Friday, July 29, 2011

A Favorite: Meatloaf

A Favorite: Meatloaf

Serves 4-6.

I blogged about this two years ago.  I've gotten a lot of great feedback on the recipe and it remains one of my personal favorites.  Just reminding you that it's out there.  If you haven't tried it yet, you probably should.  Plus, since it freezes so well, it a great recipe to double and freeze a few (still raw) for your later enjoyment.

2 lbs. ground beef
1 c. shredded cheddar
1 packet onion soup mix
1/2 onion, chopped
2 eggs
3/4 c. water
1/3 c. ketchup
3/4 c. bread crumbs
2-4 slices of bacon, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add all ingredients, except bacon, into a bowl and mix until evenly distributed.
Form into 4-6 mini meatloaves.

Criss cross one slice of bacon, halved, over the top of each meatloaf.

Place in baking pan and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baby and Other Stories

Baby and Other Stories by Paula Bomer

I picked this book up, sans research, after enjoying the short stories in I Was Told There'd Be Cake.  And, as I was nearing my 7/14/11 due date at the time, I thought, "Stories about babies??  How perfect!"  Perfect wouldn't necessarily be the word I'd choose now that I've read the book.  The stories were less than uplifting.  This might've been a better read for 6 months down the road, when motherhood was really starting to take an exhausting toll on me.  But even then, it's kind of depressing.  Guess I should've read the review below before diving in.  The last sentence says it all.  :)  All that said, I read the book awfully fast, so there's obviously some pull in it that makes it a good read.

Publishers Weekly review from Amazon:

Starred Review. In 10 raw and angry stories, Bomer flays the idea of happy little families, giving readers an assortment of emasculated and discarded husbands; brooding, unfulfilled wives; and the poor children--destined for therapy--unlucky enough to bind them. Bomer's characters, Brooklynites for the most part, having been coddled by adoring mothers, raised in upper-middle-class homes, and propelled from Ivy League colleges, now shrink from "the cold reality of the indifference of the universe." For Lara in the title story, having a baby turned into bitter disappointment once she realizes that winning the "ultimate contest" really entails a life of drudgery. Bomer's characters spew many ungracious thoughts, but these are forthright, hilarious, and honest, as with Edie, the snarly mother of two grown sons, who so evidently favors her golden Thomas over the needy Michael, "who was uncoordinated, who needed glasses, who clung to her as a boy too big to be clinging to his mother," that she exults in his unhappiness as a newly married man and father. This lacerating take on marriage and motherhood is not one to share with the Mommy and Me group. (Dec.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Serves 8-10.

(Before you go and click to another page, take a minute to visit this rendition of the recipe.  My friend, Courtney, has a fabulous blog that waaayy outdoes mine when it comes to witty writing and photography.  See... you love it, don't you.)

This is a simple, yet delicious, summer salad.  The dressing is so refreshing, and sugary sweet!
Slightly adapted from: Paula Deen Celebrates cookbook

One (10- to 12-oz.) package baby spinach, washed and dried
1/4 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered

1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. white wine vinegar
1/3 c. sugar
1 T. vegetable oil

In a large salad bowl, toss together the spinach, almonds, and strawberries.  In a small glass dish or jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, oil, and poppy seeds.  Whisk in the glass dish or shake if using a jar.

Dress the salad right before serving.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Serves 2, with leftovers.

Garlic mashed potatoes are a classic side dish.  And these are scrumptious!
Source: Paula Deen Celebrates cookbook

3 medium baking potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 t. salt
4 T. (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/4 c. sour cream, at room temperature
1 t. finely minced garlic
Whole milk, start with 1 T., at room temperature or warmed
Salt and pepper.

In a medium saucepan, cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan.

Add the butter, sour cream, and garlic.  Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or the back of a fork until the ingredients are blended.  Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the potatoes are the desired consistency.  Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

What a fun little book.  I don't get into short story books often, but I really enjoyed this one.  Funny stories.

Publishers Weekly review from Amazon:

Starred Review. This debut essay collection is full of sardonic wit and charm, and Crosley effortlessly transforms what could have been stereotypical tales of mid-20s life into a breezy series of vignettes with uproariously unpredictable outcomes. From the opening The Pony Problem to the hilarious Bring-Your-Machete-to-Work Day (which will ring true for any child of the early 1990s who played the first Oregon Trail computer game), Crosley is equal parts self-deprecating and endearing as she recounts her secret obsession with plastic ponies and the joys of exacting revenge via a pixilated wagon ride. In less capable hands, the subjects tackled—from unpleasant weddings of long-forgotten friends to horrendous first jobs—could have been a litany of complaints from yet another rich girl from the suburbs. But Crosley, who grew up in Westchester and currently lives in Manhattan, makes the experiences her own with a plethora of amusing twists: a volunteer job at the American Museum of Natural History leads to a moral quandary, and a simple Upper West Side move becomes anything but. Fans of Sarah Vowell's razor-sharp tongue will love this original new voice. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Serves 2.

A delicious pasta dish that would be great for when entertaining a vegetarian-friendly crowd.  The Mr. raved about this!  The original recipe is slightly different in that there are not fresh tomatoes in the pureed sauce and it's served at room temperature.  I liked thickening the sauce with a fresh tomato and serving it hot, but I think either would be delicious.  Definitely give this a try!
Adapted from: Ina Garten

3/4 box fusilli pasta
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
3 T. olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, diced
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh basil, julienned

Cook pasta according to package directions. 

Meanwhile, make sauce by adding the following to a food processor: half the chopped fresh tomatoes, half the sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt and pepper.  Process until smooth.  Transfer sauce to a small saucepan and add remaining fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella to the pot.

When pasta is cooked, drained and add to the saucepan.  Serve topped with Parmesan and fresh basil.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Raspberry Coconut Bars

Raspberry Coconut Bars

Makes about 16.

Fruity and sweet, and I love just about anything with coconut. 
Slightly adapted from: Quick Cooking magazine

1-2/3 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c. butter, melted
2-2/3 c. flaked coconut
1 can (14-oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 c. raspberry preserves
1/3 c. chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
Heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter.  Press into a 8x8 baking dish.  Sprinkle with coconut; drizzle with milk. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Spread preserves over the crust.  Sprinkle with walnuts.  In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips.  Stir until smooth, adding heavy whipping cream if necessary.  Drizzle over walnuts. Cut into bars.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Take 5: Easy Weeknight Meals, Part 2

Looking for Easy Weeknight Meals, Part 1?  Click here.

1. Morningstar Grillers Original

I eat A LOT of these.  They are quick and easy to make and have a lot of protein for a veggie burger.  I like them enough to eat them plain on a bun, but also like taking the time to cut up some fresh veggies to make it a complete sandwich.  They are also good with cheese and even The Mr. likes to have them from time to time.

2. Chicken Pad Thai

Every once in a while, you need a dinner-from-a-box.  It's homemade, but not really.  It's easy to follow the directions, and you only need to add a few extra ingredients. 

Here's what the box looks like:

Follow the directions and you'll be good to go!

3.  Oven Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

This is another staple from my childhood.  And don't stray from the Kraft Single!  For whatever reason, it's the Kraft Singles that make these sandwiches.  Sure, a fancier, nicer, unprocessed slice of cheese SOUNDS better, but the Kraft Singles melt ever so perfectly and keep these sandwiches the way they should be.  Simply build a ham and cheese sandwich on bun, wrap in foil, and place in the oven.  No need to preheat!  Pop them in, set the oven to 350 degrees, and after 30 minutes, your sandwiches will be ready to eat.

4. Cheese Quesadillas

Butter one side of a large tortilla. Lay it in a large skillet, butter side down, and place over medium heat. Immediately cover surface of tortilla with shredded Mexican-blend cheese. Butter one side of a second tortilla and lay on top of cheese, butter side up. When bottom tortilla has begun to brown and cheese has begun to melt, flip quesadilla to evenly brown the other side. If tortilla is browning too fast and cheese is not melting at the same speed, lower heat.

When cheese is fully melted and tortillas are golden brown, remove from heat, cut into wedges, and serve with taco sauce for dipping.

5. Doctored Up Pasta

In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped onions and 2 teaspoons minced garlic; cook until fragrant and onions are tender. Add 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce. Let simmer.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions on the box.

Top cooked pasta with sauce and freshly shredded mozzarella cheese; serve with a thick slice of buttery toasted Italian bread.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Prosciutto and Cheddar Sandwiches

Prosciutto and Cheddar Sandwiches

Makes 8 sandwiches.

Don't these sandwiches make you want to pack up a picnic and head to the park?  They are as simple as ham and cheese, but fancier... and more rustic.  And very delicious.  If you're not a huge mustard fan, they are equally delicious without it.
Source: Martha Stewart Living magazine

16 thin slices rustic bread (toasted if desired)
3 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
8 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
3 T. grainy mustard

Spread 8 slices of bread with butter.  Top with cheese and prosciutto.  Spread remaining 8 slices bread with mustard, and sandwich together.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rhubarb Cherry Pie

Rhubarb Cherry Pie

Serves 8.

Requested by my father-in-law, this was my first attempt at rhubarb.  He was pleased with the results so I'd say it was a success.  As you'll notice on the AllRecipes website, it got rave reviews there too.
Crust source: Mimo
Filling slightly adapted from: AllRecipes

3 c. chopped rhubarb
1 (21-oz.) can cherry pie filling
1 c. sugar
3 t. quick-cooking tapioca

Pie Crust:
1-1/2 sticks butter
1-1/2 c. flour
3 T. sugar

Make pie crust by melting butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add sugar and stir until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and stir in flour.  Stir until completely combined.  Transfer pie crust dough to pie dish and press into bottom and up sides.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine pie filling, rhubarb, sugar, and tapioca in a bowl.  Let sit for 15 minutes. Pour filling into unbaked pie shell.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.

A Note From The Little Lady: Keep an eye on your pie while it's baking. If the crust browns early, cover it loosely with foil for the remainder of the baking time to avoid burning.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Other Side of the Bridge

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

I picked this book up and was confused after reading the description as to whether or not it was a sequel to Lawson's first book, Crow Lake.  After further research, I found that it's not, but those who liked The Other Side of the Bridge seemed to also rave about Crow Lake.  I found the book fairly slow, and wouldn't rave about it, but it gets great ratings on Amazon, so maybe you'll like it.

Publishers Weekly review from Amazon:

In this follow-up to her acclaimed Crow Lake, Lawson again explores the moral quandaries of life in the Canadian North. At the story's poles are Arthur Dunn, a stolid, salt-of-the-earth farmer, and his brother, Jake, a handsome, smooth-talking snake in the grass, whose lifelong mutual resentments and betrayals culminate in a battle over the beautiful Laura, with Arthur, it seems, the unlikely winner. Observing, and eventually intervening in their saga, is Ian, a teenager who goes to work on Arthur's farm to get close to Laura, seeing in her the antithesis of the mother who abandoned his father and him. It's a standard romantic dilemma—who to choose: the goodhearted but dull provider or the seductive but unreliable rogue?—but it gains depth by being set in Lawson's epic narrative of the Northern Ontario town of Struan as it weathers Depression, war and the coming of television. It's a world of pristine landscapes and brutal winters, where beauty and harshness are inextricably intertwined, as when Ian brings home a puppy that gambols adorably about—and then playfully kills Ian's even cuter pet bunny. Lawson's evocative writing untangles her characters' confused impulses toward city and country, love and hate, good and evil. (Oct. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pusser's Rum Cake

Pusser's Rum Cake

Serves 10-12 per cake, 20-24 per recipe.

With each cake only having 1/8 cup of rum in the batter (plus the slight bit that's added as a glaze on top), these cakes definitely have a rum flavor.  Simultaneously, though, it's not quite as overwhelming as I expected.  This cake is extremely moist, and the buttery, sugary glaze gives the top the perfect bit of crunch. Serve this up with a Pusser's Painkiller for the perfect summer afternoon treat.
Source: Cruising World

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 1/2 cups butter, softened and divided
1 (16 ounce) package light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup Pusser's dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Pusser's light rum
2 tablespoons water
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Grease and flour 2 (6-cup) Bundt pans or 2 (9- x 5-inch) loaf pans, and sprinkle evenly with pecans, if using.
Beat 11/4 cups butter at medium speed with an electric mixer about 2 minutes or until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar and 1/4 cup sugar, beating 5 to 7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears.

Combine milk, dark rum, and vanilla.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 30 minutes; remove from pans.

Bring remaining 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 cup butter, light rum, and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a saucepan, and boil, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Drizzle over warm cakes, and cool completely on wire racks.

Two Notes From The Little Lady: If you are looking to cut the recipe in half, 8 oz. of brown sugar is roughly one packed AND heaping cup.

The recipe says to allow cakes to cool for 15 minutes in the pans before removing.  Since I knew it was important that the glaze be applied while the cakes were still warm, I followed the directions and attempted to remove after 15 minutes.  Bad idea.  The cake, as I had kind-of expected, wasn't ready to be removed and it fell apart.  Accidents happen.  Try, try again.
Here's my first attempt: FAILURE.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Passion Bars

Passion Bars

Makes about 24.

Two things you can consider when making these.  First -- The photo above shows a passion bar baked in a 13x9 baking dish.  Next time, I might try baking in a 9x9 square baking dish, which would make each of the layers a little thicker and, in my opinion, better overall.  Second -- Got mini chocolate chips on hand?  Consider swapping out the regular size chocolate chips for the minis.  I think they would work well in this recipe.
Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!

2 c. quick oats
1 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 c. butter, softened
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. chocolate chips
Additional 1/2 c. chocolate chips and heavy cream, for drizzle (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13x9 baking dish.

Stir together oats, flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.  Cut in butter.  Reserve 1-1/2 cups of the crumbly mixture and pat the rest into the prepared pan.

Stir together sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter.  Heat in microwave for 45-60 seconds, stirring halfway through.  Spread over oatmeal layer.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over peanut butter layer and crumble reserved oat mixture over top.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until edges begin to turn a golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  If you wish to add the chocolate drizzle, melt remaining chocolate chips, adding heavy cream by the tablespoonful, until a drizzling consistency is reached.  Place in refrigerator to allow chocolate to set.  Cut into bars.