Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Mash Crash

I had a failed attempt at the "mash" with tonight's dinner (pork instead of lamb since it was already in my freezer). I cooked the vegetables at 350 for a couple hours, and by then I felt like the veggies had shriveled and the outside had become overly cooked/firm. (Wouldn't recommend the baby carrots, which is all I had in my fridge.) I increased the temperature to quicken the process. It went downhill from there ... not having a masher and a $5 hand mixer were part of the problem, but I felt like the veggies weren't soft enough inside and that the outside had become too tough to mix easily. What went wrong? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Danielle's Braised Lamb & Sweet Potato Mash

I loved the sweet potato mash! I like that it had a mix of veggies in it, and the onion and garlic really added a lot to the overall flavor. We used a potato masher and left it coarsely mashed (with just butter - no cream), and I loved the texture. It made a ton so we had it again with dinner a couple nights later. It was just as good the second time around. Roasting has definitely become my cooking method of choice. No more boiling potatoes! I think this is going to be my go-to recipe for mashed potatoes.

We also made the leg of lamb. As LuAnn said, the lamb was pricey at $20 (from Costco), but that was for almost 5 lbs of meat. So we cut it in thirds and froze the other two-thirds to use another time. So really, just over $6 for four people isn't bad (although we actually could've fed six).

The lamb came out perfectly tender and moist. The red wine gave it a great flavor. We also put in fresh rosemary and thyme. I loved the taste of the rosemary in it. It was perfect. I would definitely make this again.

Whitney's Baked Brownies

This is my daughter, Rachel, and she said, "mmmm..." after she tried it! I thought they were pretty good. I liked the texture and the taste, but I couldn't help compare it to a $2 (on sale) box of brownie mix, which saves me time and money. However, if I need a good brownie-from-scratch recipe, then I'll come back to this one. Whenever I ate one, it seemed to feel a little greasy (hello, probably the butter) after devouring one, so I felt a little guilty eating more than 1, but they're brownies and you gotta live a little, right?! My only regret is that I didn't have any more vanilla ice cream in the freezer to eat with the brownies - my favorite!

p.s. Our furnished condo does not have a wonderfully furnished kitchen (i.e., had to buy measuring cups, spoons, a broom, and has only 4 bowls, 3 plates, you get the picture) so my cooking is still somewhat limited, so I'll only be popping in every once in awhile. But everything is looking very delicious!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sweet Potato Mash (and Leg of Lamb)

This week's recipe is from Hot Off the Garlic Press. {no pics cause hers are great.} HG is written by a friend who I met in Taiwan. Her husband was working there at the time. Currently they are living in Sydney, Australia working for the same company. I'm so impressed with her site! She is amazing and all these recipes are her own originals. I'm not sure why I didn't spend more Sunday afternoons at her house eating dinner...or even with her. If I had only known! But we did other fun things like excursions to the fabric market and the bead store.

I'm going to be honest I've only made a few recipes from her site...only because they all sound so fancy that I've been intimidated. However, I've gained some cooking confidence lately and I realized she has 2 little kids just like I do and so far I'm finding her recipes are rather practical. I've made the spaghetti sauce/lasagna many times and I love it! The Herb Roasted Sunday Chicken is great. The herb butter is great to have around. This week I tried the Cornflake and Almond Encrusted French Toast and loved it. I've got the Chocolate Pancakes with PB Syrup (seriously can't wait) and the Roasted Butternut and Eggplant Stuffed Cannelloni (which I'll top with the Parmesan and Garlic Beschemel Sauce with Mushrooms) on my menu in the next couple weeks.

I was really intrigued by the Sweet Potato Mash that she posted a few weeks ago with the Red Wine Braised Leg of Lamb. Sweet potatoes are supposedly the most healthy vegetable as they have iron, calcium, fiber and vitamin A and C. I try to feed them to Jack everyday and I am so pleased when I can put them in to something tasty for the rest of us. I think I'll be throwing a few into any batch of mashed potatoes in my future cause these were so good!

So here is the recipe for this week with emphasis on the Mash. To keep with the spirit of things I also made the lamb. The lamb was a bit pricey at $20 for the leg, but it was delicious. I think I'll make this my traditional Easter meal. I had some new people in the ward over for dinner and I'm pretty sure they left thinking I was a good cook. Fooled them! ;) No, I'm getting there...there are cooks that have a great collection of recipes and there are cooks that can whip up a delicious meal without a script. I'm doing pretty well with the former and I aspire for the latter.

On the Mash...allow plenty of time for the veggies. Natalie said she put hers in whole for 4 hours under the lamb. Mine were probably 3 to 3 1/2 and they weren't quite done enough. But that was at 300F. Cut them up or up the temperature to make them faster like she says. I recommend leaning toward the generous side of her recommended proportions of butter, cream and garlic. Oh man...I just realized I forgot the onion. That would have been even better. Darn.

On the Lamb (if you are up for it)...I'm not sure how much wine (I used white rather than red cause I had it) she used, but I put in probably 1 1/2 cups. It was enough to cook it and it was nice and tender, but for some reason I only had a couple tablespoons of juice (after I took out at least 1/2 C of fat...I want one of the fat separators) so I didn't have much gravy.

And about me...

Do you have any pet peeves?
Probably most of them are around my house. Like my toothbrush already wet when I go to brush cause "a roommate" used it and plates with the food still on them sitting in the sink.

Any other hobbies besides being an amazing cook?
Knitting. I can sew pretty well, but I hate it. Cycling.

What is your favorite summer activity?
I haven't had a normal summer in a while since last summer I had Jack and this summer was in D.C. and the summer before that we moved. So I can't really think of anything...definitely not moving, which I've done that 6 of the last 7 summers. Probably cycling.

Are you a morning or a night person?
Morning. I'm a worthless mass of human body after 10:30p. Even watching a movie is pretty much miserable for me even a minute past 11p. I love mornings...but I don't like to start them until 6:30a.

Are you a go-go-go vacationer or a lie-on-the-beach vacationer?
A perfect balance of both...but if it's one or the other I'll take the beach.

What is your favorite store?
I used to think Anthropologie, but I'm sick of it...everything being Anthropolified and I can't afford anything there. So, I think I'd have to say Ace Hardware cause it's so close and I find all those little things I need. Believe it or not...I rarely go to Target.

What is your favorite beverage?
Water. Chilled or icey. With a good flavor...which is why I have a water cooler in my home so I always have good water. I think soda is pretty worthless.

If you had to go back to school, what would your major be?
Finance. Just because I wish I was more educated about it in general.

Cami's Baked Brownie

I really liked these. I made them exactly like the recipe said but I left out the espresso. I baked them for exactly 30 minutes and I actually liked how the middle was a little gooey. Mine were formed but fudgy, just the way I like them.

Jason is not normally a brownie eater but he loved these. That is really saying something for the brownies. I'll certainly make them again and next time maybe I'll try adding some extra ingredients like nuts and chocolate chips.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Melanie W.'s Chicken with Tomato, Feta, and Olive Relish

This was so full of color and flavor. I loved it, but then I also love feta cheese and kalamata olives. I did as Cami suggested and bought some from the olive bar. It was my first experience buying something from the olive bar, so I felt like a real cook and so grown up. :) I also did as Danielle did and added cucumber. It was perfect, and really made it like a greek salad. It went really well with the chicken. I could have gone a bit easier with the mint. It was my first time using fresh mint and so I didn't know how mild or strong it would be. My mother-in-law asked to have a copy of the recipe, so it was a hit!

Melanie W.'s S'more Nut Bars

I made these a couple weeks ago for make-up week, but forgot to post about it. oops. :)
I stuck pretty close to the recipe, but based on past comments I modified it just a bit. The chocolate was 3/4 milk chocolate and only 1/4 dark chocolate. I could have used a little higher quality chocolate to make it taste better but the grocery store I went to only had some cheap stuff. I used the mini marshmallows because I wasn't excited about having to chop up big mashmallows. I think I added a lot more than needed, and also added some on top to make it look yummier. Once it was all put together I threw the whole thing in the oven on broil for just a few minutes in order to get the marshmallows a little melty and roasted looking, like real smores.
I liked these alright, but thought they were too rich and didn't taste like real smores. I think the peanuts messed up the flavor too, but if there weren't any peanuts I think it would be too chocolaty. I made this for my dad's birthday and he didn't give a yay or a nay, so for him that probably meant he didn't like them. I don't think I'll make them again.

The Purple Foodie

There was a post last week about the Baked Brownies on The Purple Foodie. Check it out here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Whitney's Banana Chocolate Muffins

So I am somewhat settled in Arizona now and just checked out the Baked book from the library. (They didn't have it at the Orem, UT Public Library so I was without all summer - I told them to get with the times and get this book!) I'm excited to try a few tasty treats!

These were very yummy. I cook banana bread monthly, so these will be a good recipe to mix it up a bit. Hopefully I'll get to cooking those brownies sometime next week.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Danielle's Baked Brownies

Sorry, no picture. We actually made these a couple weeks ago, not knowing it was coming up in the rotation on the blog. And it didn't occur to me to take a picture.

These were really tasty brownies, but like Hyeyoung said, I don't know that I can say they're the best I've ever had. They had a unique flavor, and I can't put my finger on what it was since there weren't any unusual ingredients in them (I left out the espresso powder). But whatever it was, I liked it.

I was kind of annoyed that the recipe says not to overcook them because "an even slightly overbaked brownie is not a Baked Brownie." After 30 minutes, mine were still totally raw in the middle. I had to bake mine for at least an extra 10 minutes and they were still a little under done in my opinion.

I don't have a go-to brownie recipe, so I might make these again. I don't think this ends my search for a great brownie recipe, though.

Danielle's Chicken & Tomato Relish

This was a super easy, super tasty dinner. I don't make a lot of the same things twice these days, but I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up on our table again sometime.

As usual, I made some alterations. I was a little short on tomatoes, so I decided to add in cucumbers. I think the cucumbers went really nicely with the relish. The flavors meshed well and it added some crunchy texture. I think I'll make it the same way in the future. I also couldn't bear to shell out (or should I say, have Max's mom shell out) $8 for a jar of kalamata olives when it's not an ingredient I use regularly (or ever). So I got a $2 can of burgundy olives instead. I don't know how they taste different than kalamata olives, but I liked the flavor.

I loved the mint! The mint with the other flavors was fantastic. So fresh tasting. I'm always happy to have any excuse to use fresh mint.

This dinner gets two thumbs up.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baked Brownies

I decided on the Baked Brownies for several reasons: first, I needed something that wouldn't take me 3 hours to make; second, I wanted something that my kids generally like; and third, I wanted to find out if the hype about these brownies was really all that and then some (I mean, they were one of Oprah's favorite things, after all...).

I baked them pretty much as the direction stated, except maybe I didn't let my eggs come completely to room temperature. And instead of espresso, I used instant coffee that I had bought a while back for something else but had apparently forgotten what it was for since I still had it in my pantry. I used Dutch-processed cocoa powder (more expensive than say, Hershey's, for example, but well-worth it for its absence of lumps, finer texture, and much darker color). I used Ghiradelli's 60% cacao chocolate pieces, which melted very smoothly with the butter. I don't think the eggs made a difference, although I think if they had been colder, it probably would have made the chocolate/butter/sugar mixture firm up when I added them. The coffee, on the other hand, gave them a little bitter taste, which no one mentioned (I offered them to friends we had over for dinner as well as several colleagues at work the next day). If I had espresso powder, I might try it to see if it makes a difference, but since I usually don't, I think I'll leave it (and the coffee) out next time. I baked mine for exactly 30 minutes--I was a little paranoid about overbaking it--and that resulted in a brownie that was very smooth, rich, and light in texture without being cakey (which I think the recipe wanted you to avoid). It was quite tasty with vanilla ice cream, especially when it still had a little warmth left in them. Everyone who tried them agreed that it was a very good brownie; unfortunately, no one thought it was the best brownie that they had ever had. Greg and I thought they were pretty good (after all, the picture above on the awesome Ikea kids' plate were the last 2 pieces left) but we wouldn't call them the best or our favorite necessarily. That said, I'd probably keep them in rotation with my other brownie recipes.

And onto the questions...

Do you have any pet peeves?
Who doesn't? But at the top of my list are people who smoke downtown right outside of office buildings...because who doesn't want to be smacked in the face with a big nasty cloud of smoke just as they are walking out of a building?

Any other hobbies besides being an amazing cook?
I like to dabble in a lot of different things...but the more consistent things are that I tend to quilt, sew and knit in the winter; do papercrafts (cards, scrapbooks) throughout the year; and garden, can fruits and make jams in the summer.

What is your favorite summer activity?
Going on vacation...I love a good road trip. I love to go pick fruit with my kids--we have been picking peaches (and canning them) for a few years now and we started picking blueberries and raspberries last year. This year, we picked pears and those were super tasty. I love to see them eat a huge peach with juices running down their front and eating berries by the handfuls. It makes me feel better about those occasional not-so-good eating days.
Are you a morning or a night person?
Motherhood has forced me to be more functional in the mornings, but I've always been a late-nighter. The worst is when I stay up way too late and my kids wake up way too early.

Are you a go-go-go sight-seeing kind of vacationer or lie-on-the-beach-all-day kind of vacationer?
Definitely the lie-on-the-beach-all-day. I don't like going on vacation and coming home feeling like I need a vacation.

What is your favorite store?
For most things, probably Target, although I find a lot of useful things at Costco these days.

What is your favorite beverage?
Ooh, Diet Coke. Icy cold.

If you had to go back to school, what would your major be?
It depends on what I wanted to do, I guess. I was a Political Science major at U of C and I totally loved it. I guess the question for me would be, would I go to law school again? Probably, although I might re-think litigation. It's not particularly family-friendly. I'm taking a mediation course at Northwestern this fall because I really enjoyed doing mediations in law school. Last fall, I really wanted to go to pastry school. But maybe it was just because I was 3 months post-partum, sleep-deprived, and hormonal.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Hey, gals!

I'm just wondering if I could switch with someone for a later date. I'm scheduled to choose a recipe for October 5th, but I'm currently cooking nothing and barfing up everything--yay for babies, right? I actually haven't really even visited this blog recently because even pictures of food have the potential to do me in, but wow, Cami, that chicken looks mouthwatering. I wish I could make it right now. Anyway, any volunteers?

Thanks everyone!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I realize this recipe was up for review like a billion years ago, and I must confess, this is my third time making them.  We just eat them so fast.  By the time my camera battery is charged I am usually licking the last chocolate banana morsel off of my fingers.
Needless to say, these taste divine.
The only change I made was swapping out espresso powder for cinnamon. Same measurements.
You would seriously be doing yourself a mighty disservice by not giving these a whirl.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cami's Chicken with Tomato, Feta and Olive Relish

This is one of my go-to meals. It's quick, light and very flavorful. I love the combination of warm chicken with the cool relish. I thought of a few things while making it tonight.

1. I've used all different sizes of tomatoes. As long as they are small you can make them work.
2. You can use feta or goat cheese with great results.
3. Jason and I aren't crazy about kalamata olives, so I decrease the number I put in and chop them really small. They add a great flavor but I don't want to eat just olive. I normally buy them at the olive bar at the grocery store so I don't have to buy a whole jar.
4. You can vary the ratio based on your family's preferences. If you aren't big on feta but love tomatoes, just increase the tomatoes and decrease the feta. It's pretty versatile.
5. It tastes better if you make the relish ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge for a little while (at least 20 minutes). That gives it time to mix the flavors.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Tomato, Olive, and Feta Relish

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cherry tomatoes (about 10 ounces)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 1/2 ounces)

4 large skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 6 to 7 ounces each)

Mix cherry tomatoes, olives, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, mint, and vinegar in medium bowl. Gently stir in feta cheese. Season relish to taste with salt and pepper.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush chicken on both sides with remaining 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill chicken just until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plates and slice, if desired. Top with relish and serve.

Cook's Notes: I often substitute goat cheese for the Feta. I prefer goat cheese in general so I try to switch it in whenever I can. I'm making it later this week so I don't have a picture to post yet.

Since I already answered this round of questions I won't bore you again. Have a great week and give this easy recipe a try!

Cami's Potato, Goat Cheese and Spinach Quesadillas

These are so tasty. I never would have thought to put these ingredients together and I don't think I would have used this recipe just by looking at the ingredients. We made them two nights in a row because they were so good! I'll definitely make these again.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Can I make a suggestion? I think it would be helpful to put the name of the recipe in labels so that when we want to make a recipe from the past we can easily pull up all the posts for that recipe. Then it will be easy to read everyone's comments and suggestions. The initial poster should make the label and everyone will have to put in that exact label for it to work. What do you think?

Danielle's Potato and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

I have to say I was skeptical of the ingredients in this recipe... spinach, goat cheese, and potatoes with salsa and pepper jack? But I was pleasantly surprised. They worked together much better than I imagined, and these quesadillas tasted great! I'm really a fan of goat cheese so I was happy to have a new reason to use it.

For the tomatillo salsa, I used this Emeril recipe (although I tweaked it slightly*). I think it worked really well with these quesadillas. If any of you like homemade salsa, you should try this. Yum!

*I roasted the veggies on our bbq, and they smelled so delicious! I tried a similar recipe that called for boiling the veggies, but roasted tastes so much better! I also added an avocado to the salsa to make it thicker. You can't really taste the avocado, but I like the consistency.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Catch Up Week

Hi Ladies!

Unfortunately we won't be getting a new recipe this week. So I am going to suggest we all use this week as a catch up week. If there was a post you missed because you were on vacation or otherwise unavailable, use this opportunity to try it. And make sure you post about it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Melanie W.'s Potato, Greens, and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

I have consistently been impressed with the recipe selections on here. These are no exception. They proved to be flavorful, filling, and a nice break from the normal boring stuff I tend to make. I'm not a huge fan of goat cheese, but I used it anyway and it was actually really good! Maybe I should use goat cheese more often. I did as Jeannie recommended and I used whole fresh baby spinach and put cheese on both the top and bottom. It stuck together pretty well. For leftovers I only used 1 tortilla and it flipped a little easier than 2 full tortillas, so I think next time I would use the fold-over method. I used red potatoes since that's what I had, and I forgot to get tomatillo salsa so we just used red salsa. They were yummy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sweet and Salty Cake

It finally happened. I made this crazy cake with the help of three others. Cami and Danielle weren't lying when they said it took awhile. We had fun though and it turned out pretty well but I think that it was a little too rich for me. Ta da!