posts may contain Amazon affiliate links, which earn me a small commission when you buy (but doesn't cost you anything extra). Occasionally I receive free products and/or run sponsored posts—this will always be stated clearly in the post. Thank you for supporting this blog.

This website contains some quotations, excerpts, and screen clips from copyrighted material. These uses fall well within the copyright doctrine of "Fair Use".
Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rose Collins, a Mother's Day cocktail

Are you looking for a cocktail to add to your Mother's Day Brunch menu? This one is infused with something we all associate with Mother's Day - flowers! Thank you to for helping me share this cocktail with you.
Rose Collins, a Mother's Day cocktail
When you think "Mother's Day", what pops into your head? I think spring gardens, flowers, breezy get-togethers, brunch on a balmy late Sunday morning, light cocktails. I bet a lot of people have similar associations. Perhaps it's a regional thing, though. You see, living in my part of the Midwest*, Mother's Day usually signals the time to start turning over the earth and reviving  your garden because the threat of frost has passed. I can recall many a Mother's Day weekend spent strolling my grandma's flower beds.

Of course, it's not just the shoots and vines coming from our own back yards. According to Statistic Brain, $1.9 billion is spent on flowers for mom on Mother's Day. So apparently, most people have flowers in hand when they drop by to help mom celebrate her special day.
Monday, April 27, 2015

Frozen Pineapple Daiquiris inspired by About A Girl

Frozen Pineapple Daiquiris
I know I've mentioned this before, but in case this is your first time here or just weren't paying attention until now, I prefer reading fiction. When I sit down to read, I'm looking for a bit of escape. I want to be pulled in to another world, another time, another place for several hour blocks at a time. (Although I should note that a good memoir, especially one centered around a life in food, music, or celebrity can have the same effect.) About A Girl is exactly the type of book I'm talking about.

First of all, I laughed out loud many, many times while reading the story of Tess Brookes, a girl with a plan—a life plan—that goes belly up. It rivals the best chick flicks and rom-coms out there, but with a book, you get to hold on a bit longer. There's tons of pop culture references throughout the book, from Bridget Jones and Sex and the City to Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling. I don't want to overlook "accidental" identity theft (aka identity crisis), Hawaii, a couple of sexy men (because what would a chick flick be without choices), plenty of cocktails and good food, best girl friends and catty bitches, a fabulous gay friend, and a new outlook on life. Oh, and back to the laughs—plenty of Brit humor. It's escape at its finest.

As far as food goes, it's not necessarily a foodie novel, but it's not lacking for inspiration. First of all, there's fun British food references like Hovis, Dairy Milk, Dairylea Triangles, and Hobnobs (fun for me, being an inquisitive American food-lover and all), and some other food and beverage items like Pop Tarts, Cava, McChicken sandwich, strawberry milkshake, Mars bars, chocolate oranges, spaghetti rings, salad, carrots, moules frites, fried egg butty, sugary pastries, bread, fish, Cheetos, and White Lightning.
Friday, April 24, 2015

Cherry Crunch Pie

Cherry Crunch Pie #fridaypieday
It's the last Friday of the month, and that means...PIE! My visions for #fridaypieday included not only posts that included new pie recipes, but also some that featured different techniques, pie making tool reviews and recommendations, the occasional pie shop review, and some pie-centered cookbook reviews. So, when I was offered a copy of The Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes, I accepted.

So, first a little history. The Norske Nook is actually a small-town café that was founded in 1973 in Osseo, Wisconsin by Helen Myhre. Her hard work ethic and sense of family made the farm-style meals and pies attract media attention, which in turn brought tourism to the small town. Jerry Bechard bought the café from Myhre in the late 80's, when she decided it was time to retire and write a cookbook.

The heartwarming story of the start of Norske Nook and the change of hands, and how it grew to its now four Wisconsin locations—the café in Osseo, plus three others in Rice Lake, Eau Claire, and Hayward—is found in the 9 page introduction written by Bechard. I recommend taking some time to sit down and read this intro before you dive into the reicpes. (I think) the insight will put you into the right frame of mind, as well as make Wisconsin a travel destination in your very near future.
Thursday, April 23, 2015

Buttermilk Cardamom Beignets inspired by Chef

Buttermilk Cardamom Beignets
Sometimes our Food 'n Flix picks aren't what most people would think of as a typical "foodie movie". They take us out of our comfort zone and make us put on our kitchen thinking cap. That is not the case this month. If you've seen Chef, you know it's a flick that keeps you hungry and induces different cravings from start to finish! It's about as much foodie flick as they get. You'd think this would make heading into the kitchen and cooking up something from it easier. I actually think it makes it harder. I could not decide what I wanted to make. But you know, I figured something out.

From the opening scene, Chef is a sensual experience. The sound of a knife slicing through vegetables, the sizzle of meat hitting a hot pan, the sheer focus on getting prep done for tonight's meal, the excitement of a whole pig being brought into the kitchen—it's scenes like these that make me miss working in a restaurant kitchen. But that's only the first few minutes.

The story of a successful restaurant chef who finds himself going in a direction he never imagined, both professionally and personally, Chef is a feast for the the senses. This isn't a review (though I obviously enjoyed the movie), so I don't really want to go into the story. You can find synopses of the movie all over the web if you look, I'm just here to talk about the food today.
Monday, April 20, 2015

Southwest Salad in a Jar

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sargento. The opinions and text are all mine.
Southwest Salad in a Jar
If you were to ask me which one show I'd like to appear on, my answer would be Chopped. It's actually one of the shows my whole family will sit down in front of the tv to watch. It's fun and fast-paced, and best of all, it inspires creativity and banter—in the show and at home. Each person is shouting out what they'd make with the four mystery ingredients for that round. Heck, I shout it out even when I'm watching by myself.

Sometimes I wonder if I'd actually be able to come up with a dish on-the-spot that would please the judges. I'm not going to lie, there are baskets that leave me stumped. My plan, should I apply and be accepted to the show, is to have a handful of easily adaptable, basic recipe ideas in my back pocket. I can customize and enhance the flavors of the basket ingredients once I see them. I wonder if I'd remember any of them in the heat of the moment.

Today, I'm excited to be taking part in a little "Chopped at Home" contest! Sargento cheese challenged me to get creative and make a Chopped-inspired dish right from the comfort of my own kitchen. Just like the contestants on the show, I was given 4 basket ingredients to work with, and free use of my pantry and fridge.
Sunday, April 19, 2015

Garlicky Chard Stuffed Flank Steak | #NationalGarlicDay

Garlicky Chard Stuffed Flank Steak
I crave garlic the way some people crave chocolate, so every year when National Garlic Day rolls around, I try to make the most of it by sharing a particularly garlicky dish and inviting my friends to do the same. Since I made dessert last year, I thought I go with an entree this year.

Originally I'd planned on doing a twist on one of my all-time favorite dishes, chicken with 40 garlic cloves, using beef brisket. Switch out the herbs, use red wine instead of white wine...but alas, I couldn't get my hands on a brisket. I should have known I'd need to order it from the butcher in advance; Texas this is not. I didn't plan ahead, so my plans changed. Staring at the butcher case, I decided to go with flank steak since I can't even remember the last time I ate (let alone made) it. But I didn't want to do the same dish since it's a dish that's better when cooked slowly...and I didn't want overcooked, chewy flank steak.

So, I had some flank steak staring me down. I also had a big, beautiful bunch of rainbow chard in my crisper. Greens and garlic are a match made in heaven, so I decided that combining all three would give me a bang-on garlicky good meal. For one flank steak (I got a good 2 pounder), I used 10 fat cloves. It was odorific! My teenager was out that evening at a sporting event, and when he got home 5 hours after it was made, he said "ooooh, I smell garlic" the minute he walked in the door. Mission accomplished.
Thursday, April 16, 2015

Romanian Easter Braid | #BreadBakingBabes

Romanian Easter Braid
Today is the 16th, and that means it's time for another Bread Baking Babes reveal!  This month, BBBabe Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms challenged us to bake up a Romanian Easter Braid. Easter may be over, but I'm pretty sure this enriched loaf would be welcome at any table year-round. The dough itself is lightly scented with lemon from the addition of some finely grated zest, and the filling is a sweet, nutty swirl that be switched up to meet anybody's preferences.

So, Elle told us that according to wiki, this Romanian bread can differ significantly from region to region. Essentially it's a sweet bread that is enriched with butter, eggs and milk, but you can find anything from the lemon zest I used to orange zest, raisins, or rum flavor in the dough itself. The actual recipe the challenge is based on used ground almonds in the filling, but I went with one of the more well-known options, walnuts. Hazelnuts, vanilla, rum, even poppy seeds, raisins, or cocoa powder are other choices.

 I did want to add a little twist to my nutty swirl, though. I liked the thought of adding rum (obviously), but I wanted something a little out of the ordinary, as well. I have a few bottles of flavored rum, and I thought the coconut variety might add a little something special if I also used some fat, dried coconut flakes. I was pretty pleased with the taste of the filling (I had to walk away from my spoon lest there be none left once the dough was ready for it).
Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Beer Braised Pork Carnitas | #BeerMonth

Beer Braised Pork Carnitas
I'm usually pretty traditional in my cooking of carnitas (or literally, "little meat")—pork, salt, and a little bit of water is really all it takes to make the best carnitas you'll ever eat in your life. Be it the traditional stove-top method of combining water and pork lard and simmering chunks of pork in it until the water evaporates and leaves the now-tender meat to crisp up in the lard, or my preferred oven-roasted method that uses the fat rendered from the pork bits themselves to baste and crisp them up. Either way, tender meat enclosed in salty crisp and sticky bits are little morsels of heaven on earth.

But today, in honor of beer month, I decided to step out of my puritanical-carnitas box and do the braising of the pork in a good, amber lager. I also added some spice beyond salt. It's gettin' crazy up in here. Crazy delicious.

Simple, rustic food is what I tend to gravitate towards, and this version of carnitas really fits the bill. A stove top braise in a fragrant beer bath and about 90 minutes is all it takes to achieve a plate piled high with tender pork. Once it is tender, you remove the lid and let the liquid evaporate and concentrate, inviting the whole garlic cloves and strips of lime zest to melt into it.
Monday, April 13, 2015

Luna's Larder: Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain

This is a sponsored post brought to you by Nutrish Pet Food in conjuntion with Clever Girls. All opinions are mine.
Luna's Larder: Rachael Ray Nutrish
Today I'm going to introduce you to Luna, our two year old rescue cat with attitude. I know, I say attitude like it's not a normal cat quality, when we all know it totally is. I guess I should say "with extra attitude". Although Luna came into our lives when she was only about three months old, this is her first featured appearance. I thought it would be fun for her to have her own little feature every once in a while, and I'm calling it "Luna's Larder".

Luna is a member of our family, so it only makes sense that in this spot where all roads lead to the kitchen, at least one of those roads is a kitty-cat road. Hopefully we can bring you a lot of fun cat food and treat recipes, recommendations, tips, and ideas!
Friday, April 10, 2015

Canyon Ranch's Spa Baklava + Eat Right For Your Sight book tour

Canyon Ranch's Spa Baklava
"Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is damage to or breakdown of the central part of the retina, called the macula, which allows us to see details clearly."

Like many others, I grew up with the adage that carrots were good for my eyes, so I'd better eat them up. Turns out, that wasn't just something our parents said to get us to eat our carrots. But, they also could have told us that eating sweet potatoes, broccoli, mackerel, oysters, walnuts, raspberries, olive oil, and so many other things were good for our eyes. Also, it's not just the foods, but also the way we eat them together that makes a difference in preventing and slowing down the progression of eye diseases.

Eye diseases weren't really on my radar until I read Eat Right For Your Sight. But now, seeing how simple it is to work the nutrients needed by our bodies into our everyday routine, it's something I'll take into consideration. If I can serve my family delicious meals, snacks, drinks, and even desserts packed with the colors of the rainbow (which we already know is good for so many aspects of our health) and look out for our eye health at the same time, I say that's a win-win.

I recommend reading the nitty-gritty at the beginning of the book before diving into the recipes. Not only will you learn a little more about AMD and who is susceptible, but you'll also find a chart of Healthy Foods for Your Eyes, a Nutrients Table, a handy list of Foods to Have in Your Pantry, and tips for Getting Started with your healthy eye diet (in the sense of nutrition, not weight loss).
Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Asparagus and Prosciutto Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Asparagus and Prosciutto Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Welcome to the April edition of Blogger CLUE Society, where members explore each other's blogs and learn a little more about each other, all while looking for a recipe that fits the monthly theme. This month's theme is Spring Vegetables, and I had the pleasure of digging through the archives of Taking On Magazines, run by Christiane (aka The Mom Chef).

I bet you can guess what the focus of Taking On Magazines is. Right? As a regular "mom chef", Christiane often found that the results she got after making magazine recipes varied from what was presented, either taste, presentation, or yield-wise. So, she decided to share the results of these same recipes coming out of an everyday kids-husbands-animals-underfoot kitchen. I bet there's a world full of mom chef's who can relate.

Along with magazine recipes, you can also find cookbook recipes and family recipes at Taking On Magazines, as well as a bit of stuff that is totally off topic (roundups, tours, features, etc). So, on to the nitty-gritty—the results of my "hunt". With spring vegetables in mind, I searched everything from "spring" to "vegetables", and on to specifics like "asparagus" and "peas".
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Angel Biscuits and Tipsy Blackberry Jam inspired by The Godforsaken Daughter

Angel Biscuits and Tipsy Blackberry Jam inspired by The Godforsaken Daughter
The Godforsaken Daughter is the story of thirty-three year-old Ruby, and how her life is turned upside down and shaken after the death of the father that she was so close to. The story is set in Northern Ireland in the recent past (think IRA and bombings), mainly in a small farming town, with Belfast and the isle of Innisfree playing small roles, as well.

Ruby Clare is a bodacious red-head with a sturdy body and hands from working the fields with her beloved dad. Much reference is made to her size 16 as "fat", which was the one thing in the story that bothered me to no end. You'd think she was Cinderella the way she dealt graciously with a nasty mother and pair of sisters.

Without giving away too much, I'll say that after her father's death, Ruby discovers a mystical box that once belonged to her grandmother (her dad's mammy). Tucked inside was a crystal ball, a deck of tarot cards, a book, and a handful of things that worked with them. With these discoveries came a voice (literally), and a means for Ruby to connect with her spirit.

Cream Cheese and Cherry Buns

Cream Cheese and Cherry Buns
It's that time again; time to share our monthly bread baked for the #TwelveLoaves group. With this month's theme being cheese, I naturally gravitated towards a savory loaf. As a matter of fact, I'd even mixed up rye starter than had just started bubbling and smelling reminiscent of cider mill, with plans of making Bauernbrot mit Käse (a German farmers loaf that I was going to work some Aged Havarti into). But that changed once I spied a copy of Make Ahead Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day at the library.

Why, you ask? Well, this book is written by fellow blogger (and #TwelveLoaves member) Donna Currie of Cookistry, and I'd been meaning to get my hands on a copy ever since it was released last November.  As I flipped through the pages, a photo of Blueberry and Cream Cheese Buns with Lemon Zest caught my eye. If you know me, then you know I'm a sucker for sweet buns. These buns happened to have (cream) cheese in them. After asking Donna if she minded me sharing the recipe, visions of a sweet bun with breakfast made me put that savory loaf on hold.

I only adapted slightly. Donna mentions switching out the dried blueberries for cherries, and I did that. I actually really wanted to use blueberries, but I didn't have any in the pantry, and the closest markets didn't have any either. I wanted them, but I was too lazy to drive around looking for them. So, cherries it was. Since cherry and almond go hand-in-hand, I subbed almond extract for the vanilla extract originally called for in the dough. Other than that, I kept ingredients and amounts the same. If you have a digital kitchen scale, weighing the flour will give you the perfect amount, no need to adjust (and if you don't - GO BUY ONE!).