Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Light summer time treat....

Since we had been gone for some time, I didn't have any treats on hand or in the freezer. I wanted to bake some treats that were somewhat light, summery and a bit different.

Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes are individual tender cakes that are light as air with a luscious buttery lemon icing. These are made pretty much the same way as other angel food cakes, but are baked in muffin papers instead of a tube pan. The addition of fresh lemon zest in the batter brightens up the delicate flavor and takes these from ho-hum to oh-yum!

You may notice that when you fill the papers that it seems to be overfilled some - the original recipe called for 16 servings, but I think 12 is a better fit. I also noticed that instead of spreading out like some cupcakes or muffins might do, mine baked straight up like a souffle and slightly deflated as they cooled. While a large cake is always nice, these smaller sized cupcakes are just the right size for a treat at a summer picnic or barbeque. The icing is pretty sweet and I think I would try to cut the sweetness with a dash of popcorn salt next time. I use that salt because it dissolves better and won't leave the frosting grainy. I garnished these with some edible flowers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back to the food...

Since we just got back, I needed something that would use up stuff from the fridge and the pantry as we didn't have time to go out and shop for groceries just yet. I picked through the recipes and came up with one that used everything we had on hand. It got bonus points for using a shape of pasta we had not used before that I bought on a whim.

I used Cellentani pasta from Barilla in the recipe Creamy Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese. This pasta is like a long version of Cavatappi. This quick to make recipe utilizes the time waiting for the pasta to cook to create a thick and creamy sauce that is packed with cheesy flavor. The recipe originally called for cream cheese, but since I didn't have any on hand, I used Laughing Cow's Creamy Swiss Wedges. It melted well and the smooth swiss flavor went very well with the stronger Asiago and Provolone cheeses that I used. The bite from the mustard and Worcestershire was subtle, but added a nice background of flavor and just enough saltiness. If you wanted a less pungent cheese flavor, feel free to use cheddar which will also give it a classic yellow hue.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Final set of wedding pictures...

Okay - last set of wedding pictures coming up! We flew back into Phoenix today and are finally back home for a few days. Look for new recipes and food posts starting tomorrow! *As always, pics are clickable for larger and more clear viewing if you so choose. You also may need to click it again depending on your browser as they may try to resize it and it can get pixilated.

Here's the cake fully put together and brought outside - yes, no accidents occurred! And yes, while Mom could have had this part done by someone else (to relieve some stress!), she took care of this too with some friendly help!

Mom arranged a surprise that few people knew about (we knew though!). The bridal party thought they would be arriving to the farm in limos - much to their surprise, they were picked up by horse-drawn carriages (which were also used to give rides later on!)

PS... You would think she had done way to much already right? Nope, she also made the Maid of Honor and Bridesmaid dresses!

Steve was very taken aback by this surprise and Jen couldn't believe the fairy tale ride!

Here is my sister Jennifer being walked down the isle by Dad.

About midway through the ceremony they did the lighting of the unity candle.

When they were almost done, they each were given a dove to release to signify the start of their life of love and happiness.

The whole event was a lot of work, but it was well worth all of the effort from everyone who contributed. Jen and Steve are enjoying their honeymoon in Walt Disney World - you two better be having a blast! We hope you enjoyed the series of pictures - thank you again for bearing with us!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Set one of two from the wedding...

I am going to split the wedding pictures into two posts as there are quite a few. I promise we will try to get back on track with the food posts after I get the next set of pictures done. Thank you again for bearing with us! We are flying our way back home tomorrow and I can't wait to get started cookin' and bakin' in the kitchen this week! *As always, pics are clickable for larger and more clear viewing if you so choose. You also may need to click it again depending on your browser as they may try to resize it and it can get pixilated.

I showed you in the last set some of the open areas of the farm. This was quickly changed as we set up just under 250 folding chairs.

Mom turned this old tree that had to be cut down into a large circular plant holder near the house.

She worked very hard to get even the smallest details done for Jennifer and Steve. She planned out and put together this large iron archway for the minister and wedding party to stand by. She decorated it with grapevines just cut from the farm along with some of the flowers she grows.

Here is a rare shot of her - still working in her dress no less. She is placing red roses on the kneeling bench for them to give out later.

Jen and Steve met and fell in love in a bowling league of all places, so Mom made sure to come up with many references to that. Here is one of the pieces she made.

They wanted to have the reception and dance also at the farm, so two huge tents were put up - after we got all of the tables set up, we had to get them covered in tablecloths and decorated.

Here is how Mom had us decorate the head table - MANY fresh lilacs were freshly cut and set on each of the guest tables as well. Behind them are several lattice panels in different heights laced with more grapevines, flowers and some lights.

Your dorky food blogger dressed up for the wedding....

Here's a sneak peak of the happy couple - we will post tomorrow the final set of wedding pics and then back to the food!

Friday, May 26, 2006

House hunting and more of the farm....

So we have been busy out here looking at houses when Jeff is done at work in his new office. We have seen 9 - while they were very nice and gave us a few options, none of them unfortunely had that "this is the one" feel when we walked through. I think if we picked any of them, it would be like we were settling and since we are not pressed for time yet, I think we will just wait until the week after next to see if anything new comes on the market.

Before we start the wedding pictures, I went through some more of the farm ones we took and wanted to give you a few more to see where I spent my time growing up. I hope you don't mind!

Mom is pretty creative and crafty when she finds leftover stuff - she made some play things out of old tires for the swingset.

As I mentioned before, Mom has flower gardens all over - here is another shot of one. Since we have a lot of old trees on the farm, she makes good use of them if they fall down or get hit by lightning - edging for the beds!

Here is a close up of one flower that was opening the morning we arrived.

This view is from the patio on the side of the house. Way in the back you can see where she has started her endless rows of fresh vegetables to use or sell at the farmers market. The rows go up and behind the set of trees on the left.

The farm is on the outer skirts of town so when people are tired of their pets or can't keep them, a lot of times they end up dropping them off in one of the pastures or even on the side of the road. Mom has taken many animals over the years and nursed them back to health and kept them on the farm. Here is one of the outside kitties trying to peak in one of the many tubs she uses. I think he's lookin' for some hidden fish!

Here she has a circular bed of brillant yellow tulips in front of an old chestnut tree - and yes, roasting of the chestnuts is known to happen!

Here's a different view, the tulips are in the center and in the back is a very old chicken coop.

The goats need some shelter, so here is where they stay in one of the older barns. In front is where some of the chickens and turkeys are located. Upstairs is filled with bailed hay and straw. I certanly don't miss the time of the year when that happens (oops... you didn't just read that Mom!)

The goats like to pretend they are rock climbers so she built up an area with some large old logs. They like to show off when they have visitors.

Many new goats were born at the farm this year, these two cuties are just over a month old. Jeff has yet to name them, but I'm sure that won't last long!

I hope we are not boring you! We are flying back to Phoenix on Monday, so hopefully I can get back in the kitchen and get some food cookin' soon!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Around the farm...

Before things started to get extra busy with the wedding, we went around and took a bunch of pictures of some fun stuff on the farm. The next few posts will not really be food related, so I apologize early! As with all of the other pictures, don't forget to click and get a bigger view if you wish!

The farm is in Southern Minnesota - near Albert Lea. As you first drive by the house, you notice this sign.

Mom has a ton of chickens and they are really producing the eggs this year. She sells them fresh from the farm and at the local farmers market.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of birds that hang around the area. Mom has lots of bird feeders and houses located all over. Here's a small one hidden in the midst of a very large pine tree that seemed to get a lot of traffic.

This feeder was close to the house and could be seen outside the kitchen window over the sink.

Even though our pups are still at Jeff's Moms house in PA until we get settled in out here in MD, we did get a chance to see Max's papa! This is Jax - we originally got him as a birthday present for Mom so she could breed her female American Eskie.

Since you have seen baby Sam, you know there must be goats around the farm. When you even think about getting close to the fence, they come running for some attention! These guys are way too fun to pass up a chance to pet.

And since we mentioned him, here is the baby as he goes on his daily walk. Yes, he is getting walked around on a leash - one of the younger kids was taking him out... (and boy did Jeff get jealous!)

So now you have seen some of the area that I grew up in. I have some more pictures that are less animals and more views that I will put up in one of upcoming the posts. Next post I am getting ready to talk about the preparation for the big wedding on the farm! Mom had all sorts of small things going on - this is of a small wagon that she turned into a stand that held a display for cards to be put into!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Surprise snack....

Since we are going to be getting in pretty late night, I thought I would use the time on the plane from Minneapolis to DC to write up a post on a snack cake we made just before we left. I wanted to surprise Jeff with a snack from home for him to enjoy on the plane ride to MN and since he likes the flavor espresso gives in baked goods, I picked this recipe.

Espresso-Walnut Cake is pretty quick to throw together since you melt the butter in the same bowl you end up mixing the batter in. A sweet streusel mixture is first made from toasted crunchy walnuts, strong Vietnamese cinnamon and a bit of espresso powder. This combination is split in half and layered in the middle and scattered on top before baking. As I was spreading the batter in the baking dish, it seemed pretty thin and I was wondering how I would end up getting the top layer on without disturbing the middle streusel layer. So instead of pouring the other half on top, I dropped dollops of batter all over and then used an off-set spatula to connect the dots. This worked pretty well and the layers did not mix too much. It did not seem to fill that pan too much, but as the cake baked, it rose up quite a bit higher than I thought it would.

Since Jeff did not know I was making this, I had to play his usual part of "Quality Control" and see if it passed his standards. Hee hee! As I plunged my fork through the first piece, I was able to see just how moist and tender the cake was. The combination of the sweet nutty streusel inside and on top made the difference. The subtle coffee flavor was just right and did not overwhelm even though we used the full tablespoon of powder as the recipe called for. This "coffee" cake would be a great addition to a brunch table or even a quick bite for an on-the-go breakfast.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Arrival at the farm...

Sorry for the upcoming non-food related posts - but as we are travelling, I thought I would put up some of the pictures we have been taking along the way for the wedding and house hunting. I do have some food related posts in the works, so I will not be off-topic too often I hope. Thank you again for bearing with us as we are transitioning between states and whatnot!

We arrived early at the farm on day one - who needs an alarm clock when you have this going off at 5am....

Mom has several large flower gardens going throughout the farm for selling at the market- here are a couple of pictures that we snapped while we were sneaking around....

Here is the last shot for the night - This is Sam, as Jeff has "offically" named him; he is a runt baby goat that was rejected by his mom. My mom had nursed him back to life and now he follows people around on the farm like a puppy! Yes, I had to make sure we didn't have a baby goat hiding in the car somewhere as Jeff wanted to bring him with us.

(PS... Susan at FarmGirl Fare, I think we have some new playmates for your herd of animals!)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

But it tasted real!

Well, we are back in the hotel room and are happy to say the wedding at the farm took place without any major hassles! Jeff and I made sure the food supply kept coming and I tried to sneak some sandwiches to the photographers and others who would have probably missed out if they waited any longer. We will try to put up a few photos of the farm and wedding since we will be travelling and going through baking withdrawls... but we are suppose to have a microwave at the hotel when we leave for Maryland on Monday. Maybe we will have to try and make something in that... it might not be good, but who knows!

Jeff had been wanting me to make up some beef ribs before we left and we just did not have enough time to get things together. So instead, we decided it would be a good time as ever to try out this "veggie version" of ribs from Gardenburger.

We heated the ribs in the oven, instead of doing them in the microwave, in hopes of them coming out a little more tasty. After they had cooled enough to handle, Jeff took a bite and had this huge grin on his face. He says... "Holy cow! Hey... they kind of even taste like they come from one too!" The sauce was thick and smoky with a strong BBQ type flavor. We were pretty surprised by how much better they tasted versus what we had expected. I baked some toasted corn tortillas that we rubbed with limes and coarse salt on a firey hot pizza stone to serve along side.

Jeff ended up putting one on a hoagie-type bun later on and had himself convinced it was just like a McRib! We will definitely have to get these again while we are out house hunting in Maryland!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Before we left for the farm, I wanted to make a comforting dish for dinner. The recipe, Beef, Cheese, and Noodle Bake is kind of like a homemade version of hamburger helper - without the box.

This is a great meal to sneak in some veggies where you would not normally expect to see them. The added vegetable, shredded carrots, is only 1 cup, but I think there is room in the recipe to add some more or a different kind to bulk up the dish some. Small whole wheat macaroni noodles are combined with a hearty meat sauce followed by a rich and creamy white cheese sauce. Once the noodles have begun to soak in the sauces, it is placed in the baking dish. Some additional sharp cheese is added and allowed to melt and achieve a golden color. Make sure to keep an watchful eye while in the oven, if left too long after the cheese melts, it may come out a bit dry. Next time I think we would up the heat some with chipotle chilies and maybe some seasoned diced tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Back to the treats...

Jeff "officially" transitioned into his new job Monday, but since we will still be in Phoenix for some time, we figured we could continue on with the Wednesday Treat Day for his former coworkers! He works from home now, but sometimes goes in to get mail or whatnot.

These Cinnamon Chip Gems are definitely a treat for one who loves cinnamon. Toasted almonds are ground to bring an exquisite addition to an outer shell made from cream cheese, flour, sugar and ground almonds. The shell is formed in a mini muffin pan which creates a perfect sized mini vessel for the filling. A small amount of cinnamon chips are then added as a bottom layer before the filling is poured in. The creamy filling is simply made from luscious combination of sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla. Once poured into the shells, they are baked until the filling puffs up and the almond-enhanced crust acquires a deep golden color. A small handful of intense cinnamon-flavored chips are arranged on top to adhere on the set filling. The crisp shell with the creamy centers and a surprise hidden layer of melted chips made these a small but decadent treat to be eaten.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Please forgive this interruption...

We would be putting up our post on what I made for the Wednesday Treat Day goodies, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. We don't usually do anything but mostly food related posts here, but this is something that is very important. If you value how you are able to use the internet today, I urge you to please check out the website or click on the image above.

If you would like more information, Kate over at Accidental Hedonist has an excellent post on the matter. We signed the petition and if this is important to you, I hope you can spare a couple minutes to do the same! Thanks go out to Pim for making many of us aware about this!

*Editing to add - It was brought to my attention that the savetheinternet website may be wonky on some mac machines - Click this link to check out the snopes article on the matter that will give you some more options to seek out. Thanks Sandy for pointing this out!

Look for the treat post early tomorrow morning!

Thanks for understanding this interruption...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mashed taters with a twist....

I mentioned three ingredients yesterday that we would be combining for dinner tonight. It ended up as a side dish, so let's start off with that first.

Corn and Smoked Mozzarella Mashed Potatoes has definitely moved up to the top of the list of our favorite way to prepare potatoes. Thin skinned red potatoes are boiled until just tender. While waiting for them to finish, fresh sweet yellow corn is pan roasted in a smidge of butter until the kernels achieve a golden brown color. The potatoes are then very coarsley mashed with creamy smoked mozzarella*, soy milk and for a touch of richness, a couple pats of butter. The corn is then folded in with salt and pepper and a finishing squeeze of fresh lime juice to freshen the mix up. The mountain of chunky potatoes, roasted corn and soft smoked cheese was exciting to the taste buds and a fresh change to plain ol' mashed taters.

*Tip - smoked mozzarella is pretty soft, to ease the grating process, stick it in the freezer for about 15 minutes to let it firm up and it will grate without the gooey mess.

I served Pork Chops with Carolina Rub as the main item tonight. Center cut chops are rubbed in a flavorful mixture of spices and allowed to sit to soak up the essence of the seasonings. They are then grilled with a slather of your favorite barbecue sauce, added near the end, to keep it from burning. These juicy chops were good, but nothing to write home about - maybe some changes to the rub could give these some more flare. The recipe comes together in a snap though and is good for a quick weeknight dish.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Leavin' on a jet plane... well not yet but soon!

Busy week in this kitchen! Eleven new recipes were made - the standouts for us were the Strawberry-Black Pepper Tart for Two and Taco Salad.

We are hoppin' on a plane later in the week heading to Minnesota. Jen (my sister) is finally getting married on Saturday at the farm, so we are heading out there early to help where we can with the setup. After that, we are flying back to Maryland to look at more houses - hopefully we can find one we like this trip! Things might be hit or miss here until we come back.

Since we only have a couple days to make stuff this week before we leave, I have a few ideas of things I want to get done. Here's a quick peek at three ingredients that will be combined as part of tomorrow night's dinner!

Happy Mother's Day to our Moms and all the other Moms out there! Back with more tomorrow....

*I also updated the recipes lists in both the Main Dish/Sides and Baked Goods sections - We had added well over 300 recipes to the website so far with no plans on stopping! You may have to hit refresh to see the additions.