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July 31, 2013

Taking a Blogging Break Before School Starts

You may notice that my posts for the next little bit will be mostly guest posts and sponsored blog posts. I am taking a little bit of a break from food posts before my oldest starts school next Thursday. I want to be able to enjoy my kids for the last week before our schedule gets crazy from the school year. Plus with a food blog since I cook all the recipes, take the photos, edit the photos, and write the posts it's more than necessary to take a break every once in while :) I hope you will stick around until I get back! Have a great week everyone, see you next week.

July 30, 2013

#Sponsored: The Boys & Girls Club (BGCA) and JCPenney Cares Round Up Campaign

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

I learned about hard work from my parents growing up. Both of them struggled through school, my dad with a learning didisability and my mother was sick for the last two years of high-school. They barely graduated high-school, but were some of the hardest working and smartest people that I have known. My mother read everything she could get her hands on and my dad could do math in his head faster than anyone I have ever met. However, due to life circumstances they worked hard labor jobs. My dad was an aid at a nursing home and then a janitor, my mother did data entry for an auto parts warehouse. We were by no means rich, but our house was full of love and my mother always managed to provide for me, even going so far as getting me a scholarship to go to Washington, DC in middle school. Since both of my parents worked so hard there was no one able to be home with me in the evenings when I came home from school. Thankfully my mother was resourceful and I was able to get a scholarship for after school care at the Boys and Girls Club near our house. Having somewhere to go after school where I could do my homework, study and be around other kids saved me from getting into trouble. I studied, I graduated first in my high-school class and went on to get a master's degree. There were many things that contributed to my success and I firmly believe that the Boys and Girls Club was one of them.

If you are like me and think that the Boys and Girls Club (BGCA) is a great place for kids you can support them by shopping! Right now they are partnering with JCPenney for the 'JCPenney Cares Round Up Campaign'. In the month of July JCPenney is rounding up purchases to the nearest whole dollar. 100 percent of the donations raised will go to BGCA. Who doesn't love giving back while shopping? 

For more information on the BGCA and jcpenney ‘round up campaign’ – please click here: www.greatfutures.org/backtoschool

July 29, 2013

Tuna, Cotija and Corn Tacos with Lime and Mango

Tuna, Cotija and Corn Tacos with Lime and Mango
Tuna, Cotija and Corn Tacos with Lime and Mango



Growing up I told everyone that would listen that I was never having kids. If I did I had already decided that I would adopt and then it would just be one. I grew up an only child, but my mother was the oldest of 12 so at all times one of my aunts, uncles or cousins was either living with us or at our house. It could be a little crazy. Then I met my husband and everything changed. I was overcome with this strange new emotion of wanting kids. Not just any kids, but our kids. It's funny how life can hit you without much warning. What I didn't expect at that time was that I would have two boys. I love my boys tremendously, but having two boys is more work than I ever expected. Right now they are at each others throats everyday, all day. This morning they had a big fight over magnets. While this might sound harmless I have boys so they aren't just verbal fights, they wrestle, shove etc. My oldest starts school next week and I am more than ready to going back to only having one child during the day. I think that I needed a better manual before having all boys, my house can be complete chaos. One of the few things that my two boys can agree on is seafood, they both love it. Today I tried a new recipe for Tuna, Cotija and Corn Tacos with Lime and Mango from the May 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine.

Cabell County Courthouse Huntington, WV
Cabell County Courthouse Huntington, WV


This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 12 tacos. I did make a few significant changes to the original recipe. First, the original recipe is vegetarian. With three males in my house they just wouldn't have gotten full with just corn and cheese. Therefore I used frozen tuna steaks, which I grilled and then sliced. Then I added the tuna to the tacos along with the rest of the recipe ingredients. I cooked my tortillas in a pan on my gas stove until they had grill marks. My cilantro went bad before I was able to make the recipe so I left it out.

Ritter Park Huntington, WV
Ritter Park Huntington, WV


The fresh corn in this recipe was delicious. Without the tuna this dish would not have much protein. The addition of the tuna made the recipe for my family. Tuna steaks really are a great source of protein and they have great flavor in tacos. My boys were huge fans of the fresh mango, they ate a whole mango by themselves. If you aren't a fan of tuna, Mahi Mahi would work as well.

The two photos (not of food) in this post are of the town that I live in Huntington, WV. There are a number of large parks which my kids love spending time walking and playing in. 

For the recipe go to Cotija and Corn Tacos with Lime and Mango.


Cotija and Corn Tacos

Recipe Type: Main
Summary:
A simple recipe for tacos using fresh corn and cotija cheese.
Preparation Time: 0h, 25m
Total Time: 0h, 25m
Yield: 12 Tacos

July 28, 2013

Baingan Bharta: Eggplant Curry

Eggplant Curry
Eggplant Curry




For the last week my husband has been off work for vacation. Now for most people this would be a good thing. While I enjoy spending time with my husband I am ready for him to go back to work. I have a clear system to my weekdays. Everyday I get up and have my cup of coffee and spend about 1/2 just by myself until my kids wake up. Then the day goes pretty much the same until my husband gets home. Summers are harder since both of my kids are home all day. I prefer the school year where my oldest goes to the bus at 7:30 and it's just my youngest and I the rest of the day. I have always been this way. While some people like things to happen as they come, I'm a planner. I prefer things to be planned out and know far ahead of time before the event happens. All this ties in with my husband being on vacation. It spells more housework for me and a rift in my everyday flow. Most of all I am exhausted from his vacation and need a week to recover. I think I need a vacation from my husband's vacation. Since my husband has been home for the last week I have been trying to make a larger variety of foods. Last week I tried a new recipe for Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry) from the new All Recipes magazine.

Roses at Ritter Park Rose Garden Huntington, WV
Roses at Ritter Park Rose Garden Huntington, WV


This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes 50 minutes of total time, 20 minutes of which is active and makes 3 servings. I did make a few changes to the original recipe. First, I doubled the recipe. One eggplant would not have been enough to feed my family of four. I did only use one seeded jalapeno, instead of doubling the amount to two since my two boys aren't fans of spicy foods. I allowed the onions to fully caramelize before following the remainder of the recipe. Caramelized onions have a great taste and I love using them in recipes. I allowed my veggies to cook on medium with the lid on for 10 minutes. The eggplant that I used was large and it didn't fully cook during the oven baking time so the additional cooking time allowed it to soften. 

Roses at Ritter Park Rose Garden Huntington, WV
Roses at Ritter Park Rose Garden Huntington, WV


My husband and I really enjoyed this recipe. While it does not photograph well, it tasted delicious. The eggplant taste was mellow and not overpowering. My two kids tried it, but they weren't too impressed. The recipe is definitely more adult friendly. It's a nice way to have curry at home without having to pay for expensive take out or restaurant food.

The rose pictures are from the rose garden at the park by our house. My kids love visiting it and my husband and I actually were married in it 10 years ago in August. It really is a beautiful place to visit!

For the recipe go to Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry).

July 27, 2013

Smoky Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Mango Salsa

Smoky Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Mango Salsa
Smoky Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Mango Salsa





Everyone else in my city seemed to be at our local Hot dog Festival today. I was not. I have been twice, but since I can't eat gluten the thought of throwing away a ton of hot dog buns isn't appealing. In addition the last time we went I was pregnant with my youngest and they wanted to charge me 10 dollars for a lemonade. We live in one of the poorest areas of the US, 10 dollars seems like a lot of money given that minimum wage is under 8 dollars an hour. Instead I took my boys to the library to enter their raffle tickets for the summer reading program and then when second hand store shopping. I love going thrifting. I grew up with a super frugal mother that made everything from scratch and stretched money better than anyone that I know. I try to be the same way. Right now we need a new desk for our dining room/home office area. I refuse to buy a desk that comes in a box, that I will have to put together and then will commence to fall apart in two years. Instead I am going to look for a desk that needs a little TLC and then redo it. I love redoing old furniture. I stained our dining room table this summer and it looks so much better. Today was a bust, but I might try the flea market tomorrow. Last week was a laid back food week. I haven't been motivated to be in the kitchen for a long amount of time so I have been trying recipes that takes less than an hour start to finish. I tried a new recipe for Smoky Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Mango Salsa from Family Circle magazine.

Heirloom Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes
Heirloom Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes



This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 45 minutes of total time, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I made a number of changes to the original recipe. First I made two tenderloins since with three males in my house one just wouldn't be enough. I tried cooking the two tenderloins in the oven and they just didn't want to completely temp in the oven, so I pulled them out and finished in a pan on the stove. Honestly for tenderloin I prefer grilling or pan cooking. Over cooked pork can be tough and the oven method is hard to get to temp evenly. The recipes states to let the pork cook until 145 degrees. With a 10 minute rest this is over done. Meat does not stop cooking once it's pulled out of the oven. It will continue to cook when it is resting, normally 5-10 degrees. I pull my pork out at 135 and it always hits temp after the rest period. Obviously it is up to you with what you feel comfortable feeding your family, but I prefer my pork to still be tender.

Garden Strawberries
Garden Strawberries


The pork in this recipe was delicious. The salsa was great also, but I was unimpressed with the mashed sweet potatoes suggested for a side. It was just too sweet and I didn't like the orange flavor. A regular baked potato would be a better side dish or a baked sweet potato if you prefer. As a side note I have decided to start including more photos in my post so there isn't 3 paragraphs with no visual break. I know that I can get bored with too many words, so I am going to make an attempt to show a little bit of my life outside of the kitchen. Today it's photos of my garden, but in the future it will be a variety of scenes from my city and life. Hopefully that will be a little easier to read and give my readers a glimpse into West Virginia life.

For the recipe go to Smoky Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Mango Salsa. (registration required)

July 26, 2013

Heirloom Tomato Pizza Sauce

Heirloom Tomato Pizza Sauce and Homemade Pizza Crust
Heirloom Tomato Pizza Sauce and Homemade Pizza Crust



According to my husband I am mean. Not mean to people's faces, but the fact that my expectations of how other people should behave is too high. All of this came to mind today when I picked up my two boys from their last day of day camp at our local library. I was raised that you bring a small card and gift at the end of the school year to thank the teacher for taking care of (dealing with) your children. So I stopped and bought a card and a small gift card to give to their teacher for the week. My kids were very excited to give the card and thank their teacher. There was only one other child and her grandmother that thanked the teacher. I was a little miffed, but I let it go. Then when I was walking down the stairs I had two teenagers run past me without saying a word. They brushed me and I had to grab the rail. Maybe I am old school, but even at the grocery store when I walk in front of someone I say excuse me. I am beginning to worry that the generations under me seem to have lost respect. Then again maybe my husband is right and I am just too mean. The highlight of the last two days for me has been that my heirloom tomatoes are finally ripe. Since I have had an abundance of tomatoes I decided to make homemade pizza sauce. Here is the recipe I came up with:
  • 6 heirloom tomatoes (Mr. Stripey and Mortgage Lifters)
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 sweet onion, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced basil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano
  • Pizza crust (I made mine from scratch)
Blanch the tomatoes to remove the skins. Place tomatoes in a food processor or blender and liquefy. You may remove the seeds if you wish, I keep them in. Add the olive oil to a pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion and let slightly brown. Add garlic and let cook for approximately 30 seconds. Take the pureed tomatoes and add to the onion and garlic. Make sure that you use a pan with a large surface area. It helps to make the sauce reduce. Turn the stove down to low. Allow the tomato sauce to cook until thickened, approximately an hour to 1 1/2. The sauce should be very thick and have reduced a great deal. Salt.

Heirloom Tomato Pizza Sauce
Heirloom Tomato Pizza Sauce


After the sauce is done make your pizza! I cook my pizza on a pizza stone at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Of course I make a gluten free version for myself, since I can't have regular pizza crust :) That's it, it has a great sweet taste that is perfect for pizza.

July 25, 2013

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies



After two and half years of blogging I decided that I needed to get over my fear of having myself photographed. I have never liked photos. I inherited my dad's rather large nose (thanks dad!) that in photographs looks horribly large. I have become great over the years in making sure I am looking down or having my hair cover most of my face. However, as my boys have gotten older I have realized a number of things. I lost both my mother and grandmother to cancer. Once someone is gone all that you are left with are the memories you have stored and photographs. I don't want my kids to remember me without a photograph to remember my face. I want them to be able to show their grand children what I looked like and take pride in where they came from. So I've come out from behind the camera. I promise this was not an easy decision, I still cringe at my photos, but I am slowly getting better. Now that you know my face, on to the recipe. This week my two boys have been in day camp at the library so I have been baking a number of snacks for when they come home in the afternoon. Yesterday I tried a new recipe for Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I doubled the amount of white chocolate chips. My two boys are big chocolate chip fans and since they were eating these as treats I increased the amount. The dough was hard to work with when first combined so I set the bowl in the fridge for a 1/2 hour. After it had cooled I formed the dough into balls and flattened them slightly before adding to the baking sheet.

These cookies are a little more adult oriented. My husband liked that they weren't overly sweet, but my two boys weren't fans of the brown sugar. The cookies do have less sugar than most cookie recipes, which was a bonus to me, but a downside for my kids. My husband would rather not of had the dried cranberries, he would have preferred dried cherries instead. This is a recipe that could easily be modified to include other dried fruits or chocolate chip flavors.

For the recipe go to Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

July 24, 2013

Pulled Pork Cemita Sandwiches

Pulled Pork Cemita Sandwich
Pulled Pork Cemita Sandwich


My heirloom tomatoes have finally started to ripen. I wasn't sure if they were going to actually product fruit since we had so much rain for most of May and June. Luckily after lots of attention and pruning my tomato plants are growing like crazy. My oldest son, who helped plant all our fruits and vegetables this year is very excited. He already ate two whole tomatoes like apples for dinner tonight. Even my husband who isn't a big fan of tomatoes had to admit that the heirlooms were delicious. There is something so quintessentially summer about heirloom tomatoes, I love them. Our weather has finally cooled down so even though my tomatoes are in their full summer glory, my house has been much cooler. Even with the cooler temps I have been still using my slow cooker like crazy. This week I tried a new recipe for Pulled Pork Cemita Sandwiches from the May 2013 issue of Family Circle.

This recipe 13 ingredients. It takes 8 hours and 10 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 8 servings. I did make a few changes to the original recipe. First, I made my own hamburger rolls from scratch. They are much better than store bought and easy to make. Second, I was unable to find black bean spread so I bought black bean dip and boiled it down until it was thickened. For the tomatoes I used the heirlooms from my garden.

The pork in this recipe turned out very tender. I added a lot of the liquid back in the pork in order to keep it moist. My husband loved the recipe and ate three sandwiches for dinner the night I made the dish. I ate my serving over basmati rice since I can't eat gluten. If you like more heat in your recipes you increase the chili powder or decrease if you want it milder.

For the recipe go to Pulled Pork Cernita Sandwiches. (registration required)

July 23, 2013

#Sponsored: Enjoy Your Summer with Bomb Pops

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Bomb Pop. I received  product samples, a party kit, and a promotional item as a thank you for participating. 

Picture of Sugar Free Bomb Pops #bombpops
Sugar Free Bomb Pops

I have two very different children. My youngest is very active, he loves to run and never seems to sit still. On the other hand is my oldest. He has tried just about every sport I can find. Tennis lasted for a season as did t-ball. Then he decided he was done with both. He is very smart, but just has no co-ordination what so ever. I do have one rule, that he sticks with a sport through the end of the season. In the summer I try to keep my family as active as possible. I love spending time outdoors watching my kids play, be it in sports or just running around the park. After being outside I love enjoying a cold treat to cool everyone down. This summer I was given the opportunity to host a Bomb Pop party at my house. 

Since it was summer and we enjoy spending time outside, I hosted my Bomb Party at our local park with my kid's friends. It has been very hot for the last couple of months so I kept the food simple. We had a total of about 7 kids and their parents. I brought a grill and we had hot dogs and hamburgers and a few sides. For dessert we had 4 different kinds of Bomb Pops: Original, Hawaiian Punch, Sour Wower and Sugar Free. I liked that there is a sugar free version since I try to limit the amount of sugar my youngest one consumes since he has had a bad history with cavities. 

Hawaiian Punch Bomb Pops
Hawaiian Punch Bomb Pops


Here is a little background about Bomb Pops in case you have never tried them before: 

Wells Enterprises, Inc. is the largest privately held, family-owned ice cream and frozen treat manufacturer in the United States. The company was founded in 1913 and is headquartered in Le Mars, Iowa, the Ice Cream Capital of the World. Wells produces more than 1,100 ice cream and frozen novelty products, including its signature brand, Blue Bunny®, and super premium brand, 2nd St. CreameryTM and the iconic Bomb Pop®. Wells also manufactures licensed frozen treat brands including Yoplait® frozen yogurt and Weight Watchers® frozen novelties.

Bomb Pop flavors are available at retailers nationwide for a suggested retail price of $2.99 for a box of 12 pops. The party was a nice way to spend time outdoors and my kids loved being able to have a cool treat to enjoy on a hot day. I appreciate that there are multiple flavors to try and that their is a sugar free option for people wanting to avoid too much sugar. Plus with a 12 pack being only 2.99 they are reasonably priced.
To learn more information about all Bomb Pop varieties go to: 

http://www.bombpop.com/ 

July 22, 2013

Regional Food Trends: Kentucky Beer Cheese

Click for Recipe for Kentucky Beer Cheese
Kentucky Beer Cheese



Each state has at least one signature food. West Virginia is the home of the pepperoni roll. If you have never had one, they are delicious. A sweet, yeasty roll with pepperoni and sometimes mozzarella or pepper jack cheese. Growing up in Seattle everything revolved around salmon and pan-Asian food. I learned to make sushi when I was 9 and still love it to this day. Where you grow up has a large influence on the types of food you eat and what you learn to cook. When I moved to West Virginia I had no idea how to cook southern food. I had never made a biscuit in my life and I had only made gravy from a can. After meeting and marrying my husband I turned to my mother-in-law for help. Over the past 10 years I have learned to make all the foods my husband loves. My husband's side of the family lives in Kentucky and he is obsessed with Kentucky foods. He is obsessed to the point he stocks up on Ale 8 when we go to the grocery store on the other side of the river. One of his favorite regional foods is Kentucky Beer Cheese, so I tried a new recipe for it this week.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes 15 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 16 servings. My husband made the majority of this recipe and he made a few changes. I had to help him use the blender since I don't think he had ever used it before. He was a fast learner though. For the cheddar he used extra sharp cheddar, PBR beer, 3 cloves of garlic, Tabasco and a slight amount of horseradish. When I blended the cheese in the blender I added it in batches, putting the beer in first. After the cheese was blended I let it sit overnight in the fridge for the taste to mellow.

The first day this cheese is made it's pretty strong. However, by the second day it's perfect. I would suggest cutting the garlic down to only 2 cloves and my husband thinks that it would be better with Yuengling beer. It is great served with crackers or spread on a toasted baguette.

Does your region have a food that it is known for? (I love finding out about regional foods!).

For the recipe go to Kentucky Beer Cheese. 

July 21, 2013

Turn Off the Oven in the Heat: Trail Mix Treasures

Click for Recipe for Trail Mix Treasures
Trail Mix Treasures



The story of when I decided to learn to bake is sad-funny. As I have discussed before I learned to bake from cookbooks, what I haven't talked about is when or why I started baking in the first place. It's a story that goes back to my great-grandmother's funeral. My mother was the oldest of 12 kids and was always close to her grandparents. We went up to visit every summer and my mom spoke to them on the phone a lot. After my great-grandfather passed away I was lucky to be given one of the metal donkeys that he crafted out of old bolts and screws. I still have it and my children have heard exactly where it came from and that one day it will be theirs. When my great-grandmother was in her 90's my mother decided that I should go and spend some time with her for the summer. I was 12 and she lived in a very small town in Eastern WA. So for a week I spent time with my 93 year old great-grandmother. She taught me to spin wool on a wheel, to weave with an old fashioned weaving board and to write. One of the most important things she taught me was that I should remember everything by writing it down. She gave me a journal to write all about my stay, and I did. I took pictures of her, I drew and I wrote. Not long after my trip she passed away. I was one of the last people to spend a lot of time with her and I cherish the memory. At her funeral there was a beautiful cake. It was a beautiful day and that cake was gorgeous. Until I took a bite, it tasted like rose water. Not a little bit, but entirely like rose water. My mother took a bite and burst out laughing. It was disgusting. We both decided that my great-grandmother would have hated it and would have probably said something sarcastic. She was very opinionated (something that I am glad to say I inherited). It was then and there that I decided I would learn to bake. Not a cake that tasted like rose water, but an actual cake. And so I did. Now days I bake for my kids. I tell them stories about the strong women in my mom's family (great-grandmother, grandmother, and my mom) that they will never be able to meet. I hope that through me they will learn a little bit about how to low to bake and cook and to love the family that they came from. Today I tried a new recipe for Trail Mix Treasures from the Ocean Spray website.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. I followed the recipe pretty closely to how it was written. Instead of using semi-sweet chocolate I used all natural dark chocolate chips. I prefer using dark chocolate in baking, especially if the recipe is already sweet. I sprayed the pan with non-stick spray in order for it to stop from sticking.

Since I was unable to find gluten free rice krispies at my local store, this became a treat for everyone, but me in the house. I did eat a number of chocolate chips out of the bag, I have a bad habit with that. While the dark chocolate chips were good, I think this recipe would also be great with white chocolate chips. White chocolate chips and dried cranberries seem to go hand in hand. I cut big pieces so I ended up with 12 pieces in total. My oldest son was not a big fan of the roasted pumpkin seeds, but my youngest disagreed. If your kids don't like pumpkin seeds roasted almonds or cashews would be great substitutes.

For the recipe go to Trail Mix Treasures.

July 20, 2013

Hot Out of the Oven: Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

Click for Recipe for Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread
Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread



My husband grew up in a small town. There are supposedly 2000 residents still living in it, but I believe that they are counting chickens and pets. It's a great small town and I love visiting my in-laws at least twice a year. My boys go up and fish, take hikes in the forest and generally love every minute of their stay. There is literally one stop light in the whole town and my in-laws know everyone by name. My dad grew up in an even smaller town (there was no stop sign at all), so small town life was something I grew up surrounded by. One of my favorite aspects is the casserole. Every time someone is sick or dies my mother-in-law makes a covered dish. My husband jokes that the way that you can spot a Methodist is by the covered dish socials. She makes a mean casserole and I love her cooking. It is also a long standing joke in my household that when my mother-in-law calls and asks me if my husband knows such and such that that person is either ill or dead. Since most people in the town are getting older (like the whole state of WV) there are a lot more casseroles to be made and a lot more phone calls. There is something very comforting about sitting around in my in-laws kitchen while my mother-in-law cooks. The town looks and feels like it could of stepped right out of a 1950's sitcom, it feels like home. It's also one of the many reasons that I love my state. Homemade bread is one food that instantly makes me feel the same way that small town WV does, comforted and perfect. This week I tried a new recipe for Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread from the Betty Crocker website.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 3 hours and 10 minutes of total time, 35 minutes of which is active and makes 16 servings (per loaf). Since I make bread every week I take the easy way out and combine all the ingredients in my mixer. After they have been combined I take out the dough and knead it by hand for 6 minutes. I do not wait for the yeast to proof. I know that my yeast is fine so I add the yeast to the dry ingredients on the bottom of the bowl and then add the wet ingredients on top. I allow the egg to come to room temp before adding so it doesn't shock the yeast. Rising times are really relative. My kitchen always takes at least 2 hours for a good rise, even in the summer. Don't think that if your dough has not come over the top of the loaf pan in an hour that you did anything wrong, it just needs longer to rise. Make sure that it has just come to the top of the pan and not puffed over or your bread tops will fall during baking. With breads with egg they will rise over the top nicely when placed in the oven.

The tops of this bread turned out beautiful. It rose very nicely in the oven and the dough was very easy to work with. I only had to add a little under 6 cups of flour and the dough was very smooth, which was nice. So many dough recipes have a tough dough to work with before kneading, but this bread was an easy to work with and simple to complete. Plus since it makes two loaves it was enough for three days. You can also freeze the second loaf for later use, just make sure to wrap it well in butcher paper.

For the recipe go to Cinnamon Swirl Bread.

July 18, 2013

A Sweet Way to Start the Day: Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Click for Recipe for Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Chocolate Chip Pancakes



I learned to bake from cookbooks. My mother was a fabulous cook, but she rarely baked. When she did it was great, however, she claimed she never enjoyed it. I am the opposite, I love to bake. I find it relaxing and when I get stressed out I bake up a storm. My oldest son also seems to share my love of baking. He helps me out in the kitchen and loves measuring out ingredients. I think his favorite part of the process is the eating. My two boys can eat up a storm and seem to be hungry as soon as they are done eating their last meal. Since my kids are continuously hungry I bake and cook a lot during the week. I love big breakfasts, in particular pancakes and waffles. Today I tried a new recipe for Chocolate Chip Pancakes from the Food Network.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 35 minutes of total time, all of which is active. I made very few changes to the original recipe. I use an electric griddle to make my pancakes. It ensures that they brown without burning and makes great pancakes. I cheated on the recipe a bit. Instead of melting the butter and milk on the stove, I melted the butter in the microwave and then added the milk and let it cool to room temperature. Since I was using a griddle I did not use melted butter, but canola oil spray instead.

Since I can't eat gluten I was unable to taste these pancakes. However, my two kids are always honest with their opinions (even when they hate something). They really loved these pancakes. I liked that they baked up easily and weren't overly flat or fluffy. My kids like their pancakes somewhere in between, which is exactly what these pancakes were. Plus they browned very evenly with no problems with burning, which is always nice.

For the recipe go to Chocolate Chip Pancakes.

July 17, 2013

Summer Grilling Time: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Click for recipe for Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Jamaican Jerk Chicken



It is finally raining after a very hot week. Some people love the heat and humidity, I am not one of them. Having grown up in Seattle even when summer was at it hottest it was nowhere like it is where I live now. My mother was determined before she came out for my wedding that according to the weather channel the humidity wouldn't be that bad. It was 95 and very humid the day of my wedding. My mother never said another word about the weather. It didn't help anything that our wedding was outside, the rose garden was beautiful where we were married, but it was hot! Even my tomatoes are unhappy with the near 100 degree, hot and humid weather this week. They are not happy at all and I have lost a number of leaves to heat scorch. So let it rain as much as it want. There is something great about southern summer storms. Since the heat has been high I have been using the oven as little as possible. Yesterday I tried a new recipe for Jamaican Jerk Chicken from Redbook magazine.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 22 minutes of total time (plus marinating), all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I only made a few changes o the original recipe. First I used a seeded jalapeno. Since my kids were eating it I wanted to cut down on the spiciness. I used my indoor electric grill, with this heat I had no desire to go outside. I left out the time, because honestly I forgot. I was too busy doing other things that I failed to read it in the ingredient list. I served the finished chicken with basmati rice.

The sauce on this chicken is deliciuos. It is a nice combination of spicy and sweet. Seeding the jalapenos was perfect, it really cut down on the heat, which was perfect for my kids. This dish was even better the next day after the flavors had sat on the chicken over night. Plus it re-heated very well.

This recipe is currently not available online (Redbook's decision - not mine). You can find it in the August issue of Redbook magazine. (I think that is the issue, but for whatever reason they don't put the month on the bottom of the recipe pages - hint, hint Redbook). 

July 16, 2013

Summer At It's Best: Homemade Strawberry Scones

Click for Recipe for Gluten Free Strawberry Scones
Gluten Free Strawberry Scones



I am attempting to convince my dad to move to West Virginia. If you've read my blog for any given amount of time you will know that I don't talk about my dad often. It's not for a lack of devotion, but more about him being the only parent I have left. My mother died of brain cancer 2500 miles away from me when my oldest was 9 days old. She was only sick for about a year and I was pregnant almost the whole time. The reason I had my oldest son as young as I did was to try to make sure my mother met a grandchild before she became too ill. I strongly believe she lasted until he was born from sheer will power. My dad and I were always extremely close growing-up. He raised me as if I were a boy, we went to sports games, he taught me to throw a punch. I have never really been a girly girl thanks to him, but I am a very strong and opinionated adult woman. In January he went into kidney failure after refusing to go to the doctor for almost 20 years. He spent 2 months in the hospital 2500 miles away from me. I called him 3 times a day and all the hospital staff knew me by name from all my phone calls. He is now home and starting dialysis this week. Since my mother passed away he has lived by himself in an over priced one bedroom apartment. So everyday when I call him I remind him of how great my state is. Yesterday I finally felt a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I mentioned that he could take the train to Chicago and we could meet him and take the train all together the rest of the way. After a pause he said he would look into it. It's a start. My mother loved going to tea and most importantly delicious scones. Thinking of her I made a new recipe for Strawberry Scones from the May 2013 issue of Parade Magazine.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. I takes a total time of 30 minutes, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 8 servings. I did make a few changes to the original recipe. I made two batches of these, one gluten free and one regular. I found with both batches that they weren't very sweet. Now traditional scones are meant to not be very sweet. I am spoiled though and love a little bit of sugar in my scones since that is how my mother prepared them. If you are like me I would suggest doubling the amount of sugar to 6 tablespoons. Make sure to watch the scones, they will brown very quickly at the end and then start to burn on the bottom if you aren't careful. With the gluten free scones I would recommend adding even a little bit more sugar if you are using a gluten free all-purpose flour or better yet use coconut flour. Without the added sugar the gluten free scones had a slightly bitter taste. Finally, if you like lots of fruit in your scones I would double the amount of strawberries. I like my scones filled with strawberries so I added a lot more than the original recipe stated.

When these scones were slathered with homemade jam they were great. Without jam I found them a little low on fruit and the gluten free ones weren't sweet enough. If you eat them with jam they have the right amount of sugar though. My kids thought these were a little crumby since they had eggs. Traditional scones just have butter and heavy cream. I would consider these more of a biscuit.

For the recipe go to Strawberry Scones.

July 15, 2013

Summer Slow-Cooker Meals: Spicy Pumpkin Chili

Click for Recipe for Slow Cooker Spicy Pumpkin Chili
Slow Cooker Spicy Pumpkin Chili



There are days I get burnt out as a stay-at-home mom. This has been one of those weeks. I love my kids and spending time at home with them everyday. However, there is also the flip side. I started working as an intern when I was 17. I stayed at the company for 7 years until I moved to West Virginia. During grad school I worked three jobs, including teaching a class. I met my husband and got married during my master's program and have stayed home since. Then there are the moments when you realize all the things that your high-school friends that got married and had kids later have accomplished. Some of them have been very, very successful. There is always that awkward situation when everyone that I knew back in Seattle talks about how smart and successful I was when I was younger. I know they don't mean it the way it comes out, but it still gives me pause. My husband thinks that I should start claiming that I work at home since I blog and take care of the household. Maybe he's right. I can always hope that one day my blog will become vastly successful, but we all know that's unrealistic. In the meantime I remind myself that my kids are growing up surrounded by my love and knowledge. That's enough rambling for now, onto the cooking! This weekend I chose to keep my cooking simple and I relied on my slow cooker. I tried a new recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Chili from the new All Recipes magazine.

This recipe has 18 ingredients. It takes 1 1/2 hours of total time, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 10 servings. I did make a few changes to the original recipe. First, I allowed my chili to cook in the slow cooker for 4 hours on low. I like my flavors to fully come to fruition so I increased the total cooking time. It would also work well on the stove in a dutch oven or a big pot with a lid. I was unable to find my crushed red pepper flakes, so I was forced to leave them out. Finally, I used a full 8 ounces of tomato sauce with garlic. I also found that I needed to add more salt than the 1 teaspoon suggested by the recipe.

My husband liked that this recipe has the health benefits of pumpkin without the taste being overly noticeable. He isn't a big fan of pumpkin, but he was surprised by how much he enjoyed this recipe. I love pumpkin and chili so this was a dish I really liked. It made a very big batch, more than enough for at least 10 servings. For the servings for my kids I added cheese and sour cream. They aren't big chili fans so these additions made them willing to eat their bowls. If you like your chili on the spicy side I would suggest adding jalapenos or a bit of cayenne. Since I cook with my kids in mind I always try to have my recipes be on the mild side.

For the recipe go to Spicy Pumpkin Chili.

July 14, 2013

Cooking with Fresh Herbs: Fresh Rosemary Muffins

Click for Recipe for Gluten Free Fresh Rosemary Muffins
Gluten Free Fresh Rosemary Muffins


My oldest son only has three weeks left of summer vacation. He has been great about working on his workbooks and is more than ready to start second grade. My youngest is ready for his older brother to go back to school so he can have his days back to being just him and I. With only one child at home it is much easier to go places during the day and the pace of my house is more mellow. The only problem is that my oldest is very nervous about starting second grade. He is worried that all of his friends will be in other classes, he won't like his teacher and that the work will be too hard. I felt so bad when he came to me the other day in tears with all of his fears. I know he will be fine after the first day, he just needs to get through the next 3 weeks. In the meantime I have been baking foods that he likes. Yesterday I tried a new recipe for Fresh Rosemary Muffins from Southern Living magazine.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 35 minutes of total time, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 12 muffins. I did make a few changes. First I substituted gluten free all-purpose flour for the regular wheat flour. Secondly, I was unable to find currants at my local store so I doubled the amount of raisins. Since I made the muffins gluten free I added 2 eggs instead of 1. I often increase the amount of egg when I convert baking recipes to being gluten free. I ended up with a total of 11 muffins which took just barely 20 minutes to bake.

These muffins have a nice sweet taste that blends well with the savory goat cheese. They made a great breakfast with scrambled eggs. My husband thought they were a little sweet for anything other than a dessert or snack, but my kids loved them like I did for breakfast. Overall this was a nice way to use fresh rosemary and worked well being converted to being gluten free.

For the recipe go to Fresh Rosemary Muffins.

July 12, 2013

Looking for a Use For Fresh Zucchini? Try Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Click for Recipe for Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Cake



My first tomatoes were finally ripe enough to eat this morning. So for breakfast I had a sliced heirloom tomato and an omelet with fresh basil from my herb garden. There is something about food that comes from your garden that always tastes so much better. Heirloom tomatoes are one of my favorite foods, they are sweet and delicious. Of course my kids woke up and eat half of the breakfast I had prepared for myself, but who could blame them, it was pretty on the plate and yummy. They also ate the majority of the heirloom cherry tomatoes that are going crazy right now. There are at least 50 of them about to be ripe enough to eat. I love growing fruits and vegetables in my garden and eating the results. This week I had a number of zucchini to use so I turned to dessert recipes. I tried a new recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cake from the July/August 2013 issue of the Food Network Magazine.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 1 hour of total time, 30 minutes of which is active and makes 6 to 8 servings. I did make a number of changes to the original recipe. First I used gluten free all purpose flour instead of wheat all-purpose flour. I left out the salt since the flour I use already has it in it. For the spice I used nutmeg. Make sure to squeeze all the water out of the zucchini it really does make a difference on how the finished cake turns out. I use paper towels and wring the water out over the sink. Finally, instead of using a 9 inch square pan I baked the cake in a round 9 inch pan. I prefer being able to serve cake as slices instead of squares.

The chocolate flavor in this cake really comes through. You really can't even taste the zucchini so it's a nice way to use zucchini without feeling like the entire recipe tastes like it came out of the garden. My kids loved this recipe and ate the majority of the cake by themselves. The texture is denser than many cakes, more like a dessert bread or torte. To me the texture was perfect.  It was nice with a cup of coffee for an afternoon snack or would also be nice for a dinner party.

For the recipe go to Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

July 11, 2013

Don't Know What to Do with Canned Pumpkin? Try Pumpkin Pancakes

Click for Recipe for Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pancakes
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pancakes



I have a pet peeve, recipe disappointments. I'm not talking about recipe fails, they are obvious. You take the dish out of the oven and you can see right away, something didn't work. I'm talking about recipe disappointments, those moments when you finish your recipe, stand back and think wow, that looks yummy. Then you bite into the dish and everything falls apart. While it may look beautiful, the taste is flat. Don't worry I'm not perfect by any means and have these experiences quiet frequently. Normally when they happen I try re-making the recipe with changes in order to figure out what exactly needs to be modified. It doesn't help when many food sites are moving to user based reviews. While I like the idea of reviews, they have a few issues. When you see that thousands of people like a recipe you assume it will turn out and when it doesn't you instantly feel like a failure. I think that is the root of the problem, the more positive reviews a recipe gets the more pressure you feel to give a positive review. With my reviews I try to be as honest as I can, when something doesn't work I relate how to change the ingredients or steps in order to make the recipe work. Today I tried a new recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes from the new All Recipes magazine which was one such experience.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 40 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 12 pancakes. I made a number of changes to the original recipe and suggest even a few more. Perfect pancakes are something to be savored and I do my best to make delicious breakfasts. After struggling with pancakes for years I bought a griddle and haven't looked back. They are wonderful, no more gooey centers or burnt pancakes. I eat gluten free so I made two batches of these pancakes, one with gluten free flour and one as written. Either way I suggest a few modifications. The taste of the allspice is way too strong. It needs to be reduced to 1/2 teaspoon or less. The recipe does not include nutmeg, which to me helps reduce the strong taste of ginger and allspice in recipes. Additionally, the cinnamon flavor is hard to notice. I would suggest adding a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, increasing the cinnamon and using buttermilk instead of milk and vinegar. The flavor would be much better. The pancakes end up too dense and heavy, which could be alleviated by only using baking soda or baking powder. Using both of them and too little liquid makes for a pancake that sits in your stomach for days. A thinner batter would help for the pancakes to be a little less hearty.

I made these again with changes and they were much better. However, my two kids liked them either way, they ate both batches. For the second batch, which is pictured, I added chocolate chips. Both my kids and I preferred the chocolate chips since it mellowed the pumpkin taste. My family is an example of different food opinions, my boys loved the recipe as written, while I preferred it with changes. Food as with many things in life, is relative.

For the recipe go to Pumpkin Pancakes.

July 10, 2013

#ad #Sponsored Post: Looking for Ways to Entertain Your Kids this Summer? Try Netflix for Families

Tracking Pixel This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Netflix.


Summer started early this year. My oldest son got out of school in May so we have already had a month and a half of summer vacation. Now I have a routine that I like to stick to during the school year and my youngest child thrives on it. However, as soon as school gets out my house turns into a sort of chaos. With two boys they never seem to be able to agree on anything, particularly when it comes to television shows and movies. My oldest is currently obsessed with space and the planets, while my youngest is on a Jake the Pirate kick. I allow them an allotted amount of time everyday to watch their favorite programs and thanks to Netflix they can watch them streaming on the various devices we have throughout the house.
Netflix for Families Main Page
Netflix for Families Main Page

Netflix makes it very convenient to find kid friendly programming. Netflix.com/Families features several new categories including Family Movie Night, Are We There Yet and TV for Curious Kids. Since all the selections are broken down by category it makes it very easy to chose your kids favorite movies and television shows. My oldest was particularly interested in the TV for Curious Kids selections since he is obsessed with any type of science show he can get his hands on. Plus the new Netflix.com/Families page is available for both members and non-members, so you can look through the selections before deciding if it would be a good summer option for your kids.
My Kids Watching One of Their Favorite Netflix Shows
My Kids Watching One of Their Favorite Netflix Shows



I don't know about everyone else, but I try to save as much money as I can in the summer, while still allowing my kids a little bit of fun. They love outdoor activities and we spend a lot of time enjoying them, but they also like to relax in the evenings with their favorite shows. Parents spend nearly double on summer entertainment than they do during the holidays. A one-year Netflix subscription costs less than taking a family of five on two trips to the movie theater. Netflix delivers big entertainment without breaking the bank ($7.99/month). We gave up our cable two years ago and switched to Netflix streaming and haven't looked back. It saves us money and since it can be streamed on multiple devices my kids can watch on their iPods, iPad, computer or the TV. It helps to minimize the amount of fighting since they can watch separate selections at no extra cost. It really has worked well for our family.
Netflix.com/Families is a new destination designed to meet your family’s summertime entertainment needs. On Netflix.com/Families, parents can find lists of movies and TV shows for all kinds of special summer moments.
Visit www.Netflix.com/Families for more information on the best ways to stream as well as videos from families using Netflix.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Netflix.

July 9, 2013

Wanting to Escape the Heat and Think of Cooler Weather: Try Pumpkin Chipotle Pasta Sauce


Click for Recipe for Pumpkin Chipotle Pasta Sauce
Pumpkin Chipotle Pasta Sauce


Fall is my favorite time of the year. The weather is cooler, without being cold and the leaves turn beautiful colors. Best of all are the fall foods. I love anything involving apples or pumpkin. Since we are in the middle of the heat of summer it can be a little hard to want to cook. The humidity has been very high and the temps were in the 90's today. Needless to say it doesn't make me want to cook. It leaves me thinking of all the great things to come in the fall. So I decided to try some fall like foods for dinner tonight. I tried a new recipe for Pumpkin Chipotle Pasta Sauce from the new All Recipes magazine.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I followed the recipe mostly as written. I make my own chicken broth since it allows me to control the amount of salt (and it tastes better). While the original recipe uses butter I substituted extra virgin olive oil. I prefer cooking with olive oil since it is healthier for the heart. Since Vidalia onions are in season that is the type I used in this recipe. They really are delicious. I allowed my onions to caramelize before adding the pumpkin. I hate half cooked onions in recipes, it turns me off.

If you are making this for more than two people you really need to double the amount of sauce. As written it was barely enough for three small sized portions. My husband likes lots of sauce and this needed more to fully coat the pasta. I liked that the chipotle peppers gave it a nice kick, if you like spicy foods you can increase the amount or seed the peppers to reduce the spiciness.

For the recipe go to Pumpkin Chipotle Pasta Sauce.

July 8, 2013

Don't Buy Overpriced Take-Out, Make it at Home: Asian Chicken Thighs Recipe

Click for Recipe for Asian Chicken Thighs
Asian Chicken Thighs



My oldest is apparently afraid of trains. This morning in a stroke of genius I came up with the idea of purchasing one way train tickets for my two kids and I to go over the mountains to visit my in-laws. The price would be low and it would only take a couple of hours. I was all excited about the idea, until I told my oldest after he woke up. He looked at me and walked away. My husband tried reasoning with him this evening, and he is somewhat willing. We will see. I am biased since my dad worked for the rail road before I was born and starting from the time I was 10 I took the train over the mountains in Washington State to visit my grandmother and aunt. Apparently you have to have an adult with you now, or that was just the 80's and things were very different. Hopefully he will eventually change his mind and love taking the train as much as I do. One thing my son does love is to cook with me. From the time he could crawl he has been more than willing to help in the kitchen. Tonight he helped me to make a new recipe for Asian Chicken Thighs from the June/July issue of Taste of Home magazine.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It takes 65 minutes of total time, 30 minutes of which is active and makes 5 servings. As I normally do I made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I only used 4 chicken thighs since the ones I found were very large. Secondly, I used fresh squeezed orange juice. It is much cheaper to buy one orange than a whole container of orange juice, plus the taste is better and it is all natural. I was out of reduced sodium soy sauce so I used regular. Finally, to thicken the sauce I removed the chicken thighs and reduced the sauce and then poured it into a gravy boat to pour over each serving at the table.

The sauce in this recipe was delicious. It was great with the chicken or just by itself with rice. The chicken was very tender and fell off the bone. With 25 grams of protein per serving this is a nice protein rich meal. In addition to being delicious it is also child friendly, my two boys loved the recipe.

For the recipe go to Asian Chicken Thighs. 
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