January 29, 2010

Pics of the turkey dinner

Sorry - I know this is all a bit late (and random, as usual), but I was uploading pics off of my camera and I came across some of the turkey dinner Steve and I had a couple of weeks back, and I thought I'd share them with you. I am finally getting to the point that I could possibly consider eating turkey again. Almost. Note to self: a 20 lb turkey is just a little bit too much for two regular sized people. Thanks.
Check out this totally rad grill. It has a propane start - so it's just as easy to fire up as a gas grill, but you still get the coveted charcoal grill taste. Genius!

Millions of tiny cubes of bread, hand cut by Steve and I, and toasted to make homemade stuffing. YUM. I love stuffing.

Piles and piles and piles turkey...

Delicious homemade gravy...it was my first time ever making turkey gravy, and I was very nervous! I made homemade chicken stock as a stand in, just in case I didn't have enough drippings from the turkey, but we ended up with TONS of drippings. I don't know if it was the slow-roasting method, or because I shoved butter and herbs in between the skin and meat? Either way, we had more than enough drippings, and they had a wonderful, smokey, "hot off the grill" flavor that really made the gravy delicious!

The feast!

January 28, 2010

Surveillance Checkup #1

Good news!
First, Steve moved his doctor's appointment up to today, instead of tomorrow afternoon. Why they make you wait that long to find out results is beyond me - I mean, talk about giving someone a frickin ulcer. He went in for the CT scan/blood work on Monday...they couldn't get the results by Monday afternoon? Or Tuesday at the latest? Give.Me.A.Break.
Second, he just text me to tell me that he was done with his appointment, and that everything came back clean! *RELIEF* *WHEW* *YAY!!!*
His next appointment is April 26th. Thanks for listening!

January 25, 2010

Finally! White Chicken Chili Recipe...

Sorry for the delay folks - I had some serious road blocks last week that prevented me from posting this recipe sooner. Things like snowshoeing, eating at new Japanese restaurants (pics and review to come), visiting my nephew in the cities, riding around in plow trucks, making homemade spaghetti sauce, joining Yoga classes and watching the Vikings choke really impeded my progress. BUT - at long last, here is the recipe for White Chicken Chili that you have all been waiting for (given to me by my friend Danielle and complete with my changes at the bottom, of course!):

Danielle's White Chicken Chili 
6 marinated boneless, skinless chicken breasts (see preparation below)
3/4 cup Lime Juice
Zest of 1 Lime
2 Tbs. Minced Garlic
3 Tbs. Butter or Olive Oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 large onion finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbs. Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tbs. Kosher Salt
4-5 cans Great Northern Beans (mostly drained)
2 (4-ounce) cans mild Green Chiles
1 (4-ounce) can Jalapenos (if desired)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, for garnish
3 Tbs. Chopped Parsley leaves, for garnish
1 bag Tortilla Strips, for garnish
As many as 3-24 hours before, marinade the chicken breasts in minced garlic, zest of 1 lime and lime juice. Cube chicken and saute in Dutch Oven with 3 Tbs. Butter or Olive Oil until cooked through and tender.  Remove chicken and set aside in a bowl.  In same Dutch Oven, add 1 Tbs. Olive Oil and saute onions for a few minutes.  Stir in the green chiles and add the flour and 1 Tbs. Minced Garlic.  Add the chicken stock to deglaze the pan and stir in the heavy cream.  Lower heat and cook until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  Once the sauce has thickened, add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, black pepper and the salt.  If desired, add Jalapenos.  Stir and cook for a few minutes.  Add the Great Northern Beans and the chicken and simmer for another 6-8 minutes.  Transfer to a serving bowl or crock pot.   Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla strips.    

* I used already cooked turkey left over from the giant 20 lb turkey we made the day before. I still marinaded it for a few hours in the lime (the lime makes this dish - trust me!) and then just dumped it in to the chili towards the end. 
* I'm sure you'll be surprised about this one...I substituted half-n-half and a little 1% milk for the heavy cream. 
* After all the ingredients were in the pot, I found the chili to be too thick for my liking (after all, it only calls for 3 cups of liquid total...1 cup cream, 2 cups stock), so I added more chicken stock (you could also just use broth), more milk (probably should have used more half-n-half but I was out), and an extra squeeze of lime (but taste it first to decide if you really want to add more lime - I am a lime-lover so it was a good decision for me). After that, taste it and add more seasonings if necessary. 
* Don't be a sissy - use jalapenos. It's still chili for Pete's sake! 
* Instead of Tortilla strips for garnish, crush up some Nacho Cheese Doritos. Oh yumyumyumyumyum. It doesn't look quite as nice as the strips, but it tastes amazing. That tip is courtesy of Steve!
* Obviously, this is not a low fat dish. Take your dog for an extra long walk after eating this.  
* Enjoy! 

Cross your fingers

Steve had his first (post-chemo) CT scan this morning. Now that he is done with his treatments, he has to be "under surveillance" for the next five years. Even though it sounds like he is being watched by the FBI, CIA, TNT, AMA, LOL, or some other top secret organization, it really just means that they (the doctors/nurses/hospital staff) are going to proactively keep an eye on his body to make sure if the cancer comes back, they catch it PRONTO. He has to go get checked every 3 months for the next 3 years, and then every 6 month for 2 years after that. Fun, huh?

Please keep your fingers crossed that when we get the scans back on Friday (and every time after that), they come back clean and he stays cancer free! Thanks for all of your thoughts, prayers, texts, emails, phone calls, hugs, encouragement, distractions, positive words, positive thinking, hand holding and general support through this whole thing...from both of us!

January 20, 2010

Yummy BBQ Pork

Tonight we are having leftover pulled BBQ pork (because I am getting sooooo tired of turkey) that I made a couple of months back and froze. Below is the recipe that I used, and if you can believe it - I barely changed anything. The only thing I did differently was to add the remaining bbq sauce to the pork towards the end of the cook time (to keep it saucy and moist)...and I melted provolone cheese onto the rolls and added sliced up pickles. If you want to, you could also put coleslaw (the vinegar based kind for true Carolina-style) on top of the meat in the bun. This one is definitely a keeper. Yum! Enjoy!
PS - I am re-learning to love my slow cooker this winter! 
PPS - This makes A LOT of pulled pork. Either make it for a small crowd/big family or be like me and freeze 1/2 of it!  
PPPS (does that even exist? either way) - I know that I promised to post my white chicken chili recipe, and I will keep that promise! Soon!  
Recipe from bakingbites.com :

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
5-6 lb. pork shoulder/pork butt
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup tomato paste
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp mustard
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 cup water

Place onion on the bottom of your slow cooker. Place pork shoulder, trimmed of any obvious excess fat, into slow cooker on top of onions.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients to form the barbecue sauce. Feel free to adjust salt and pepper to taste, if necessary. Pour half of the sauce over the pork and cover. Set remaining sauce aside.
Cook over low heat for about 8 hours (or according to your slow cooker’s presets).
Remove pork to a large bowl and shred with two forks. Transfer meat back into slow cooker and cook for a few more minutes, until meat has soaked up the sauce. Pulled pork can be held on the “warm” setting in the slow cooker for serving.
Serve on soft sandwich rolls, topped with extra barbecue sauce.

Serves 10-12.

January 19, 2010

Did you miss me?

It has been almost a week - I have been neglecting you! What have you been eating all week without my saliva-inducing recipes? What was that, I'm the only one that gets THAT fired up about cooking and eating? And what? Only two people read this blog?? Oh well. I like food, and the alternative is me bitching to you about all of my problems. Ha!

On a related subject - Steve and I made a 20 pound turkey on the grill on Saturday night. 20 lbs. For just the two of us. We used this delicious slow roasting method that we saw in the December issue of Cooking Light, where you blast it in the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes (this browns and sears the skin to help keep the juices in and make it look appealing. No one wants to eat pale, sallow, sick looking turkey), and then crank 'er down to 250 and cook it until the meatiest part of the thigh gets to 165. Except we did it on the grill, which was a little harder to control, but it turned out yummy none-the-less. Before we put it on, I took my hands and rubbed a mixture of softened butter, chopped rosemary, garlic, paprika and salt/pepper in between the skin and the breast/thigh meat. You could also use lemon (juice and zest), thyme, oregano, etc...whatever your fancy! Then I made homemade stuffing (like, I even cubed up bread and dried it. Ok, actually, Steve cubed the bread. But I did the rest), and from scratch gravy. It was comforting and satisfying and we have turkey coming out of our asses. I made white chicken chili (but with turkey), we have been eating leftovers like crazy, and we still have a big bag full of turkey meat. AND, I had Steve leave a bunch of meat on the carcass and I threw it in the freezer to make soup with sometime soon (like next year when I finally have the desire to eat anything with turkey in it). I will put the recipe up for the chili in the next couple of days...it is sooooo good. Yum. Yum. YUM!

Other random things:
- Steve is feeling pretty good. His chest cold is still hanging on but he said that he feels better and like he is coming to the end of it. He has his first "surveillance" CT scan on Monday.
- I got a chest freezer. *Insert Evil Cackle Here!* That means that I can cook until my heart is content and never run out of storage space. Lets just say that if we ever get a snow storm of the century, you better hope that you happen to be snowed in at my house. We could survive for decades.
- I am starting a yoga class on Monday. On more tiny baby step in trying to my life back together. Cause, you know - yoga is suppose to be good for the mind and spirit.

January 13, 2010

Definitely Not a Disappointment

So...Tara and I made that Ice Cream Pie last night. It was delicious and wonderful. We followed the recipe pretty much exactly, except that instead of Butter Brickle, we used Peanut Butter Brickle (is there even a difference?). We were not disappointed. Then I put a piece in the freezer for Steve and brought the rest of the pie to work and made the office eat it for breakfast. Dammit - if I am getting fat, they are going down with me! I managed to only have one small sliver before pawning it off on everyone else...hee hee hee...

I also made this pasta.

It was really good - I struggled a bit with the fact that it didn't have a tomato base...because I love tomatoes and I very rarely have pasta without a tomato based sauce. The red peppers were very different, but turned out well. I am glad that I branched out enough to make this.

I had never roasted red peppers before (I usually just buy the ones in the jar...shhhh, don't tell Martha), but I figured that with a sauce who's main ingredient is roasted red peppers, I had better use the real thing. I don't have a gas range (and my grill is ass-deep in snow), so I had to use the broiler which worked just fine. I also made a few other adjustments such as using half-n-half instead of heavy cream (to make my tummy happy), and instead of parsley I used basil. Just because I felt like it. I don't really think that parlsey has a good enough flavor to carry the weight of being the ONLY herb in this dish. I think the basil was a great addition. Also, I couldn't find orrecchiette pasta, so I just used penne. I almost felt like I could have added some spice to this...like either a dash or two of Pizza and Pasta magic, or even a little cheyenne pepper...something to think about for next time...

Try this if you feel like a yummy, simple pasta sauce that is different from your run-of-the-mill tomato sauce.

January 12, 2010

You must make and eat this right now. Then send some to me.

Holy crap. Tara brought to my attention a recipe that was on The Pioneer Woman blog today, and even though I haven't tried it, even though I should never never ever try it, I had to share it with you guys because it looks so frickin good...I had to quell the urge to lick my computer screen. I'll give you $20 if you make this pie for me. $100 if you make it today for me (this excludes you Tara, since you are sleeping over tonight and we will be cooking dinner together. And I don't actually have $100. I will however give you a hug and a kiss if you make this tonight. Then I will probably punch you for making my ass so big. Ha!). Here you go - let it taunt you until you break down and make it. And if you do make it, please please pretty please post a comment here and tell me how delicious it was. Or better yet, lie and tell me how disgustingly icky it was. Thank you!

Prep Time: 25 Minutes Cook Time: 15 Minutes Difficulty: Intermediate Servings: 8
  • Caramel Sauce
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar, Packed
  • ½ cups Half-and-half
  • Pinch Of Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla
  • Crust
  • ¼ cups Egg Whites
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ cups Sugar
  • 1 cup Pecans, Finely Chopped
  • Filling *
  • 2 pints Ice Cream (1 Pint Each Of Different Flavors)
Preparation Instructions
To make the caramel sauce:
Mix butter, brown sugar, half & half, and salt in a saucepan over medium low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker. Add vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off heat and pour sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold.
To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat egg whites until frothy. Add sugar and salt and beat on high until stiff. Fold in nuts. Spread mixture all over the bottom and sides of a non-glass pie pan, making sure to adequately coat the sides. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, watching toward the end to make sure crust doesn’t get too brown. Remove from oven when crust is golden brown. Allow crust to cook completely.
When crust is cool, remove ice cream from freezer. Allow to soften. When soft, spread one pint of ice cream (I used Butter Brickle) over the bottom of the crust. Spread the other pint (I used Vanilla Bean) over the first flavor. Cover with foil and freeze until very hard.
To serve, cut slices of pie and serve on individual plates with cold caramel sauce spooned over the top. *Note that the crust will be a bit sticky…but it’s oh, so good!

January 11, 2010

Steve (and random thoughts)

Hello! I have had a lot of people email/call/text to see how Steve was doing so I thought I'd post a little update (not that I mind the calling/texting/emailing - keep em coming!). For anyone who doesn't already know, Steve had his final mega-round of chemotherapy (by mega I mean double what people normally get) last week on Tuesday. This time it took him longer to really feel the effects of the infusion...he was still feeling pretty good until Friday. After that it seemed to hit him pretty hard, but this time doesn't seem as bad a last round...maybe just because we knew what to expect? Or because he knows that he doesn't have to do it again? Or maybe it is just taking longer to hit him, and the worst is still to come? I'm not sure, but his attitude was more positive this time and that helps A LOT. That is the good news. The bad news is that last night he started coughing and this morning he woke up with a cold. Normally I wouldn't think this was a very big deal, but I'm not sure if his body is capable of fighting off any type of infection right now, so I am worrying about it. If he doesn't start to feel better soon I am going to make him call his doctor. I'll keep you posted, thank you for all of your care and concern!
Love you!
PS - Go Vikings!
PPS - In addition to giving me bags of frozen garden tomatoes, my brother also gave me a package of venison stew meat. I have been going back and forth on how to use it. The last few years the venison from our shack has been phenomenal. Super tender and not game-y at all. For those of you who are non-venison eaters...I could literally convince you that you were eating a tender and delicious cut of beef instead of deer. You would never know. Anyway, I was thinking I could use the tomatoes and the venison and make homemade spaghetti sauce...or I could use the tomatoes for sauce for chicken parmigiana, and use the venison for homemade chili. Any suggestions???

Easy Chicken Enchiladas!

Bear with me here, I don't use a recipe outside of the one in my head, which means each time is a little different. Plus I don't measure anything (which makes me a terrible baker), so exact amounts aren't really my strong suit.

Oh, and also - I realize that this doesn't really fit in with me trying to lose weight. But on Saturday I went snowshoeing (over hilly terrain!), and I did 8 minute abs. And arms. So I deserve some cheesy, saucy, sour creamy deliciousness! Ha!


1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts (fat and yucky stuff trimmed off)
1/2 of an onion (more if you like onion better than I do)
1 red pepper (you can use whatever color you want, just not green. It's less nutritious, and it doesn't fit well with this recipe. At least not in my head.)
1 can of diced green chili's
Jalapeno (fresh, canned, jarred, pickled - whatever and however much you want to add)
1 can of Rotel tomatoes (or whatever diced tomatoes you have on hand)
Black beans
Canned Corn if you want...I don't like corn in salsa or in other mexican dishes :( yuck!
Small tortillas
2 -3 cans of enchilada sauce...I use half hot and half mild
salsa (optional)
Couple Tablespoons of Olive or Canola Oil
2 cloves minced garlic
Spices (salt, pepper, taco seasonings if you want, chili powder, etc if you want)
Lime Juice (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese
toppings! diced jalapenos, sour cream, cilantro, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, black olives, etc...depends on how fancy you want to get!

This is how we do it:

Cook the chicken however you want. If we were doing Difficult Chicken Enchiladas instead of Easy Chicken Enchiladas, I would tell you to simmer a whole chicken with peppers, onions and limes; then let it cool and shred it with two forks. But that is a lot of work, so I just boiled the boneless skinless chicken breasts in beer, let them cool, then chopped them up into small pieces. The beer is quite unnecessary...it was more of an experiment, but it didn't turn out to be any more tender or flavorful so go ahead and just use water (it's cheaper). The reason you don't want to saute the chicken breast is because it tends to get a tough skin on it when you cook it in hot oil directly on the pan.

While the chicken is cooking, chop up your veggies and open up your cans. After the chicken is done, dump out the water (I just used a saute pan that had high sides), heat up some Olive Oil and cook the onions, garlic and bell pepper for about 3-4 minutes, then add the chili's and the jalapenos...cook for another minute (meanwhile chop up the chicken breasts). Add the tomatoes and the chopped up chicken, as well as the black beans and/or corn if you are using. At this point, I dump my enchilada sauce into a large bowl with about a cup of salsa (I like it that way - you don't have to add the salsa if you are a wuss), mix it around and add 4-5 spoonfuls to the chicken mixture. I also add some taco seasoning to the mix because I like my filling to be really flavorful, and the taco seasoning in the packets (like Ortega) also have corn starch or something in them to thicken the mixture. You can skip this part or just use salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, etc. Finally, I like to add some lime juice to give it a little zing!

Pour about 1/3 of the enchilada sauce mixture into the bottom of a glass baking dish (I use this lasagna pan Steve bought me, because it has a lid so I can just put the leftovers directly into the fridge), fill your tortillas with the chicken mixture, put them in the pan seam side down, then pour the rest of the enchilada sauce on top. Top with the grated cheddar cheese and pop into a 350 degree oven for about 25 - 35 minutes, or until the middle is hot and the cheese is melty and bubbly. Top with whatever garnish you want! I was lazy so I just did sour cream and lettuce last night, but cilantro is ALWAYS worth using.

Please note: you could substitute beef, pork, or just make these vegetarian (but make sure to use the black beans if that is the case, for protein). Also, if you have left over meat mixture, throw it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer...this makes DELICIOUS nacho topping!

If you want to make the Difficult Chicken Enchiladas, cook the whole chicken like I directed above, season it with your own spices instead of using a taco packet, and make this homemade enchilada sauce. It is more authentic than the canned stuff, and even though it is very different, it turns out really well. Note that the quality of the chili powder matters, if you can't find the kind that she recommends.

Rockin Robin's Raving Enchilada Sauce:
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 Tbs Gebhardt Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 heaping tsp. garlic powder (with no salt added)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon (less than 1/16 tsp.)
  • 1/3 tsp. sugar
  • 5 Tbs. cold water
  • 5 Tbs. white flour
Directions:In a 2 quart sauce pan add the chicken broth, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, cinnamon and sugar (the sugar is a little secret to eliminate any bitter taste from the chili powder).
Use a whisk to mix everything well. Heat to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 3 minutes.
Whisk frequently to make sure all spices dissolve. This is important for flavor and a nice smooth sauce.
While the sauce is on a slow simmer/boil, add 5 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl.
With another whisk mix 1 tablespoon at a time of flour. Whisk vigorously to avoid lumps. If you have lumps here, you will definitely have lumps in your sauce.
After 3 minutes of cooking sauce, turn the heat up to high. Very slowly, pour the flour mixture into the boiling sauce. Here you must whisk the sauce vigorously while adding the flour to avoid lumps.
After all the flour is added, continue to whisk for one minute. You can turn the heat down to medium during this time. Just make sure the sauce is boiling.
Turn off the heat, this enchilada sauce recipe is done.

January 7, 2010

Thanks Sunshine!

Thank you for my beautiful new knife!!! I am in love with it and it will bring me piles of happiness! YAY!
Also - thank you for washing the dishes last night, and for putting three turtles in my lunch box today before I left for work. And for going out of your way to cheer me up when I have pms and am incapable of being anything but a bitch, even though you have much bigger problems to worry about (like the chemo making you feel like shit). Thank you for your infinite patience...it amazes me. And last, but not least, thank you for dancing in the kitchen with me when I am sad.

January 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Bean!!!

Today is my friend Gina's 30th Birthday! I apologize for the tiny, grainy pic...I am at work and not at home where all of my pictures are, so I had to pirate this picture from Gina's facebook page, and then crop out her arms because she didn't like the way they looked.

Gina is one of my oldest friends (and by oldest, I mean the length of our friendship...not that she is the oldest age-wise of my friends...although she is pretty old...HA! Kidding Bean!), and even though throughout the years we have sometimes lost touch or grown apart, we always seem to find each other again. I am very thankful for her - she is an amazing mother, a fiercely loyal friend and a wonderful person. We have had some pretty awesome times together...Gina - do you remember when we used to go to parties and dance in the corner all by ourselves? And talk to each other in Southern accents? Or how about when you had your tickets booked to come visit me in North Carolina before I even moved? My favorite memory might be when you threw a full beer at _ _ _'s face! Ha Ha! Thank you for being such a great friend. I love you! Happy Birthday!

January 5, 2010

Grandma Growette's Philly Marble Brownies

My Grandma Grow was an awesome baker, and when you went over to her house she ALWAYS had cookies, bars, brownies and/or candy to eat. She also always had dog treats, even though she didn't own a dog...but that is just how sweet she was! And totally off subject. Anyway, she used to send my brother and I home with tins full of her homemade goodies. My favorite of her sweet treats was always her cream cheese brownies...I love brownies anyway, but these ones have a top layer of delicious cream cheese goodness just to push things over the edge. After she died that was the only recipe of hers that I wanted because they gave me such good memories and I had never seen a brownie recipe like it. When I finally got that recipe I cried, because she had hand written in the corner of the recipe card that I liked them, just so she would remember and make them for me when I came home. And I'm crying now because I miss her so much. .............Deep breath...............  
Ok...for Christmas Steve's mom knit me a beautiful hat and scarf in my favorite color (red, if you were wondering), and I wanted to reciprocate with something heartfelt and homemade since they have been so supportive and sweet to me. I ordered her a customized cake pan because she LOVES to bake, and I decided to fill it with a batch of Grandma's brownies because I figured she would appreciate them (and there is no way that I can hold a candle to Judy's baking, so I didn't want to embarrass myself with something too complicated). I also made an extra pan of brownies for my brother because I figured that he probably missed them (and Grandma) as much as I did. 
So, I dug out my Grandma's recipe, only to find that Grandma cheated! She totally used a BOX of brownie mix for the bottom part of the bars! I laughed my ass off, then I found a homemade brownie recipe for the bottom part, and just used Grandma's recipe for the top part (with the cream cheese). But they turned out very much like the one's Grandma used to make (but of course not quite as good).

This is me melting my unsweetened chocolate with unsalted butter. This was the first time I had ever used my double boiler! 

I am going to apologize for my terrible photography. I'm doing this at night in my poorly lit kitchen with my point and shoot. Cut me some slack. But even in this crappy photo you can see the melty-yumminess of it all.

The pans with just the bottom brownie layer in them...

And with the cream cheese topping, swirled through the brownie part to give it a marbled effect!

Grandma's original (and obviously well worn!) recipe. I realize that you probably can't read this, but basically all you do is make your favorite brownie recipe (or buy it in the box!) and pour it into a greased baking sheet. Beat one 8 oz package of softened Philly cream cheese with 1/3 cup of white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (I used one whole teaspoon because I love vanilla), and one egg until it's creamy and smooth. Then  you pour it over top of the brownie mixture, and take a knife or a wooden skewer and make swirls or cuts in the top to make it look marbled (but don't mix it together - you want a separate layers). Then bake it in a 325 degree oven for 25 minutes or until the sides of the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan and the top gets golden (mine took longer than 25 minutes, but I made a double batch and put it in one big pan and one little one). Also, before you put it in the oven you can sprinkle it with chocolate chips. This is what Grandma used to do. By the time I got done adding all the butter and the sugar, I didn't have it in me to also add chocolate chips. This is yet another reason why I shouldn't bake - it is much better when you have no idea what goes into it! 
Either way, they turned out delectable. I didn't keep any for myself, but I made Lyndi cut into them pretty much immediately after I gave them to Cal and I was not disappointed. Try them the next time you crave something sweet and think of Grandma Grow!

Christmas Pics!

Here are some pictures from the Growette family Christmas 2009 for your viewing enjoyment!

Let's start with the happy couple! Did you guys know that Cal and Lyndi got engaged on Christmas day? Cal had Aly (the dog) bring the ring out to Lyndi on Christmas morning, and then he got down on one knee and proposed! I am so proud of my big brother and so happy for both of them. I love you both and wish you much happiness!

The gang, besides my mom and I. We are a pretty small group! But we make big fun! Hee hee!

I didn't get very good pictures of the Christmas tree, but it was beautiful. My parents cut it down at the shack in Gheen. I love real trees! Here is one without the flash:

Pretty lights.

We didn't have any kids at our Christmas, so we all gather around and watch our dogs open presents. Sad, huh? We love them like children.
On a side note, is my mom even at Christmas??? Why is she in none of the pictures? Is she a vampire that doesn't show up in pictures? Ohhhhh, I see - this is what she was doing the whole time:

Upstairs in the man cave, playing pool.  
Just kidding mommy!
And to end the show:

Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season!


First of all, for those of you who were wondering: Steve had his final mega dose of chemo today. His blood cell counts were finally back up and as of about 20 minutes ago, he was still feeling pretty good. He has his kids on Tuesdays and didn't want to break that routine, so I let him take the last of my Tomato Basil soup (gasp) so he didn't have to cook tonight...that way he only has to make some grilled cheese and dinner/school lunches are ready. Don't cry for me though, I made my favorite Pasta Salad last night - which you should make right now if you haven't made it already - and I'm making homemade chicken noodle soup tonight (it is soup week, after all). I know, I'm a cooking fool. It's just that when Steve is sick I feel helpless and cooking is about the only thing that makes me feel useful. Plus - the steroids that he is on for the first few days make him ravenous. It's the least I can do. So - I have the chicken stock cooking on the stove and Marisa is going to come over and have a glass of wine and eat leftovers with me!
Second (or tenth...who is keeping track?), I wanted to post a picture of my pot of tomato basil soup just to get your saliva running. Here you go:

It kinda looks gross, doesn't it? I hope I'm not having the opposite effect on you, because it is actually really, really good. 
Third, can you guys open the links that I put on here to recipes from different websites? Could you please try and let me know? If it doesn't work then I can try to fix it (HA!) or I can post the entire recipe. If you leave a comment after a post I get an email so I can be alerted to the situation immediately or whatever. Have a marvelous night (or day, depending on when you are reading this)!


January 4, 2010

Resolutions Suck.

#1. A resolution to quit smoking does not go well with a resolution to lose weight. Why? Because all I want to do is smoke. Or eat. Or both. 
#2. The only New Years resolution I ever kept was the one to quit smoking 6 years ago. It worked for 3 years. Now I have to redo the same damn resolution over again. When will I ever learn?
#3. There is no number three, but it seemed silly to only have two key points. I guess what I am trying to say is, the best resolution is to not make resolutions. And don't start bad habits in the first place, then you won't have to go through the agony of quitting them.

Send will power and low fat/calorie snacks please. 

Mmmmm mmmmmm good!!! Roasted Tomato Basil Soup!!!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you a breaking news story...
With record cold temperatures around the area for the past couple of days, and no warm-up in site, I have officially dubbed this week "The week of the soup". And because my brother loves me and generously donated 4 bags of frozen garden tomatoes to my cause, I kicked off soup week last night with some delicious (and nutritious) Roasted Tomato Basil Soup courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa. This is, by far, the best tomato soup I have ever had. Well, besides the tomato soup at the Scenic Cafe, but that doesn't count because they are paid professionals who have the corner market on deliciousness. Plus, I'm pretty sure they add heavy whipping cream, and like I mentioned in a previous post - the challenge is to make it delicious AND relatively healthy. This is a wonderful way to curb that mid-winter-craving-garden-produce-or-something-fresh dilemma. Here is the recipe taken from the Food Network Website (with my alterations, of course):

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup


  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half any tomatoes will do...if you don't have garden tomatoes, use whatever looks good at the grocery store
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or less, if you feel fat
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed I know this seems like a ton of basil, but just trust me
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper (I also add a couple pinches of sugar...especially if tomatoes are not in season). Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet cut side up and roast for 45 minutes. I add the garlic cloves in with the tomatoes because roasted garlic makes me happy.
In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil (I give the basil a rough chop), thyme, and chicken stock (I also add Pizza and Pasta Magic*). Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade (I use an immersion blender instead). Taste for seasonings. At this point I let it simmer for another 30 minutes or so, because I find that the longer it cooks the better it tastes. I also will add a little chicken bouillon if it needs sodium. I like mine a little sweeter too, so depending on the tomatoes, I might add another couple pinches of sugar. Serve hot or cold. 

I have pictures on my camera at home...I will upload one tonight if I get a chance. Delicious!

*Pizza and Pasta Magic by Chef Paul Prudhomme: It is my favorite spice on the planet. No salt, bit of a kick, plus parm cheese (which makes everything better)! I buy it at Mount Royal Grocery Store, but you can also order it online HERE 
I would recommend trying it as soon as possible. I use it in my soups, pastas, homemade pizza, marinades, and just about anything else I can think of to use it on. It's my secret ingredient. But now it isn't a secret anymore. Enjoy!

January 3, 2010

Steve's Birthday (bonus post)

I wasn't going to post these pics, but the one is so funny I just had to. Shhhhh - don't tell

Here is the cake Tara and I baked Steve for his Birthday - cherry cheesecake, because it's his favorite. Ok, Tara did almost all of the work while I made tacos for Steve's Birthday lunch at Northern Trends and wrapped presents. It was super delicious!

The birthday boy with his sweet birthday hat on! Hee hee hee!

Birthday Extravaganza, Part Deux

Because Steve is IMPOSSIBLE to buy for (seriously - the man has everything. He is a compulsive shopper), I decided to give him memories for his Birthday instead of buying him a gift that he wouldn't use or already had or didn't need. SO - I rented a condo at Indianhead Mountain in the UP of Michigan for the weekend. Think jacuzzi, fireplace, snowboarding, nice views, good food (I'll tell you about our wine experience later)...it was awesome. We had a fantastic time and he said it was the best birthday he'd ever had (which was the goal of course). I think I may have set the bar a little high for myself though...unless I win the lottery by next December, I'm screwed. 

Fireplace (yay)

Spiral staircase going up to the loft...

Giant jacuzzi tub...

View from the loft down to the living/dining area

 We had a full kitchen (including dishwasher), so we were able to make breakfast each morning, and keep snacks/beer/wine/champagne in the fridge so we didn't have to even get dressed until afternoon (just kidding mom!)

Here was our deck, which had beautiful views of the mountain by the way...I didn't take any pictures that did it justice.

Unfortunately, I had to put Steve to work almost immediately. The deck wasn't shoveled off...we were roughing it, people! 

It was a very relaxing, peaceful weekend. Oh, except for when I stepped onto a snowboard again. Ouch.

Here is me strapping into my board. I have a smile on my face, and I am able to sit, which leads me to believe that this picture was taken before I nearly died (twice!). I had my bell rung a couple of times, and I would like to take this moment to thank Steve (again) for making me wear a helmet. 
So after about 2 hours of riding on Saturday, I was spent. But I made Steve go by himself on Sunday so he could actually see what the mountain was like, beyond the bunny hill. He said it was great. 
About that crazy wine experience...on Friday night, we decided to just go up to the lodge to eat dinner, instead of having to drive into some other tiny MI town to find a place to eat. We sat down, ordered a bottle of wine and when the waiter brought it out he tried a couple of times (unsuccessfully) to pull out the cork. Instead of bringing it back to the bar to ask for help, as Steve and I watched (with open mouths), he put the bottle of wine on the floor. Between. his. two. feet. And pulled the cork out. I was speechless. My jaw was literally resting on the table - I couldn't believe it! We were at A SKI RESORT for crying out loud. I paid half of my weekly salary for our condo and it was 50% off. When we recovered our composure, we laughed our asses off. And then Steve tactfully offered to teach him how to use a cork screw. Unbelievable. As a side note, our food was actually really good. We did find a tiny MI town to eat in the next night, however.

On our way home we stopped at South Shore Brewery in Ashland for lunch and refreshments.

Sampler platter...mmmmmmm....

Yummy nut brown ale

It was a very good weekend. By Sunday night though, I was ready to go back to being a spoiled princess. Until next year...

Steve's Birthday Extravaganza Part I

Wow - where did the time go? Between Steve's Birthday, Christmas, and New Years I am behind on my blogging! This is me playing catch-up.
We made Steve's Birthday a multi-day celebration, starting out with dinner at the Brewhouse on Thursday (his actual B-day). It was pretty low-key, with just Tara, Steve's brother Petey and his wife Susannah, and a couple of Steve's friends Dave and Dana. We ended the night playing pool at this bar/bowling alley right by my house called "The Other Place"...it was interesting. Definitely not super high class, but hey - the beer is like $1.00 and they have indoor bathrooms. What more could you ask for? Because I didn't want to risk getting them in trouble with the help department, I won't post any pics. Here are some from the Brewha though!

The Birthday boy!

Dave and Dana

Tara and I

Steve and Susannah (things were getting a little squirrely at this point. Is that how you spell squirrel-y?)

"The Crew" sans Susannah

Petey and I...he looks scared. He should be. 
Anyway, we had a really good time...I mean, a really good time. Steve and I had to get up in the morning to go to Michigan for part II of his Birthday extravaganza, and it was a pretty rough morning. But we survived. Continued in Part II...