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January 31, 2011

Pita Bread

My daughter is in love with pita bread so we've been making it a lot lately at home.

I based my recipe off one in The Bread Bakers Apprentice Book and love it.

3 cups regular flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
1 pkt instant yeast (about 2 - 2-1/2 tsp)
4 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 - 1-1/2 cups water, room temperature

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast,. honey, oil and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need all the water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough. Knead for about 10 mn or until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
3. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover it with plastic wrap.
4. Ferment at room temperature for 90 mn, or until the dough doubles in size
5. Separate the dough into 6 oz pcs (about 1/2 cup) and roll out into 9" circles, about 1/4" thick.
6. Preheat oven to 500 with  a pizza stone on the bottom most rack
7. Bake pita just until they inflate and form a pocket. Count to 10 and then remove them from the oven


January 28, 2011

Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps

I love lettuce wraps. They make me happy. They make me SO happy in fact that I can't remember to take pictures of them before I gobble them up.
Here's a super easy recipe for how to make them!

Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps:

1 Head Bibb lettuce or other full leaf lettuce. Iceberg even works well here.
1 Tbsp Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil
1 lb ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
Any other vegetable you'd like, diced (sometimes I add mushrooms, green beans, etc. )
1/2 cup hoisin, divided
1 tsp honey
juice from 1 lime
cilantro for garnish
green onion for garnish
sesame seed for garnish
chopped peanuts for garnish
peanut sauce (optional) to serve

1. Seperate lettuce, rinse and drain. Set aside.
2. Mix 1/2 hoisin, honey and lime juice. Set aside for serving with the wraps.
3. Heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in large pan over medium heat, add ground pork and cook until no longer pink. Drain and set aside.
4. Heat remaining olive oil in the same pan and add garlic and onion. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Add onion, red pepper and any other veggies you like and stir, 3-5 minutes
6. Add water chestunts and 1/4 cup hoisin, stir to combine and add pork back into mixture. Heat through.
7. You can either serve the garnishes on the side or sprinkle them all on top (what I do!) and serve alongside the lettuce wraps. Fill each cup with mixture and either the peanut or hoisin sauce.


Owl Ring Holder

I have a weird personal dislike. I hate lotion, I hate the feeling of anything squishing between my fingers. This is probably why I rarely make anything that requires me to handle raw meat, although I suck it up and do it because I know that sometimes it's really worth it.

Recently, I discovered these really neat little ring holders that a friend of mine from college makes. They're made specifically for when you have to slip a ring off your finger (gross meat!) when you're cooking!
I seriously love this idea and am getting one for my kitchen. Plus, I sort of have a thing for Owls...

Here's a picture of my favorite one and a link to her etsy site: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Saltydapleco

Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup with Tarragon

I had 2 bags of frozen broccoli in the freezer and we don't really love it around here. I like the fresh, but the frozen stuff usually ends up a little mushy so I figured we'd try to make soup. I found this recipe on epicurious.com and thought I'd mix it up with my beer cheese soup. Seriously, I basically just winged it and it turned out pretty good!

Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup with Tarragon:

4 Tbsp butter (1 stick)
2 - 12 oz bags frozen broccoli, defrosted
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup flour
1 - 12 oz can beer (I used miller lite since it was all we had...ATK recommends Miller High Life!)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup whipping cream
8 oz cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 oz american cheese, finely grated or cut into small cubes.

1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent but not browned, 5-6 mn. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
2. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, about a minute.
3. Slowly whisk in the broth and beer. Bring to a simmer, then add all but 1 cup of the broccoli.
4. Bring entire mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to low and simmer gently (do not boil) until the broccoli is soft, about 20 mn.
5. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth (safest done off the stove). 
6. Return soup to the stove, add the cream and simmer over medium low heat about 5-10 mn.
7. Whisk in the cheese a handful at a time, until smooth.
8. Add the remaining broccoli and simmer until cooked through, about 10 mn
8. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with homemade crackers!

Homemade Crackers!

I promised no more low-res phone pictures. I lied. Cooking with kids is challenging enough without bringing the expensive camera into the kitchen sometimes...
 We got stuck home last week...partly because of a sick kid, partly because I'm really tired of winter. It was coming up on lunch time and the thought of buttered noodles or PB&J's again was killing me. Sooo...I made a pot of broccoli cheese soup (post to come!) and then Monkey and I made some homemade crackers. It was pretty fun. You can roll them out and use cookie cutters which we did with half the dough, or you can roll out into long pieces and then break apart. Either way they're easy and good and pretty adaptable. Next time I'd add a TON more seasoning as I thought they were fairly bland, but the kids gobbled them up!

I found a couple recipes that required what I already had at home and just sort of winged it, but they were a fun project to do with the kids. The texture and taste sort of reminded me of a biscuit type cracker. Maybe because they weren't as thin as they could be, I don't know, but they're super easy and fun to try!


4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup shortening or bacon fat (yes, I'm one of those people that saves it...)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or whatever else you want)
salt or seasoning to taste (I actually used Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning)

Mix flour, baking powder and shortening
Add milk and blend well
Form a ball of dough and divide so you can roll out and cut
Roll out dough very thin and cut with cookie cutters or else roll into planks
Poke all over with a fork and transfer to a baking sheet
Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until golden

That's it! Very easy :)

January 10, 2011

A Different Kind of Vampire Book...

Tandem by Tracey Bateman

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Although not a huge fan of vampire type books, I thought this one looked interesting and I was right. Although it's a sequel, (I didn't realize this until I was finished with the book!), I don't feel like I was missing too much having not read the first book.

The book is about a woman running an auction house while dealing with Alzheimer's taking it's toll on her father. She's pulled into the vampire plot when a fire claims the life of a man and woman who were vampires (I'm not spoiling this since it was laid out in the first book). The woman who was killed had a sister (also a vampire), who comes to the small town to claim items found in the house. The story continues to follow these two story lines with twists and turns that were sometimes surprising but often predictable...

I really got into Anne Rice when I was younger but hated the Twilight series. I think that this series is a little more akin to the Rice books because the characters are more believable, the suspense builds and leaves you guessing (although honestly, it wasn't too hard to figure out who the "other" vampire was), and overall it was a decent read. Would I recommend this? Maybe, if you like vampires and want an easy read. I didn't have any problems getting through this and actually added the first of the series to my "easy books to read" list

January 9, 2011

Tortellini and Spinach Ribbons in Saffron-Romano Broth

The weather this week-end is bitterly cold. Driving home last night from my girlfriends house, I had to alternate hands on the steering wheel because they kept freezing! No fun...totally worth a fun night with the girls though :)

My original plan today was to roast a turkey but I forgot to take it out yesterday morning. So today I thought I'd make a huge pot of marinara, but I was short a couple ingredients and when my husband came home with them I was taking a nap, so....I was looking for something easy.

This soup is perfect for a cold night - it's basic yet filled with great flavor - not too many ingredients and easy enough for even the beginner cook. Try it. You'll like it! It made enough for all of us, (2 adults, a teen, a tween and 2 toddlers), to finish and a bit left over. Double it if you want to serve a crowd...

  • 5 oz piece Romano cheese with roughly 3"x3" rind, or enough area to cover approximately the same area
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups cheese tortellini
  • 4 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves, cut into 1/2" wide ribbons
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced - about 2 Tbsp
  • Homemade or good quality croutons
  1. Cut rind off cheese
  2. Combine rind, stock, garlic, saffron, parsley and olive oil in a medium sized pot and simmer gently, partially covered, about 30 minutes.
  3. Discard parsley and rind and season broth with salt if needed (probably not, depends on your broth)
  4. Add tortellini and simmer, partially covered, until al dente, about 10 minutes
  5. Add spinach and simmer, uncovered, 1 minute.
  6. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.
  7. Divide among serving bowls and shave remaining cheese on top to taste. 
  8. Top with croutons.

January 5, 2011

Crazy Potato Squares! (Ham and Potato Gratin)

Monkey is my #1 fan in the kitchen. I don't mean that he loves everything that I make, but every time I'm in there, he really really wants to help. He's a natural and will actually eat anything he helps make, so it's a good motivator for me to try new things with him.

For Christmas, he made an apron at a playtime, and got these knives and this cookbook from his Nana. We haven't made anything with the cookbook yet, but I promise we will and post how it went!

Last night my plan was to make a quick potato gratin - I bought 20 lbs of the suckers on impulse at my grocer when they had organic bags on sale for $3.99. It's a lot of potatoes! I also had some ham in the freezer from Christmas that my Grandmother sent home so the gratin seemed like a good idea. I also almost always have cheese and cream in my fridge. What can I say, it's a good thing I'm not lactose intolerant!

Enter my little Monkey.

He tried to help cut up the ham with his trusty knife but it was a little tough going so I helped with that. We cut up the potatoes in my Cuisinart using the julienne attachment, or as he likes to call it, the crazy potato squares! (Side note, my Cuisinart is still semi-broken and while I can get it to make salsa without too much effort, putting things through the feed tube means an entirely different headache...I put this on my Valentines wishlist...)

Anyway, Monkey assembled the entire dish with very little help from me and loved doing it. It turned out wonderful and the entire dish was gone! No leftovers! I couldn't believe it...

Crazy Potato Squares aka Ham and Potato Gratin with Cheese!


  • Approximately 5 cups of potatos cut into 1/4" julienne, from about 2.5 lbs
  • 2 cups leftover ham, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp Marjoram
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 6 oz Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz Romano Cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tbsp Butter


1. Preheat Oven to 375
2. Butter the inside of an 11 x 15 pan
3. In a large bowl, mix together potatoes, ham, onion, marjoram and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

4. In another bowl, or food processor, combine the shredded cheeses

5. Place 1/3 of the Potato mixture in the pan

6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese mixture on top

7. Repeat with the remaining potatoes and cheese, ending with a layer of cheese.

8. Press the mixture down flat with the back of a spatula and bake in the oven for 90 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

p.s. Because he ate all his dinner and because he's so dang cute, here are a couple pictures of him eating his pumpkin pie for dessert!