Random Recipes You Need

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I’ve been digging around the junk drawer that is my draft folder.  In a concerted effort to clear out the mental clutter, I’m posting this drafts ‘as is’….

This is the final installment of my draft folder clean out.  These are recipes I’ve made and hope to make again.  But like the random bits of life that accumulate at the back of the junk drawer….fuzz, dental floss, gift cards, subway tokens, and floppy disks….it is all getting cleaned up in one fell swoop.

 Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake via bonappetit.com

Quick Pickled Cucumbers from foodinjars.com

Roasted Tomato and Bread Soup by alexandracooks.com

Salt and Pepper Roasted Chicken Breast a la taylortakesataste.com

Short Rib Ragu from the pages of finecooking.com

Dorie’s Cardamom Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles as seen on doriegreenspan.com

 

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7.20.2015

libby 2015Three years.  In a blink of an eye.  Everyday my heart gets a little bigger taking in all that you are.

You are sassy, and funny, and sort of a bossypants.  You are fearless and you are vulnerable.  You are a do it yourselfer and a helper.  You are quiet and kind.  And you are big and loud.

You look for the ladybugs and bees.  You still chase the cat.  You stop to touch the piano keys at school every day.  You love to splash but hate getting your face wet.

You have been up high on mountain tops and down below in caves.  And you love to go round and round and round on the carousel.

You are the reason I am a momma….you are my sunshine.

Butter Broasted Carrots

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They aren’t exactly braised.  They aren’t exactly roasted.  They’re somewhere in between…they’re broasted.  And they are exactly how I’m cooking up six pounds of carrots this weekend.  I know that sounds like a whole hell of a lot but between a carrot loving toddler, the base for a carrot soup, and a pot luck contribution, I think it might not be enough.

Butter Broasted Carrots

Adapted from Cooking Light, Pick Fresh

BAH Note:  I’m a wimp when it comes to high heat roasting.  It always ends up badly for me.  If you are braver than I am, try using Cooking Light’s recommended temp of 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Me, I take a lower and slower approach.

  • 2 to 3 cups roughly chopped carrots
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Combine the carrots, butter, olive oil, and salt on the baking sheet and toss to fully coat the carrots.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the carrots reach your desired tenderness.

{printable recipe}

Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Red Pepper and TomatoI have a news flash for you…life with a one year old is pretty freaking chaotic. Pick me up, put me down, catch me, chase me up the stairs, read me a book, let’s play picnic, BANANA! Put that on a loop and repeat at 90 second intervals throughout the day.  This can’t possibly continue indefinitely, can it?  Because just typing that sentence makes me feel manic AND exhausted.

In my house there are two barometers that show the current level of crazy.  The toys scattered around every inch of floor space don’t count because that’s just a given.  No, I’m talking about the dining room table and the refrigerator.

When the surface of the table is no longer visible because of the mail, receipts, grocery bags, boxes and cans of food that didn’t get put away, daily reports from daycare, lunch bags, the Sunday Post, and god only knows what else, it makes me twitchy.  The longer the mess sits around, the more anxious I get, until finally I go through it grumbling and cursing the whole time about people not cleaning up after themselves.  Naturally then, the majority of the crap on the table turns out to be mine.  So I could save myself a whole lot of time and aggravation by either not letting the table deteriorate into a DEFCON 1 situation or by choosing to ignore it.

Likewise, peeking into the fridge will give you a pretty accurate assessment of my mental state even if I’m faking it with the dining room table organization.  Is the fridge relatively clean?  Then all is well…or as well as it can be.  Is the fridge disorganized and maybe a wee bit crowded? This tells you that I am being hijacked by my toddler to entertain her.  This may or may not include viewing episodes of Peppa Pig and hosting spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen . Does my fridge have an unidentified funk that haunts your senses?  Then simply close the door and run because the person having a nuclear meltdown in the corner is not my child, it is me.  Little Miss won’t take a nap and refuses to drink milk from anything but a bottle, she insists on watering the tables with the contents of her sippy cups, there is cat litter scattered all over the floor along with cheerios and bits of half chewed chicken, I have three or four sewing projects in various stages of completion, the dirty laundry is multiplying exponentially, and there is a knob of ginger on my counter that I have so utterly neglected that it actually sprouted.

By the time things actually start to smell, pretending not to notice….the chaos or the funk…is no longer an option.  That’s where I was last night.  So while The Mistah was on duty with bath night (also known as I will scream at you until you take me out of this damn tub), I emptied the fridge shelf by shelf, sniffed out the offenders (yeah, I’m looking at you cauliflower and ignored cup of milk), tossed a few other things that were about to take a turn for the stinky, wiped everything down, and restored order in my Frigidaire.  And damn if it didn’t feel so good when I was done that I kept going with the clean and tackled my stovetop.  For someone who hasn’t been doing a whole lot in the kitchen, I sure managed to make one hell of a mess of my stove.

Along with the physical clutter that I cleared out, I also gave myself a bit of mental breathing room.  And I have to say that felt pretty good too.  I know it will get better and that eventually Miss Libby won’t need constant supervision. Which means that my days of manic exhaustion are numbered.

Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen

BAH Note:  I wanted a bigger batch of this sauce so that I could put some up in the freezer for those DEFCON 1 days.  Since I didn’t bother to write down a single note on how much tomato or peppers I used, I’m going to use the quantity from Alexandra’s post as a starting point.  You can bend and twist this to your liking.

PS…I discovered that this also makes the base for a pretty rocking red pepper tomato soup.  So you do what you like.

  • 2 cups red bell peppers, chopped (about 2 peppers)
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • basil (optional)

Place the peppers, tomato, salt, pepper, and water in a pot.  Simmer for approximately 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.  If the tomatoes want to stick to the pan during cooking, add a bit more water to the pot.

The sauce is done when the tomatoes and peppers are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor, add the basil (if using) and process till smooth.

Return the sauce to the pot and add the butter and olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper as desired.   Serve with your pasta of choice, or if the day has been really bad, enjoy a nice tomato sauce sandwich.

{printable recipe}

Cheddar Ranch Crackers

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You’ve heard me talk about my friend Amber and her kindness.  She is also partly responsible for my jargarita obsession and fascination with strawberry shortcake crumb topping.  Today I am participating in a virtual baby shower for her and her Brit (aka James) as they prepare to welcome their Lil Brit to the world.

Amber, I don’t know what pregnancy or child birth is like.  I didn’t have people want to touch my belly…really people what is up with that?  And I didn’t have people pushing their random advice, old wives tales, or well meaning but completely whackadoo ideas on me for 9 months.

So my gift to you and The Brit is to refrain from becoming That Person.  I will not:

a) wax poetically about the ball of wonder that will be your son;

b) comically try to prepare you for the winds of change that will blow through your world with hurricane force once your bundle of newborn joy arrives;

c) remind you that it is good and wise to take care of yourself (the flight attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first and then assist your child for a reason, ok);

d) state for the record that I am never more than a text message, email, or phone call away;

e) tell you to trust your instincts, even as a brand new parent (you will know your son better than anyone else does);

f) recommend that you take what suits your style out of the books you read and come up with your own unique flavor of parenting (please refer to item e above);

g) zealously proclaim the magic that is the swaddle;

h) go all zen and say that you to take each day as it comes and just surrender to the easy, the hard, and the crazy.

Nope, not doing any of that.  I’m too busy waving sparkly jazz hands in joy for you, James, and Lil Brit.  This is huge and I am excited beyond words for all that awaits your newly expanded family.

Much Love,

Wendi

PS, I’m also not going to suggest that as Lil Brit gets bigger you have a stash of finger foods to pull out in emergencies to distract, calm, or otherwise avoid nuclear meltdown.  But if you decided to go that route, allow me to give you a grown up spin on one.  There’s no reason Lil Brit should have all the snacking fun!

Cheddar Ranch Crackers

BAH Note:  Now that there is a wee one running around our place, our pantry has new items taking up shelf space.  Like formula, baby food, and goldfish crackers.  Some of these are temporary visitors to our lives.  But others are most likely here to stay a while.  I know there is no avoiding it so I’m just giving in to the reality and making the best of the situation.  Miss Libby can have her goldfish plain while Miss Momma has them Cheddar Ranch style.

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ounce Ranch salad dressing mix (dry)
  • 16 ounces oyster crackers
  • 12 ounces plain cheddar fish crackers

Heat your oven to 170 degrees and line a sheet plan with aluminum foil.  Combine the vegetable oil and ranch dressing mix in a large bowl and stir until completely combined.  Add the crackers and mix until completely coated.  Spread in a single layer on the sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

{printable file}

I’m not the only one at this party. Check out what these fine folks have posted in honor of Amber’s virtual baby shower.

Sugarcrafter | Breakfast Tostadas  / My Kitchen Addiction | Baby Texan Cookies / My Baking Addiction | Texas Sheet Cake  / Simple Bites | Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn Salsa / Stetted | Queso Mac / Food for My Family | Texas Pepper Barbecue Sauce Dessert For Two | Frito Chocolate Chip Cookies / Confessions of a Cookbook Queen | Coconut Tres Leches Layer Cake / TidyMom | Pizza Bread Sticks / Miss in the Kitchen | Blackberry Milkshakes / Art of Gluten Free Baking | Peach-Pecan Pie, Gluten-Free / Food Babbles | Southern Pecan Pie / Jelly Toast | Peach Iced Tea / Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle | Decorated Elephant Cookies / i am baker | Texas Brownie Cake / The Kitchen Trials | Coca-Cola Cake / Cookies & Cups | Sticky Toffee Pudding Cookies / A Farmgirl’s Dabbles | Peanut Butter Bonbons the Size of Texas / Steph Chows | Fiesta Dip

Israeli Couscous with Preserved Lemon and Butternut Squash

Cous Cous with Roasted Veg High Res

Here’s one of the secrets about children that nobody tells you…kids are like computers.  No really, hear me out.

You bring one home, set it up, and start to learn how to use it.  You have some stumbles at first as you get your feet wet with the operating system, programs, and apps.  But as days go by your confidence grows and you become more proficient with Baby 0.0.  You settle into a routine and even set up some shortcuts and reoccurring tasks to run automatically.  What’s all the fuss about, you wonder.

Then things get a little buggy. Random little things.  The Nap program stops running for no reason.  Or you forget the password for a Safe Mode reboot after a hard drive shutdown.  No matter how many times you go into the Task Manager and attempt to force close the Pull Momma’s Hair program, it continues to run in the background…taking up valuable parental system resources as you attempt to redirect your child’s attention to less frustrating programs such as The Quiet Game or Go See What Your Father is Doing.

Your child did not come with a Technical Support option so you are left to your own devices…mainly the Google…to troubleshoot.  You’ll find forums and blogs that reassure you that other users are experiencing similar issues.  They won’t have tested and certified solutions but at least you’ll know that you’re not imagining these things.  But you’ll also find sites that insist that every single system failure must be the result of user error since they never experienced any of these problems with their child.  Feel free to ignore those sites.

And then, just when you’ve gotten to the point where you feel confident that you’ve mastered Baby 0.0, a software update automatically downloads and you’ve got an entirely new Operating System on your hands.  Baby 0.0 is gone and no amount of hard drive restores will get it back.  In its place is Toddler 1.0.  You had no warning and no beta testing to get you used to a new OS.

Oh sure, you had heard rumors that a new OS was in the works.  But you figured that you had plenty of time to do some reading on the topic and get ready for what would have to be only minor changes.  Sadly, you were wrong.  And it’s back to square one.

My friends, I’ve been there.  And if it is any consolation, I know I’ll be back there again.  Just as soon as I get to feeling comfortable with the parenting thing, it changes.  And that’s exactly how it is supposed to be.

While I can’t help you unravel the programming language that is your child, I can give you a meal that you can enjoy regardless of how many times you found yourself hitting Ctrl+Alt+Del that day.

Israeli Couscous with Preserved Lemon and Butternut Squash

Adapted from David Lebovitz

BAH Note:  There is something about the distinct tang of preserved meyer lemon that you just can’t get from any other ingredient.  So if you don’t have any in your fridge, do yourself a favor and head over to the Google for a bit of online shopping.  Don’t try and make do with a bit of lemon zest and sea salt…it will only bring bitter disappointment.

  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, cubed (I leave the skin on but you can peel it if you like)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 3/4 cup israeli couscous
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Heat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Toss the squash and onion with the olive oil and roast on the prepared sheet pan for 40 to 60 minutes or until tender.  Transfer the squash and onion to a large bowl and add the raisins.

Boil a large pot of water and cook the couscous, along with the cinnamon stick, for about 10 minutes or until done.  Drain the couscous, discard the cinnamon stick, and add the couscous to the bowl of roasted vegetables.

While the couscous cooks, take your preserved lemon and cut it into quarters.  Using the back of a knife, scoop away the pulp from the rind.  Cut the rind thinly into a fine dice and add it to vegetables.  Take the pulp and press it in a small mesh strainer to extract the liquid.  Add the liquid to the bowl of vegetables.

Stir everything to completely combine and taste for seasoning.  Season to taste with a bit of kosher salt and black pepper.

{printable recipe}

How To Make Grilled Cheese

Perfect Grilled Cheese

It’s funny how if you stop and think about it, you never stop having opportunities to learn.  I am well past my days as a student in the academic sense.  And yet I continue to be a student of life.

In the last year alone I have learned important life skills such as how to change a flat tire, how to snake a drain, and how to reset my garbage disposal.  These are all good things to know and can get you out of a jam from time to time.  So I lump them into category of things I know and hope that I won’t have to use.

But maybe just as important are the things I’ve learned from our Tater Tot, and these I consider to be life lessons with daily applications.  What’s the number one lesson I’ve learned from my child?  It is that I can have a bad moment but still have a good day.  Many of you already know this lesson but for me this is like trying to master a new language.

All my life, if something didn’t go exactly according to plan it threw me off.  A disagreement left me disagreeable for the whole day.  A perceived slight had me fuming and indignant.  I got good at being prickly and stabby. I might say “let’s agree to disagree” but in my head I would be listing the ways that you were wrong and I was right.

And then I began to see how Libby could go from a full on meltdown one minute (or two, or ten) back to happy the next.  Thanks to her developing understanding about wanting everything she sees, she gets upset in the morning when she sees us walking around getting dressed and ready for the day while she is left in her crib.  There are tears.  There are sobs. Sometimes, there is wailing.  And it goes on for what seems like forever (especially at 6:30 in the morning). But eventually she pulls herself together, sits down in the crib, and plays with a toy.  And you would never know that only minutes before this happy, content, singing baby was a shrieking, whirling dervish.

So what does my 10 month old know that I don’t?  Maybe that it is ok to be upset or angry but once you’ve said as much it’s time to let go and move on.  She doesn’t hold a grudge against us because we put her in the crib, won’t let her crawl into the dishwasher, or keep her hands out of the cat food dish.  Granted, I won’t give you an up-arms hug or wet kiss the way Libby does after she’s calmed down but I might not be shooting mental daggers your way either.  Let’s call that progress, shall we?

Grilled Cheese

Adapted from Bon Appetit

BAH Note:  This is more a process than a recipe.  But the two step approach produces perfectly browned toast on the outside with melty cheese goodness on the inside.  No flipping required.  Of all the life lessons of the past year, this one comes in just below not letting a bad moment lead to a bad day.  Can you blame me?

  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Cheese

Heat your oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add two slices of bread to the pan and cook until the bottom of the bread is crisp and browned.  Transfer the bread to the sheet pan, toasted side down.  Top one slice of bread with the cheese and place the second slice of bread, toasted side up, on top of the cheese.  Bake for approximately 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Carefully remove from the oven and enjoy.

{printable recipe}