, using fresh is not as potent as the salt or powder) sprinkle with red pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Its all about how much of each ingredient you like to how much you want to put of each! Bake at 350 until the veg is tender! Depends on what veg you are using! brussel is about 20-25 min, broccoli is about 20 min and asparagus is 20-25! Seriously this makes for a great mix of flavors! My boss keeps trying to get me to write down the recipe but eyeing it is really best! I have yet to mess it up!!! Hope you enjoy!