November 19, 2012

Italian Chopped Salad

It turns out that last month wasn't my last Secret Recipe Club post. Seems I was a month ahead of myself, which in my crazy, hectic life never happens.

B.K. (before kids) I was an on-the-ball kinda gal. I mean, I never forgot things, or misplaced things. I managed to remember to comb AND style my hair each morning. Really, I was pretty amazing. 

Now, not so much. Now, there are days when I never brush my hair, forget my sweet friend's birthday and simply not show up to some place where I'm supposed to be! *Gasp* I have become one of those people. 

I used to think my life was busy when I had a career, while rehabbing a house, volunteer work, bible study group, and dating. Ha!

Silly me. Now I now the define the word busy.

For those of you out there without kids, have pity on people like me. Know that we are still in there somewhere and will (hopefully) re-emerge when the college years are upon us.

My scattered brain managed to produce another Secret Recipe Club treasure in time for today's deadline. I'm very proud not to have dropped this ball. I have unearthed a delicious chopped salad recipe. This one is very Italian and very delicious. (Sandy, you would even appreciate it.) It comes by way of Authentic Suburban Gourmet.

Lisa blogs from the sunny San Francisco Bay Area. She has a ton of delicious recipes, but what I was really intrigued about was her photography. Either she has subbed out the photography to a pro, been replaced by an alien expert photographer, or worked her tail off learning how to take better photos. I'm not sure which, but it is incredible to see the transformation of the photos on her blog. Just search "chopped salad" and you'll see some examples of what light can do for a photo. Not to mention her food styling. Her stuff just looks beautiful. Lisa blogs exemplifies how we can each improve our skills. Maybe there is hope for my mommy's brain after all.

This chopped salad recipe is from “The Mozza Cookbook” from famed chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, Nancy Silverton. I made a few changes like adding black olives and purple cabbage (because it is so much cheaper than radicchio). Be sure to check out Lisa's recipe if you like detailed instructions. And she has those beautiful photos to go with it.

The key on a chopped salad is to chop most everything in uniform sizes. That way you get a little of everything on your fork at the same time. Delicious!

Italian Chopped Salad
from Authentic Suburban Gourmet

1/2 sm red onion, chopped
1/2 sm head iceberg lettuce, cored and chopped
1 sm head purple cabbage, cored and chopped
1 pint sm sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1⁄2 c garbanzo beans
1 c chopped black olives
4 oz aged provolone, chopped into sm pieces
4 oz salami, chopped into sm pieces
1/4 c banana peppers, chopped
2 tsp salt
1⁄2 c oregano vinaigrette
1⁄2 lemon juiced, plus more to taste
toasted pine nuts (see note at bottom)

Combine the onion, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, olives, provolone, salami, and pepperoncini in a large, wide bowl. Season with salt and toss to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and squeeze the lemon juice over the salad, then toss gently to coat the salad with the dressing. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, lemon juice or vinaigrette if desired. Pile the salad on a large platter or divide it among individual plates, piling it like a mountain.

Oregano vinaigrette
2 1⁄2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
2 garlic cloves, 1 smashed and 1 grated or minced
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 1⁄2 c extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake vigorously. Use the vinaigrette or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to three days. Bring the vinaigrette to room temperature, whisk to recombine the ingredients, and taste again for seasoning before using.

UPDATE: I actually tried this salad withOUT the lettuce and it was amazing that way and keeps longer since there is no lettuce to wilt. The general consenses was that it would make an amazing pasta salad! And toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top, take this dish to the next level.

November 17, 2012

Gingerbread Latte

I posted about this beauty back here, but some of you have asked for the specifics of this recipe, so this one is for you. Just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. Make a big batch of the spiced milk and keep it in the fridge. When company comes, warm some up in a pot on the stove, brew the coffee or espresso and combine the two in mugs. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon. Voila! You have a fancy drink in just minutes and you look like the Hostess with the Mostess (as Mom would always say).

Gingerbread Latte

1 cup milk (I use skim)
2 Tbsp molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (which is basically mostly cinnamon with ginger, cloves and nutmeg added) I just add a little of each, never measuring
1/2 tsp ginger (for that gingerbread flavor)
1 c strong brewed coffee or espresso

Brew the coffee. While brewing, get out a glass measuring cup, the kind you use for liquids. Measure the milk and then add the sugar and spices. Put it in the microwave on high for 1 min - 1:30. You want it hot, but not boiling. When the coffee is brewed, combine your coffee, spiced milk and vanilla in a large mug. You can top it with whipped cream and cinnamon if you want to go over the top, which I of course did!

Alternative method: Triple or quadruple the recipe and combine milk, molasses and spices. Heat and stir. Cool. Store spiced milk in a jar in the fridge until you are ready to use. When you want a latte, brew the coffee or espresso and heat up the spiced milk and combine for as many servings as you need. 


November 16, 2012

Apple Pie Smoothie

Perfect fall goodness in a cup. It's a guilt free apple pie smoothie. All of the flavor and sweetness of an apple pie, but healthy enough to drink after a run.

I made this one up because I like to drink a smoothie after working out, but I didn't have any fruit other than apples laying around. I have never blended a whole apple, only apple juice. Turns out the fiber makes it pretty filling. The kids tried it the next day and loved it, so we have a new smoothie in the rotation. I wonder how it would work as a popsicle in the summer?

We had these wonderful apples that we picked in Ellijay at our favorite stop: R&A Orchards like we have in previous years. This year was pretty hard on the harvest. Warm crazy weather will reek havoc on an orchard. All of the apples were dropping right off the trees and the Georgia Apple Festival hadn't even occurred! We managed to pick a few and of course I bought bags and bags of "seconds", which are perfectly good apples in my opinion. I made a bunch of applesauce, but no apple butter this year. I was going to make Apple Pie Soup and that's where the revelation came in - ah ha - I could make a smoothie with apples. Apple Pie Smoothie! 

Apple Pie Smoothie
1/2 small apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 tsp apple pie spice
2 c vanilla almond milk 
1 scoop protein powder, optional
ice cubes

Put it all in a blender and whir into a creamy smoothie. 

{Almond milk is a new product in our household and we have enjoyed it. I like it because it keeps much longer than cow milk. I used Silk brand almond milk, pictured here and it's already sweetened, so I didn't add any sweetener to this smoothie. You could use milk and add honey and almond or vanilla flavoring if you like.}


November 3, 2012

October 28, 2012

Sesame Street Birthday Party

"C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me." 

We just celebrated the baby's 2nd birthday (I'm gonna have to stop calling her the Baby). She LOVES Sesame Street, especially Cookie Monster so a Street party was just what she needed. I pinned several ideas to my Pinterest Board and away I went!

We invited everyone over for dinner, since I ran a 5k that morning *so proud of this non-running gal* and the kids were all in a parade after the race. I printed off some Sesame Street blank signs to label all of the foods with cute names (thanks Mom- to the rescue again).  

Oscar the Grouch's Trashy Green Beans....

Abby Cadabby's Sparkly Applesauce (we made the applesauce and added some colored pink and blue sprinkles on the top)

Elmo's Goldfish, Dorothy was represented

Bert's favorite friends, the pigeons had Honey Whole Wheat Seeded Bread

Big Bird's Corn Casserole

Grover's Hero Ham (the 8 year old's creative naming)

Elmo himself, made an appearance with friendly veggies and dip

For games, we kept it simple since this was a 2 year old party. I printed out a large Cookie Monster head and taped it to an empty cardboard box. We then cut out the mouth and the kids were able to "feed" Cookie some fabric cookies that my Grandmother whipped up.


We also emptied one of the large metal trashcans we keep chicken feed in and set it up in the family room. The big kids went to the recycling bin and pulled out pieces of paper which they wadded up, creating "trash" Then the party-goers all got to clean up Oscar's trash. (Please ignore the shaggy hair. Is there any other Mommy out there that has trouble finding the time to get a haircut???) Also, you can't tell, but I'm wearing my vintage Sesame Street tee, so old Elmo is no where to be found on it.

We topped the whole party off with Street cupcakes. I saw tons of ideas and loved so many of them. I decided to make Cookie Monster, Elmo and Big Bird. (Notice the Cookie tattoo? Abby Cadabby is on the other arm.)

The monsters were easy. I mixed up my buttercream icing and then colored each container. I had store bought black (a color I HATE to make) so I only had to make, red, blue, light blue (just a bit of lesser tinted blue), pink (a bit of the red not tinted all the way to red), yellow, and orange (some yellow icing and red combined). I made green too, thinking I might create Oscar cupcakes, but I decided not to.  Looking back, I should have made Oscar and not Big Bird, because the Bird was HARD and I don't love they way he turned out. In any case, I saved the green icing for the next birthday party coming up in a couple of weeks.

It is full blown birthday and holiday season at our house already.

I also have black fondant that I rolled out and cut with a bottle cap. I then cut the circles in half so the monsters would have easy mouths. 

Once the cupcakes were cooled, the icing tinted, the mouths cut out, I cut large marshmallows in half for the eye balls. Then I was ready to decorate. The piping was SOOOOO easy! Seriously, I know there are some of you out there, who think I'm kidding, so I had my MacGuyver husband video me piping out a cupcake. I used a star tip and this video is NOT speeded up. Look how fast it goes!!

Here is Elmo with piping, fondant mouth (be sure to pipe over the mouth a little), marshmallow eyes, piped eyeballs and getting his orange teardrop shaped nose.

Big Bird's beak was the hardest part of everything. I use a marshmallow cut like I saw here. You make two cuts into the side of the mallow and then you end up with a beak. Then I put a little red icing inside the beak and yellow on the outside. This was the messy and not beautiful part of the whole thing. 
I had made Big Bird's feathers with a leaf tip and pulled them out starting from the edges and working in. I piped the white eyeballs and then a thin strip of pink and blue for his eyelids. All of that looked fine, until I added the messy beaks. Of course, once again I had to remind myself it's not a Cupcake Wars competition, but a kids' birthday party!! Ackk! Seriously. 

Cookie Monster is just like Elmo, but a little messier with the fur and be sure to put his eyeballs in different spots to give him that googly eye look. I also crushed up some cookies and put the crumbs on his mouth which turned out super cute. 
These are TOTALLY the cupcakes any beginner should start out with. If you wanted to make Oscar, instead of the Bird, it would be very easy. 
 I can hear it now, "Sunny Day, sweeping my cares away. On my way to where the air is sweet. Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?"

October 22, 2012

A Friend's Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Granola

Blogging is weird. I mean it's kinda like that Julie chick described in Julie and Julia. You put your thoughts and ideas out there and no one reads them. Then time goes by and someone might actually leave you a comment. You join a few networking sites and suddenly more people are reading YOUR thoughts and recipes. Then you become famous and are offered a book deal (well at least my husband wishes it worked this way for me.)

In any case, you start seeing some people around the virtual water cooler that you might actually like to have an extended conversation with. People who seem nice, not like stalkers, at least as much as you can tell online. Sometimes one of these individuals turns out to be someone you would actually like to be friends with - like in real live life. This happens so rarely that it's thought to be an urban legend. I'm hear to tell you, it's not legend. It has happened to me.

I met someone in the blog world that I really like. She's self-effacing, kind, to the point, and a great cook. I know I could ask her any cooking question that I needed help with and she would go all out to answer. She gardens in a BIG way with fruit trees, herbs and vegetables. And she practices the old fashioned art of canning, so I don't feel like a crazy person around her.

She is one of those people you really, really hope will invite you over for dinner, because you just know it will be better than the fancy restaurant around the corner. She is my special foodie friend.

There is only one thing that stands in the way of BFF status...she lives on another planet. Ok, it's really only OK, but Oklahoma is seriously far away. I mean it's the west. Yes, ye of the windy plains and surreys with fringe. Someday I may visit, but it's gonna take some effort!

In the meantime, my sweet new friend, Debra and I communicate through email. We've laughed over our manly men and their need to kill woodland creatures. We have a virtual canning party planned for next peach season. I've offered to send her cranberries when her local store ran out. (Apparently there is not a strong desire for cranberries off the east coast - go figure.)

I was actually looking at her blog, Eliot's Eats (named after her beloved cat) just this weekend because I needed some inspiration. The funny part is, I was assigned Eliot Eats as my Secret Recipe Club pick. Shock! Imagine my delight. Especially, since this will be my last SRC post. I just have decided to move on and let someone else have my spot from the waiting list. I knew the granola that I had on my pin list was the recipe I would pick from Debra, even though there are a ton of other great recipes on her blog.

My family goes through granola like we go through everything else - way too fast. I figured making Debra's recipe would maybe make them slow down and enjoy it, instead of scarfing.

I was wrong. Yes, I admit it.

My family LOVED this granola and therefore decided to eat it for breakfast,  lunch and snack (they were a little surprised it had pumpkin in it, because you can't really taste it). I used a small container of oatmeal to make the recipe - about 6 cups, next time I will make the giant 42 oz container. I was actually trying to take the photos for you all when a small two year old child snuck over to me and proceeded to eat my photos!

She was very delicate with her sneaking. When I called her out for her transgression, she gave me this face. How could I say no??

Before I knew it, there was another (not so small) child eating my hard work. I'm telling you, food does NOT last long around here!

Here's Debra's recipe and yet another reason I like Deb. She gives you the links to where she got the recipe from and even the original recipe link. I love reading through all the iterations, so for me, that's a treasure. I was actually thinking pumpkin seeds would be great in this and it turns out one of the other folks did that too. See, each person adds a little knowledge and depth to the original recipe. Brilliant.

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Granola
from Eliot's Eats

1 18 oz container old fashioned oats
1 c pecan pieces
2 tsp cinnamon (OR you can sub 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice for ALL of the spices: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom)
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
pinch ground cardamom (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c applesauce
1/2 c maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c minced fresh cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon pad and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, pecans, spices and salt. Carefully toss to mix well.

In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. Pour wet ingredients into large bowl with oat mixture and stir until the oats are evenly coated. They will be moist. Add cranberries and stir again. Evenly spread half the mixture onto each of the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 20 minutes. Stick your hand into the hot oven and stir, all while being careful not to burn the skin off your hand - don't ask, just remember Burn Stuff is the best burn product on the market. 

Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the granola is golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container.

To my sweet foodie friend Debra, thank you for bringing joy into our life. You know I'm still here for you if you need cranberries!! I completely forgot to tell you, I made venison stew with Coke the other day - it was delicious. If you are ever in Georgia, come for dinner.

A big thank you also to the ladies that run Secret Recipe Club. It has been a blast these past couple of years. I'm proud to have been part of it. Thank you for making the introductions to my new friends.

October 21, 2012

Fall Fun: Tons of Ideas and Recipes

I have this love affair with fall. It's when I seem to really start cooking again. I mean, it's not as if I'm not cooking during the summer. My family is not starving to death if you were worried.

It's just I don't LOVE cooking in the summer. It's too hot in Georgia. Truth be told, it would probably still be too hot for me in Maine, but whatever.

Fall, on the other hand, begs for cooking. The amazing apples, sweet potatoes, squashes like butternut and pumpkin. All of them are glorious!! It's a joy to pull out the food processor, and hand blender to make soups and homemade apple sauce.

As I was reminiscencing and thinking of some fall recipes I really wanted to make, I thought I'd share some from the past....

Chocolate Acorn Treats

Mummy Dogs

Rice Cake Eyes and Apple Teeth (I know this photo is TERRIBLE. Thankfully I've learned a few photography tips since then!!)

And of course, we can't forget the silly family costumes that have come in the past. This year it's another book. Stay tuned to see what we come up with!

Here are the scientist and four seasons.

This one seems to be the online favorite.

The Three Little Pigs

Butternut Squash Wedges

Apple Pie Soup

Pumpkin Lattes and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Creamy Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Hot Chocolate Cake

Crockpot Apple Butter

Happy Fall and Happy Cooking!!


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