Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fun, Fast, and Festive





Let's create a fun, fast, and festive appetizer can be served for a Christmas brunch, an afternoon luncheon, or an evening party.  

Let's build an edible Christmas Tree:

Ingredients:
 
1 pint of strawberries
12 oz. vanilla-flavored candy coating
1 (8oz.)pag. dried apricots
11 to 12 inch styrofoam cone 
Fresh mint leaves

Wash strawberries.  Do not remove the stems.  Gently pat dry.  Line cooking sheets with waxed paper.  Melt candy coating in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Dip each strawberry and apricot in the candy coating until 1/2 of fruit piece is coated  Allow excess to drip off.  Place on waxed paper-lined cookie sheets.  Refrigerate until set.
Wrap styrofoam cone in foil to cover.  Insert toothpicks in cone about 3/4 apart in row near bottom of cone, leaving 1/2 inch of each toothpick exposed.  Arrange fruit on toothpicks.  Repeat with additional toothpicks and remaining fruit, adding 1 row at a time until cone is covered.  Tuck mint leaves in any open areas between fruit pieces.  Replenish cone with additional fruit as needed. 
Hope you enjoy this fun and easy recipe!!!!!
Merry Christmas

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Do Over, Please!

I missed it!  I missed Thanksgiving and my Mother's birthday.  How can that be you ask?  Well, it started on November 16th with pain in my neck, my back, shoulder, down my arm, and numbness in my left hand.  After 3 days of pain that escalated to unbearable my dear husband took me to the doctor.  The doctor immediately put me in the hospital via ambulance ride.  After x-ray's , CT scans, and an MRI the diagnosis was a herniated disc in my neck that is rubbing against my spinal chord and an enlarged left kidney. I was released from the hospital on Thanksgiving evening with a bag full of medications and instructions to do follow-up appointments

So, there you have it I missed it all.  I did get to my parents the next day for a visit and to deliver my Mother's gift.  But, I had promised her marble squares for her birthday and was unable to deliver that request - which I will fulfill at a later date.

Even though I could not make them for my Mom I can share the recipe here and now.  So, if you want a melt in your mouth, to die for (not quite sure if you can call it cake and not quite sure if you can call it a brownie).  Alas, you can call it wonderful!  The recipe comes from a cookbook that I ordered my first year of marriage - The Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cookbook

Marble Squares
1 8 oz. pkg. Philadelphia brand cream cheese
2 1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 1-oz. squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups flour
1/2 cup diary sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 6 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces


1. Combine softened cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar, mixing until well blended. Blend in 1 egg. 
Set this aside.

2. In a saucepan, combine water, butter, and chocolate; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.  Set aside.

3. Combine the remaining 2 cups of sugar and flour in a bowl.   Mix together.  Add the mixture from the saucepan to the dry ingredients. Mix well.

4. Blend in the remaining 2 eggs , sour cream, baking soda and salt.

5. Pour batter into a greased and floured jelly roll pan.

6.  Spoon cream cheese mixture over the chocolate batter.  Cut through the batter with a knife several times for a marble effect;  sprinkle with chocolate pieces.

7. Bake at 375 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool; cut into squares.  





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I know Halloween is over but I wanted to share my favorite recipe of 'Roasted Pumpkin Seeds'.  This was a 'Martha Stewart Recipe' from October, 2002.  It is sweet and spicy at the same time and it's very hard to stop eating them once you start.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds
makes 1 cup

  1 cup pumpkin seeds from 1 medium pumpkin (about 5 to 7 pounds)

5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil 

1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a sil pad.  Cut pumpkin open , removing the seeds.  Separate the flesh from the seeds and discard.  Spread seeds on the parchment or sil pad in an even layer.  Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.  Let cool.
     2. In a medium bowl combine 3 tablespoons of sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne. (Set aside)  Heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat.  Add pumpkin seeds and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Cook until sugar melts and the pumpkin seeds begin to caramelize, about 45 to 60 seconds.  Transfer the seeds to the bowl with the spices and stir well to coat.  Let cool.  These may be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.  (Although I have kept them for maybe 3 weeks and they have been fine.  But, they probably won't last that long.)
  
 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Book Review and Recipe (Sort Of)

It is hard to believe that we are into November with Thanksgiving and Christmas just a hop, skip, and a jump away.  I have had so many wonderful things happen in the past 4 weeks I don't know where to begin.  But, for this post I am going to be short and sweet.  It is a book review and a recipe (well, sort of).

I have just finished reading this wonder full book about a freelance food writer and blogger.  Her qualifications are many and she is a wonderful writer.  (Oh, and she is also a new Mom.)  This wonderful person is 'Molly Wizenberg'.  Her book is "A Homemade Life".  If is a culmination of stories and recipes from her life.  



Because I want you to go out and get this book and I don't want to spoil any of the reading I am not going to write any excerpts.  But, I will tell you that her love life before she was married was extremely comical.  There are two chapters that really stand-out for me - one was called 'The Hardball Stage'.  At the end of the chapter there was a recipe for 'Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears'.  Her words had my mouth watering for this cake.  Well, I just had to make it.  It was so delicious - and you must eat it with the sauce warm.  (I am going to follow with photos of this cake, but not the recipe (I really want you to go out and get this book.)
My other favorite chapter was 'High Points'. It had me laughing till I cried.  

So, that is my blog for today.  Go out and get this book and try all the wonderful recipes.  Oh, and if you want to read more of Molly; her blog is orangette.blogspot.com.  I promise you won't be disappointed.  
 
  

Thursday, November 1, 2012






Happy Halloween!



It was a great Halloween! I had 111 Trick-or-Treaters

While I was handing out candy I made sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds (Martha Stewart recipe):

Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin seeds from 1 medium pumpkin
5 Tablespoons of sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 Tablespoons peanut oil

1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut pumpkin open and remove seeds.  Separate flesh from seeds and discard flesh.  Spread seeds on parchment in an even layer.  Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.  Let cool.       

2. In a medium bowl combine 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne.  heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat.  Add pumpkin seeds and 2 tablespoons sugar.  Cook until sugar melts and the pumpkin seeds begin to caramelize, about 45 to 60 seconds.  Transfer to bowl with the spices and stir well to coat.  Let cool.  These may be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Hope you had a wonderful Halloween!



 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Perfect Timing, Fall, & Snack Time

When I sat down to contemplate what to write about (especially since it has been quite sometime since the last post), the most obvious came to mind - food & photography (revelation, right!).  Since this is what my blog is about in the first place.  But, hold on to your hat, I have several other things on my heart and mind.

The first thing on my mind were the words 'perfect timing'. I will attempt to explain what I am talking about.  When I graduated from college, which will be a year as of December 14th, 2012, I was ready to make my way in the world (as people often say).  My thoughts were - if I can purchase the perfect lighting, the perfect camera, the perfect accessories - back drops, props - (well, you get the idea).  My work would be perfect and I would have a great business.  I also felt the same way about other things in my life.  

I soon found out you can have the best equipment in the world but it doesn't make you a better photographer, a better cook, and so on, and so on.  What I did find is that you grow into what you love to do.  You must first practice, practice, practice . . . .and then practice some more.   As far as equipment is concerned - it takes more skill and creativity to produce beautiful work from what you have (and that my not include the most expensive equipment in the world).  So, I continue to practice - taking my photos, cooking, and creating.

The second thing on my mind is - Fall.  I must admit I love fall but, hate winter.  Truthfully, I am a fence straddler on the subject.  I love the fall with the crisp mornings and the changing colors, cool-weather recipes, apple festivals, Halloween, and plethora of corn mazes to visit.  But, these wonderful things are marred by my thoughts of the on-coming of cold weather and all it brings.  My backyard and the brown grass, no flowers, my pool with its ugly cover, too cold to do anything outdoors, and having to wear all the bulky clothes (coats, sweaters).  

Cool Fall Morning
 People would say - move; move to a place that is warm all the time.  Yes, that would be nice - that involves money and I have obligations here, and the fact that I am that fence straddler.  I can't imagine celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in 80 degree weather.  And there would be no Spring, no rebirth, no seed catalogues.  

With all that said - I will, as best I can, focus on these beautiful fall mornings and cool evenings with home-made soup and bread; celebrating the fun at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  And I will find the beauty in winter.





 Now, to finish with Snack Time:  
I have 3 recipes to share.  They are great snacks that you can make ahead and have when you need a little something.




         Herb Cheese Dip
(a simple recipe made with homemade yogurt - if buying the yogurt I suggest Stonyfield Organic yogurt)

Ingredients:
(makes 1 cup)
1 cup non-fat yogurt cheese (drain yogurt for 24 hrs. to drain out the liquid (whey) and the yogurt becomes the consistency of cream cheese)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp finely minced fresh parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
dash of cayenne (ground red pepper), or to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl and whisk until well blended.  Cover and chill.  Serve as a dip for fresh vegetables.




(The next recipe is hummus.  I know that there are many recipes for hummus, but they all seem to add the ingredient 'tahini'.  Since I am not a fan of this it will not be in this recipe.)


 Hummus
(this is very simple and inexpensive to make.)
Ingredients:
1 can of garbanzo beans or chickpeas
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 Tbls lemon juice
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp cumin
salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth and  creamy.  Serve with vegetables, crackers, pita chips, wedges of pita bread. (Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)


  
 (The final recipe is for a smoothie that I have discovered.  It has wonderful flavor and very filling.)

 
(This recipe involves juicing and using the juice as an ingredient in the smoothie)

Ingredients for juicing:
1 apple
2 oranges
1 juicer
Cut the apple into 4's.
Cut the peeling off the orange and cut into 4's.
Place the fruit in the juicer. Put juice aside for mixing in the smoothie.

Ingredients for the smoothie:
(for this you will need a blender or a personal blender.  I have a Tribest Personal Blender; their website is tribestlife.com.)

apple/orange juice
2 1/2 oz.  of plain yogurt
a few ice cubes
add a scoop of protein powder, if desired

Place all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

These snacks are my go-to for my mid-morning and afternoon snack time.  As I said in my last blog I am working on loosing weight for knee surgery.  It seems to me that it was much easier to put on the weight than it is to take it off.  But, I will keep working at it.  

Everyone have a wonderful weekend! 









 



 










  



 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Healthy Living

Most people these days are trying to live healthy: exercise, eating right, etc.  Well, I am no different.  I have definitely jumped on the bandwagon.  Truthfully, I really started taking this 'healthy thing' more seriously when I was told by my Orthopedic that I needed a knee replacement - a result from running and playing tennis.  Before he does the surgery I was given instructions to get healthy (translation - loose some weight) so that the surgery and recovery would be quicker and easier.  

So here I am with a trainer 3 days a week and walking three miles on the off days (also, a couple of days of yoga thrown in the mix).  My biggest challenge is sleep - everything you read says to get anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of sleep (this apparently aids in weight-loss).  My normal amount of sleep is 4 or 5 hours.  Oh well, something to work towards.

My eating habits were the easiest to change and the most fun.  I love trying new recipes and gadgets.  I am buying less and less processed food (for obvious reasons); and making my own veggie dips, yogurt, pasta, tortillas and bread.  Making my own bread is something I have done for years.  I have a wheat grinder and am able to make my own unprocessed flour.  Then there is the obvious buying of fresh fruits and vegetable.  And this may sound silly, but I grind my own ground beef.  This is a result of the 'pink slime' reports on the news. (I know the stores have said they are no longer using this in their ground meat.  I just can't bring myself to eat it.)  So, I grind my own and it makes me feel much better.  It all sounds like a lot of work but, I am able to control what goes in my food.  

This brings me to the next few blog posts of 'Making Your Own'.  The first 'Make Your Own' is yogurt and a simple recipe.

In making my yogurt I use three things: raw milk (I buy this from a local farm.  Look on the internet for a farm near you) or organic milk, a yogurt maker (I have a YoLife Electronic Yogurt Maker), and yogurt starter (I use YoLife Yogurt Starter).  (purchased the yogurt maker and starter from Bread Beakers.  The website, if you don't live in Atlanta, GA., is www.breadbeckers.com)







There is not much for me to tell when you make the yogurt except to just follow the directions the are provided in the yogurt maker.


yogurt parfait

Suggested recipes for your homemade yogurt: stir in fresh fruit or flavored agave syrups.  And for a great dessert .                                                                                                                                                         

1. take your homemade yogurt and place about 1/2 
    the yogurt in a serving glass
2. layer with fresh fruit of choice (I used strawberries 
    and blueberries
3. another layer of yogurt
4. top with homemade granola (recipe below)




Granola Recipe
Ingredients:
  4 cups rolled oats
  2 cups shredded coconut
  1 stick butter
  1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. In a bowl mix together oats and shredded coconut.  Set
    aside.
2. In a microwave safe bowl - melt together butter and
    honey.  Pour into the oat coconut mixture and stir well
    to coat. 
3. Spread mixture on a cookie sheet and bake for
    10 minutes.  Stir and bake 5 more minutes. 
4. Remove from oven and cool. 
5. After the mixture has cooled place in a bowl and mix
    in: nuts, dried fruit - cherries, apricots, cranberries,
    raisins.    (I added golden raisins and chopped 
    macadamia nuts)
6. Seal in an air tight container.
Use as: cereal, a topping, or just a snack.