Saturday, April 27, 2013

Strawberry Banana Orange bread

I bought the most beautiful strawberries the other day at Trader Joe's.  As I have previously mentioned, I have a soft spot for berries of any kind and am totally content to just pop them in my mouth, sprinkle them over cereal, yogurt, throw them in a smoothie - you name it!! I love them in ALL forms.

And I love trying new things, so was delighted when one of the many blogs I follow, shared a recipe for Strawberry Banana Bread with Lemon Glaze

I made a few alterations, adding 1 tsp of orange zest, chopped the strawberries, and made an orange glaze instead.  Next time I will try adding some orange extract to the bread recipe to see if that orange flavor will pop a bit more!

In her instructions, she made three loaves. But I opted for two large loaves and was really happy with how they turned out.  The banana was the predominant flavor, but the strawberries surprised the taste buds with almost every bite. It was a great combination!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Luscious Lemon Bars

Yes.......more lemon recipes. I can't help it - I love them!

I am also  a self-proclaimed Paula Deen Junkie!! I have every one of her cookbooks and have given many for gifts. I love her recipes and have never tasted one that is even remotely unsatisfying. That being said, I cannot cook from her books too often as most are very rich and definitely not figure friendly - but BOY are they delicious!

This is my go to Lemon Bar recipe whenever I need to take a dessert to a function.  There are never any leftovers and it is so easy to make.

I have been making this recipe for about five years now and it has NEVER EVER let me down!

Lemon Bars

2 cups flour
1 cup  powdered sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
pinch of salt

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
6 Tbsp. lemon juice
6 Tbsp. flour
2 tsp lemon zest (I recently started adding this in whenever I make the recipe)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 13x9" pan.  To make the crust, put all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the ingredients are combined and they begin to almost look like a dough.  Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

While the crust is baking, combine the filling ingredients in a mixer and beat until well blended and fluffy..  Pour this mixture over the baked crust and return to the oven to bake 25 minutes longer. Cool completely before cutting. If not serving right away, refrigerate.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar right before serving.

If those pictures don't inspire you to make this recipe, nothing will!!


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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

I am on a lemon kick - I know it - I own it.  I love using my Meyer lemons whether it be to make lo-cal lemonade, lemon bread, muffins, you name it.  What doesn't taste better infused with the citrusy touch of lemon?? Not much that I can think of!!!

And my new crop is budding and growing as I write, so there will be more lemon recipes populating this blog!  Beware of the invasion of the lemons! :)

This is a wonderfully yummy recipe that I have to share today - Lemon Raspberry Muffins!!l  Two of nature's most perfect ingredients as far as I am concerned!  I love berries and this is a great time of year for all of them.

Bursting with raspberry lemon deliciousness.............

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Veggie Beef Soup and Beer Bread

I threw so many extras in there that I had to switch from my Ninja Cooking System to my SIX QUART crock pot!!!  Yes I had enough soup to feed me for an entire week and share with my neighbor for several nights.  And I may have acquired a new addiction to making beer bread, but more on that later!

This soup was a "clean out the refrigerator soup" and boy is the veggie bin of the fridge less full now.  That will be remedied as soon as I go to the store and fill it up again, but I really do like using up what I have in creative ways - and this recipe took care of a lot of excess veggies!  I love the way the smell of soup as it simmers permeates every nook and cranny of the house... it makes me feel all warm and comfortable (and comforted) inside.  So here is what I created... and you have to admit, it is really difficult to ruin soup! (thank goodness for me!)  And it is really quick to put together!

Very loosely adapted from Bobby Deen's recipe for Beef Vegetable Soup in  "From Mama's Table to Mine".

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless chuck, cut into small pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 cans (15 oz) diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
1 quart beef broth
1 quart beef stock
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups chopped white potatoes
1 bag broccoli slaw
1 can butter beans, drained
1/2 bag frozen white corn
1 bag frozen Italian green beans
1/2-1 cup red wine
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Brown the beef in the olive oil.  Then remove the meat from the skillet and cook the onion, celery and carrots for about 5 min until they begin to soften a bit.  Then put the beef, sauteed veggies, and ALL of the other ingredients into a large crockpot (at least a 6 quart) and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours, checking to be sure the potatoes are tender.  Enjoy, share with neighbors and freeze the leftovers for a day when you need a healthy meal and don't have time to prepare it!

My SECRET ingredient....really added to the flavor...

This is one of my favorite (yes I have more than one!) slow cookers).
It is Hamilton Beach and has 3 different quart containers so you have
the option of using a 2,4 or 6 quart crock!  Same base - same lid!  LOVE it!

I love having a stash of soup in the freezer!!

And since this was more of a veggie-beef soup than a beef-veggie soup (!), I decided to make a bread recipe that I had recently seen on several blogs.  It is Buttery Honey Beer Bread from Cookie Monster Cooking.  The house smells so good right now with the soup simmering and the bread baking.  There is just nothing like the smell of bread in the oven.  My tummy is growling from the scents filling the air!!

From beginning to BEER!!  

As much bread as I have made over the years, yeast and quick, I have never made a beer bread.  It was SOOO easy and such fun that I will definitely do it again and experiment more the next time.  Cannot wait to try cheese, maybe bacon, herbs from the garden...... oh what fun!!

ALMOST ready for the oven.

OMG!!!  Look at that buttery pool of flavor!

All done - cooling cycle....

Ready to be sliced...... this was SOOOOO good.
Try it if you haven't - EASY and YUMMY!

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

.....How Will my Garden Grow???...

Every spring and summer I attempt to plant a garden, and some seasons are better than others!  The past couple of years here, I have had two waist high garden bins that held my herbs in one and tomatoes and whatever else I could fit in the other!  I also have tried container gardening with different varieties of tomatoes, green beans and strawberries.  Last year I got carried away and tried to plant too much in a small space, so I begged the gardener to please make larger bins.  My (2) 2'x4'bins grew this year to (2)  3'x6'.  Funny how you fill up the space you have!!!  As you will see from the photos, there is plenty of room now, but as they grow I am sure the space will be full of wonderful edible treats.  I hope to plant some different things as the season moves from spring to summer to fall.  I am sure I love watching the blooms and then the veggies appear.  I do not like the snails and pesky bugs that seem to come as well. It's an ongoing battle that I hope to win this year!!

Here is where I started on the left (have you ever seen a parsley tree like that???)...And this is the beginning of having more room that is easy to access on the right~..

 I still have to add stepping stones, but at least you can get the idea of how it is shaping up.  The gardener added some lattice work underneath to fill it in which I really like!

I have one side full of wonderful herbs: rosemary, sage, Italian parsley, chives, garlic chives, Italian oregano, lemon thyme, French thyme, dill, curled parsley, and cilantro!!  I absolutely love picking fresh herbs and using them in cooking and want to experiment a LOT more! (No I didn't forget the basil; it is inside sunbathing in my kitchen window!)

The veggie side has two different kinds of cucumbers in the back, romaine and butter lettuce (about the end of the season for those), tomatoes, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, zucchini plants, green bean plants and strawberries.  As soon as the lettuce is done, I plan to add some yellow squash. I love marinating slices of zucchini and yellow squash and grilling it.

I will be sure to post progress pics as the plants grow.  But it has already been a month since some of the plants rooted in my garden and wow have they ever grown.

 It's amazing how much the tomatoes and zucchini have grown in just a few weeks.  I have a regular tomato in the large bin, and cherry tomatoes in the pot on the left.  I hope to have a good crop this year.  I can hardly wait to pick the first tomato - nothing tastes as good as one straight from the garden!!  And the zucchini in the pot is growing three times as fast as the one in the larger bin - I hope that means it will produce well!

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An April Birthday

Life is getting busier, but cards still need to be made and they will always be a centering time for me and a great stress reliever, once I get an idea!  That is always my challenge and usually takes me forever to get a design in my head.  And there are still so many new things I want to learn - so it's no surprise that I am easily distracted and often go from no ideas to a dozen and then can't seem to settle on just one.  I have been asked many times why I don't sell my cards. The answer is simple -  it takes me too long to make one and I don't like making the same design more than once.  So it makes the cards a bit more labor intensive, but it's all part of the process for me.

For this card, I recently downloaded one of the free files from Birds Cards.  Her files cut nicely.  I decided I wanted to glitter the rose design, so I used the double sided adhesive sheet from Tyler's All That Jazz Supplies store.  He carries a lot of great products that cut beautifully on my Silver Bullet Pro.

I carefully peeled the leaf design off the top side of the adhesive sheet and sprinkled green Ritz glitter on top.

Look  at the fine detail of the cut.  I love that you can expect the Silver Bullet Pro do whatever you want it to do.

Next the rose pattern was covered in the poppy orange Ritz glitter. I love this glitter because it feels like silk once it adheres to the adhesive and doesn't rub off!

 Finally, a white iridescent was applied to the rest of the rose border frame.

I was a bit dismayed when I finished as it screamed "Christmas" to me - you know - the red and green theme --  and that was not the look I was going for in April!!  So I added the yellow sparkle paper from Paper Temptress to break it up a little.
Still  working on it  trying to figure out what else is needed...

I wasn't sure how it would all come together, but I like the final effect.

I will definitely be using the double sided adhesive more often - it is fun,  It is also a good exercise in patience, but the results make it worth it! (and I need to work on my raising my patience threshold!!)

And hopefully the card has arrived at its destination so I can be the first to say..................

Happy Birthday , Nance!!

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Compliments of Giada!

I think pasta is fun and I love that it comes in all shapes and sizes because you can be so creative with such ease!

I was wandering through Target the other day and ran across Giada's line of pasta. I didn't realize she had branched out into food items, and was mesmerized by the different types of pasta that I had not seen before.  And one kind kept catching my attention - it is called "casarecce".   It looks a bit like rigatoni but with a groove or slit down the middle - all the better to catch whatever saucy goodness it is swimming in.  And it does that SO well!!

So clearly I bought the box and decided to make the recipe on the back of the box  - it was so simple, full of fresh ingredients and a quick meal that will satisfy even the strongest craving for Italian food!!  And it gave me a chance to  pick fresh basil off my kitchen plant.  It is happily thriving in the windowsill.  I have not been able to keep it growing  outside for more than a month, but it seems very happy enjoying the sun in the garden window!

So here is the recipe - compliments of Giada De Laurentis and Target!

Note the beautiful basil plant on the left!  YUM!


1 pound (box) Giada Casarecce
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (I  used 4!)
3 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (this was the most difficult part of the recipe - be sure you have a very sharp knife or you will become frustrated quickly and have a lot of smashed tomatoes!)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn
8 oz.  (roughly 1 1/4 cups) fresh mozzarella, diced

Fill a large stock pot with water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook according to directions, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes, until pasta is tender but firm.  Remove from heat and drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.   Rinse in warm water to keep it separated and ready to add to the sauce.

In a large skillet or saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute until it smells wonderful, about 2 minutes.  Add quartered tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook until tomatoes begin to soften, smashing with a spoon as they begin to make a chunky sauce.  The directions say about 4 minutes; it took mine 6-8 to really soften and start to resemble a sauce!  Add the cooked pasta, basil leaves, cheese, and reserved cooking liquid, as needed, (I used between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup) until the consistency is how you want it, and the pasta is coated in sauce and the cheese has melted.  Serves 6-8.

This tastes SO fresh and so good,  It would make a great summer meal too.  And it can be a main dish or a side dish.  I added about 1/4 cup of cooked crumbled bacon to give it a little more taste and texture.  Next time I will add pancetta.  Yes, I will definitely make this again. Pin It Now!