Sunday, February 27, 2011

Perfect Pasta Salad...and Project Simplify

 

Living in a place where the climate is warm year round means lots and lots of BBQ's! I love making pasta salads to take since they are so easy to throw together. It also helps that I grew up in the 80's. And we all know that pasta salads and jello salads were hot items to bring to BBQ's and potlucks back in the day. I'm pretty sure that gives me a leg up on making them... right?

So, the next time you go to a BBQ, please make this pasta salad. You'll enjoy it and others will too.

Also on the agenda is Project Simplify hosted by Simple Mom.

My husband and I have, for months, been talking about decluttering our house and selling or donating what we don't need. Then I saw the Project Simplify link shared by Confessions of a Cookbook Queen on Facebook this afternoon.

Perfect! I can declutter along with others... and be entered in a weekly giveaway... major motivation!

If you're interested in all the juicy little details just click on the button under Upcoming Events to the right.

If not, you can follow along as I blog about my decluttering journey.

I promise you it will be an exciting journey... who knows what I'm gonna find hiding underneath stuff.

On second thought, I cringe to think...


Perfect Pasta Salad

  • 1 pound Ditalini Pasta, cooked until al dente and cooled
  • 1 dozen hard boiled eggs, cooled and chopped
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon of season salt

Place the cooked and cooled pasta in a large bowl. Add the chopped eggs, cheese, diced onion, and mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Finally add the season salt. Mix until well incorporated. Store at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before serving. This can be made the night before. You may need to add a little more mayonnaise and season salt if doing so.

I like to boil my eggs, peel them, and store them in the refrigerator a day before assembling the pasta salad. After draining my cooked pasta, I like to run it under cold water to cool it faster.

Printable Recipe here on Tasty Kitchen
Enjoy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dr. Seuss Cupcake Toppers...

 


Who doesn't LOVE Dr. Seuss?

I mean, he is legendary for wonderfully written children's books and illustrations. So much so, that the National Reading Association has made March 2nd, his birthday, Read Across America Day an annual event.

Many schools across America celebrate by reading his books, having Dr. Seuss dress-up days, and asking parents to bring in Dr. Seuss themed treats.




A few years back, my daughter's teacher asked that the class bring in a treat to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday. I did a little research and found many variations of a Cat in The Hat cookie. I decided to use Oreo Cookies for the base of my treat.

This time around I figured I'd place them on a cupcake and voilà... a Cat in The Hat cupcake topper!




They are super simple to make and everyone will love them. You will get major brownie points when you show up with these in hand... seriously, you will.

Would I steer ya wrong?

Anyway, go make these for your kids class on March 2nd... do it!


Dr. Seuss Cupcake Toppers
Makes 20-25 Cookies

Begin by separating the cherry red gummies from each bag. Save the other flavors for another use or to snack on later. Fill a pastry bag or large plastic food storage bag with the vanilla frosting. Squeeze it down toward the bottom or corner of the bag. Twist the top to close. Snip the tip or corner off of the bag to begin piping.

Take your cookie and pipe a circle, about the size of your gummies in the center of the cookie. Place a cherry red gummie on top of the piped frosting. Pipe another frosting circle on top of the cherry red gummie and place one more cherry red gummie on top of the frosting.

I was able to get about 50 cherry red gummies out of 3 bags.

Printable Recipe here on Tasty Kitchen

Enjoy!

I'm linking this post up to Tidy Mom's I'm Lovin' It Party and Sweet Tooth Friday. Visit their sites to see all the wonderful links!

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
~ Dr. Seuss

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mexican Rice...



Once you start making your own rice, you will never buy the boxed stuff again... never.

Ever...

Again.

I use a large nonstick pan for my rice, but my mom makes hers in a cast iron pan. The cast iron lends a wonderful flavor to the rice. There's just something about the cast iron absorbing the flavors, so each batch made gets better and better.

Why don't I make mine in a cast iron pan, you ask?

Well, I did own two cast iron pans when I got married and first started cooking. I completely ruined them. I know, it's totally tragic. I don't know how I forgave myself. I mean, it's a cooking crime to do so. Well... maybe not really a crime, but upsetting to say the least. Those things are expensive!

Anyway, I've thought about buying another one every time I'm shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond, but I always chicken out. Go ahead make your clucking noises...

Moving on...

I thought I'd share this rice recipe that I grew up eating, with you. I hope you like it. I'm not going to lie... it may take some practice to get the rice nice and fluffy. But you know what they say... practice makes perfect.


Mexican Rice


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 sprigs green onion, diced
  • 1 whole small tomato, diced
  • 4 whole beef bullion cubes, (I use Wyler's)

Begin by heating your oil in a large pan on medium/low heat. Add the rice to brown, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in the microwave for 5 minutes. While the rice is browning and the water is boiling, dice your green onion and tomato, and unwrap the bullion cubes.

Once the water has boiled, carefully remove it from the microwave. Turn the heat for your rice up to high and pour the boiling water into the pan, slowly and very carefully. The water will sizzle and steam as you are doing this. Next put the green onion, tomato, and beef bullion cubes into the pan. Stir to combine and allow it to come to a boil. After about 30 seconds, lower the heat to low and cover. Let the rice cook covered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the water has almost completely cooked down, remove the rice from the heat and keep covered for 10 minutes. Makes about 8 servings.

Enjoy!


The cast iron destroyer...

Friday, February 18, 2011

S'mores Cupcakes...


 
I was flipping channels on the television yesterday and decided to stop on HBO. Why? Well, a classic was playing... The Last of The Mohicans.




Yes, I love this movie... L.O.V.E.

The movie score is phenomenal.




Also phenomenal......

Daniel Day Lewis.




Oh, to be Madeleine Stowe's character, Cora. I'll just leave it at that.

Anyway, all the rugged scenery reminded me of something.

Camping.




And my all time favorite camping activity? Making S'mores, hello.

I came across this recipe in the January 2011 Issue of Bon Appetit. It featured Society Bakery, located in Dallas, Texas, and their S'mores Cupcakes.

Heck ya, I was going to try my hand at these!

You should too, because you WILL NOT be disappointed!

Something else that's not disappointing........

Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of The Mohicans.... swoon.


S'mores Cupcakes
Recipe from: Society Bakery in Dallas, TX
Source: January 2011 Issue of Bon Appetit


  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers ground in processor)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (scant) heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup plus one 7-ounce jar Marshmallow Creme
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 12 1-inch pieces broken graham crackers (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 14 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in vanilla. Add graham-cracker mixture in 3 additions alternately with the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the graham-cracker mixture. Divide the batter among 14 lined muffin cups.

Bake cupcakes until done, about 14-20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to rack and cool completely.

Bring cream just to boil in a small saucepan; remove from the heat and add the chocolate; stir until smooth. Cool ganache to lukewarm. Take an apple corer and push about 1 inch into top of each cupcake; remove cake, forming a hole. Spoon 3/4 cup marshmallow creme into a resealable plastic bag, pushing into the bottom corner. Cut 1/2 inch off the corner. Pipe into holes in cupcakes. Spread 2 teaspoons of ganache over each cupcake. You can do this 8 hours ahead of serving time. Let stand at room temperature.

Preheat broiler. Coat rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Spoon dollops of marshmallow cream on the sheet. Broil until slightly charred, 1-2 minutes. Spoon dollop of charred marshmallow creme over each cupcake; garnish with piece of graham cracker.

A big thanks to my mother-in-law for suggesting I remove the warm whipping cream from the heat and then adding the chocolate... a great tip! Also, I used semi-sweet baking chocolate since the original ingredient of bitter-sweet baking chocolate was way to bitter. I was able to get 14 cupcakes out of the recipe as opposed to 12, as listed in the original recipe.

Now go and enjoy these cupcakes while watching The Last of The Mohicans.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Albondigas Soup...



  Let me start off by saying that this soup is one of my very favorites... seriously, it is. The Rusten House, a family run Mexican restaurant in my hometown, serves it as a starter dish. Growing up, I ate dinner there with my family about once a week from the time I was a little girl until I left home. When I go home and visit we always hit up the Rusten House... always. To this day, the waiter still remembers my order. Alright, I do get the same thing every time... albondigas soup and cheese enchiladas with rice and beans, so that's probably why he remembers. But I still think it's amazing.

Something I don't think are amazing...... piñatas.

Let me diverge for a moment.

Listen, I know they are supposed to be fun and you get loads of candy, but I have never liked them. Even as a child. I dreaded the piñata at my cousins birthday parties. DREADED.

We would wait in line to be blindfolded, spun around until we were dizzy, and given a wooden stick to beat down a paper mâché cartoon character. All the while, my grandpa who maned the piñata, would move the piñata up and down on a rope so you would miss the thing.... on purpose.... then laugh!

This is why I have never had a piñata at one of my girls birthday parties... even though they have begged... and pleaded...

I know, I know... your thinking I'm a little too sensitive. Your right, I need to get over my piñata phobia.

And I will...... eventually. It's just still too fresh.

Anyway, lets recap. What I think is amazing... Albondigas Soup and the Rusten House waiter remembering my order. Not so amazing... piñatas at birthday parties.

So, here ya go... my version of an amazing soup.

Albondigas Soup

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, cleaned and diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, cleaned and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 quarts of water (12 cups)
  • 10 beef bullion cubes
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1/3 cup of uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons of salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon of season salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot on medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Stir to combine and cook for about 5 minutes. Next, add the water and the beef bullion cubes. Bring to a boil.

In the meantime, combine the ground beef, rice, remaining salt and pepper, season salt, oregano, and egg in a medium bowl.  Mix until all the ingredients are incorporated. With your hands, gently roll the ground beef mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. This makes about 15 meatballs.

Once the soup has come to a boil, drop the meatballs in and cover. Lower the heat to medium low and let the soup simmer for about an hour or until the rice in the meatballs is cooked. Makes 6 servings.

Enjoy!

I'm linking this amazing recipe up to the Tidy Mom and Dine and Dish Soup-a-Palooza!

Come join Soup-a-Palooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by Bush’s Beans, Hip Hostess, Pillsbury and Westminster Crackers.

Printable Recipe here on Tasty Kitchen

Yours Truly... the piñata hater.



Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Survived...

  Yes, ladies and gents... I survived two and half hours of Valentine Party madness yesterday. I'm happy to report that everyone had a great time and I'm still standing.

The kiddos indulged in the Girls Only!!! Valentine Buffet spread, decorated Valentine Picture Frames and notebooks, played Valentine BINGO, and also a Hot Potato gift game.

If your not familiar with the Hot Potato gift game, I'll explain. You wrap a gift multiple times and it gets passed around while music is playing. When the music stops, whoever has the gift unwraps it. The child who unwraps the final layer gets to keep the gift. This game is always a big hit with the kiddos.

I also had two Valentine gift baskets that were raffled off and a Guess How Many Sweethearts game.

As I promised, here are some pictures of the party...




The Girls Only!!! Valentine Buffet had three types of cookies that I bought at the store, Bakerella's Cake Pops, Paula Deens' Red Velvet Cupcakes with a standard cream cheese frosting, and donut holes.



The garland is made from heart doilies strung with ribbon. The sign is made from pre-cut paper stock that I found at my local craft store and is embellished with a cute Valentine sticker... also found at the craft store. I typed up labels on my computer, cut them out, and used double sided tape to adhere them to the card stock.



I found these adorable picture holders at Pier 1 Imports... on sale... score! I used them to hold the embellished signs for the dessert buffet, the raffle, and the Sweetheart guessing game.



I also found these cylindrical containers with a cardboard base and removable top at the craft store. I added a white ribbon and a Valentine sticker, then filled them with sugar to hold the Cake Pops.



Paula Deens' Red Velvet Cupcakes are delicious! They are the perfect Valentine treat. You can find the recipe here. I topped them with a cream cheese frosting and Wilton Valentine sprinkles.



 Tissue paper pom poms were strung from the ceiling with white ribbon. I'm telling you, once you start making these things, you will not want to stop! Martha Stewart has a tutorial on how to make them... surprise, surprise. When in doubt, I visit her website for ideas. Martha is the Yoda of decor... and cooking... and baking... and crafting... sorry, had to use a Star Wars reference there.

Anyway... I'm gonna go and relax for the rest of the day, because planning a Valentine Party for 11 and 6 year old girls can be a little exhausting...

... but also a lot of fun.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cake Pops...


Bakerella's cookbook: Cake Pops
Chronicle Books, 2010

Today I made Bakerella's Cake Pops...

They are adorable... super duper adorable.




Bakerella's cookbook: Cake Pops, page 15
Chronicle Books, 2010


I made the Basic Cake Pops... just thought I'd keep it simple.

I was in a "simple" mood today.





Aren't they super duper adorable?

I think so...
 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just So You Know...

  Right now I am super busy getting everything together for the Valentine's Day Party that I am throwing for my two girls.

Just thought I'd let you know...

So, I'll be posting about the party and all the juicy little details after this Saturday.

Seriously, I'm on Valentine overload... I can't shut my eyes without seeing hearts and chocolates and... oh, never mind. I'll spare you the drama and give you a sneak peek...





Peace out...

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Super Bowl Sunday

  While my hubby was watching the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers battle in yesterday's Super Bowl, I was catching up on a little program called The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I'm sure you've heard of it...

Anyway, because we don't have a DVR... I know, it's tragic... I had to wait for BRAVO to air the re-runs. So my Super Bowl Sunday consisted of me laying up in my bedroom for hours watching the episodes I missed. Of course my girls would rather be up there with me while they annoyed each other endlessly. What's a girl have to do to get some alone time with The Housewives? Geesh...

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for mother/daughter time, but not while my stories are on, OK? A little explanation here... "stories" are what my Grandma Rosie used to call her Spanish soap operas...

And I'm totally going to justify calling The Housewives series a soap opera... a real life one at that. The cat fights, multiple divorces, vacations to beautiful getaways, rich people... you see where I'm going here? Alright, there may not be long lost evil twin siblings or people dying and then all of a sudden they've come back to life, but they never really died in the first place, it was only a coma they were in... unbeknownst to everyone.

Anyway, I think I pretty much justified it... moving on...

After being in my bedroom for quite a while, watching my stories, I figured I better go down stairs and feed my family. I decided to make Sioux Burgers... it's fair food... yummy fair food. At the end of summer, my home town puts on a fair and these are served every year. They are usually fried, but I decided to bake them. So, here's my version...

Sioux Burgers

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1/2 whole onion, diced
  • 3 whole new potatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons of season salt
  • 2 packages (8 count), of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits, Flaky Layers (16.3 OZ)
  • 1/2 cup of flour, divided
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the diced onion and diced potatoes. Cook until the onion is soft and the potatoes are nearly done, about 20 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until done, mixing to combine with the onion and potatoes. Drain if necessary. Remove from the heat, set aside and cover. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F).



Dust a clean surface with flour, as well as your rolling pin. Roll your biscuits to about 6 inches in diameter.



Spoon a few spoonfuls of your meat and potato mixture on one side of the rolled out biscuit, making sure to stay away from the edges.



Fold the far side of the biscuit and stretch it over the meat and potato mixture. Roll the edges in toward the biscuit.


Using a fork, press the edges down to seal and transfer to a baking sheet.



Whisk the egg and milk together for an egg wash. Brush the egg mixture over the biscuit. This will help your Sioux Burger to brown nicely. I am able to fit six burgers on a baking sheet comfortably. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 16 Sioux Burgers.



Now go bake yourself some Sioux Burgers... Enjoy!


Friday, February 4, 2011

Spicy Tomato and Thyme Linguine

 

We've been sick here at our house. The kids have been sick, my youngest more that my oldest. Now I am coming down with a little something. So, I thought I'd use this time to reflect on the little things that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside...

There is nothing better than when you do not have to tell your children to do something. They take the initiative themselves. For example, when my oldest decides she is going to be up and ready for school before I am even out of the shower. Believe me, this saves valuable time. I don't have to wonder why she is not ready, after I've told her to get ready 15 minutes ago. Then, finding out she's been sucked in by one of her teeny bopper programs on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Teeny bopper programs... we have a love/hate relationship.

When I have my KIRBY Vacuum in working condition. It's in the shop right now and only after having it for a little over 6 months, mind you. I bet my husband and I are two of the only people that have had their KIRBY bust after such a short amount of time. I mean come on, they are tanks... you can spray paint with the thing for goodness sake! And pressure wash...geez... well, maybe not that... but you get my point.

The gloriousness of walking into The Whole Foods Market for the first time. Yes, it is glorious indeed. I do believe the clouds parted and a light shone through that day. I never knew a market could make me so happy. All the cheeses, the wines, the produce, the healthy and the gourmet ingredients. I had better stop or I'll start salivating like Pavlov's dog. If you have never been to The Whole Foods Market, I strongly suggest you take a field trip... ASAP!

Lastly, and I could go on, but I don't want to hold you up any longer... this pasta dish I made the other night for dinner. It's easy and you will probably have most, if not all, the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator. If you don't, then you had better run out and get them... right now!

See there, I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy inside already. I'm glad we had this little talk. Now go make this dish...


Spicy Tomato and Thyme Linguine

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ½ whole Onion, Diced
  • 1 can (14.5 Oz. Can) Chicken Broth
  • 1 can (15 Oz. Can) Tomato Sauce
  • 1 cup Half-and-half
  • 2-½ Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1-½ teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • ½ teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoons Black Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoons Chili Pepper Flakes
  • 1 pound Linguine Pasta, Cooked And Drained
In a Dutch oven, begin by heating the olive oil on medium heat. Saute the diced onion in the oil until soft. Add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, half-and-half and tomato paste. Stir and combine well. Add the dried thyme, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and chili pepper flakes. Simmer the sauce on medium/low, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, boil a large pot of water, and cook the linguine until al dente. Once the linguine is cooked, drain and transfer to the sauce. By the time the water has boiled and the pasta has cooked, the sauce should have thickened and reduced somewhat. Serve with garlic bread and/or a salad.

Enjoy!

Printable Recipe here on Tasty Kitchen


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cheesecake Lollipops

  What could possibly be better than cheesecake? Well, I've got an answer for you... lollipops, cheesecake lollipops.

After putting the kids to bed, my hubby and I were watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network a few weeks back. This episode featured David Burke's Gourmet Pops. He's the co-owner and chef of New York City's David Burke and Donatella. I was literally drooling over these beautiful pops. I am a sucker for all things cheesecake... really, I am... Oh Costco, how I love your ginormous affordable cheesecake... sigh. OK, I'm done... let's move on, shall we?

A little light bulb went off over my head... I can make these! With the girls Valentine party approaching I thought I would experiment. These would look adorable on a dessert buffet!

I adapted these little gems to suit a kid's party and just to make it easier on myself. Of course you could take the time to puree other ingredients (like goat cheese, smoked salmon, or Champagne) with the cheesecake and roll them into perfect balls, as well as decorating them beautifully. I was just looking to make a cute dessert for 11 and 6 year old girls... so, I simplified. I know, I know, Martha Stewart would be disappointed... but my kids weren't, and that's what counts.

Would you like to know how to make 'em? Yeah, I knew you would...


Cheesecake Lollipops
Inspired by David Burke's Gourmet Pops






What you'll need:
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Decorative sprinkles
  • White chocolate chips or milk chocolate chips
  • A scant teaspoon of shortening
  • Pre-made New York Cheesecake
  • Parchment paper

You can make your own cheesecake from scratch, or just buy it at the store. I opted for the latter. Hey, why stress myself out?






Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop the cheesecake out using an 18/10 sized ice cream scoop and place on the parchment lined sheet. Push a lollipop stick in the center, halfway down. Transfer the cheesecake lollipops to the freezer for about 10 minutes to set.

Finally, in a double boiler, melt about half of the bag of chocolate chips with a scant teaspoon of shortening. I find the shortening helps the chocolate drizzle better. You can always use candy melts in place of the chips and shortening. It does make life easier... and life is always better when easier... wouldn't you agree?

Take your lollipops out of the freezer and with a spoon, drizzle them with the melted chocolate. Gently shake the excess chocolate off and decorate with the sprinkles. Return lollipops to the parchment paper and place in the refrigerator to set. Remove 5 minutes before serving.




Truly and Forever Yours,

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