Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Deconstructed Mexican Potpies and Mother Nature 's tease...

SO, sleds are put away; Snowboard and skis collecting dust.  This is the awkward time of year…  an “in-between”.  Usually means tons of rain (after all we are on the WET coast), muddy days and crisp evenings.  Mother Nature just looooves to tease us intermittently with tastes of the Summer month’s ahead…. The days when you wake up, sun is shining through your windows, house starts to heat up, so you open all of the house's windows to air out…and head outside.  Coming in late, only to find the inside of your house is FREEZING, the shade engulfs the house as the sun sets… bringing the cool crisp air that is like a slap in the face..saying HA HA fooled ya….   SO, you race around, close all the windows….flick on the fire place and sit down to a warming quick and easy meal – Deconstructed Mexican Pot Pies. 
OK, so that last part is what we did on a cool “spring” night.. BUT I’m telling ya, they did the trick.  They had the “kick” spice lovers love…. And with the stew like consistency, they felt like they clung to your insides and warmed you right up.  Quick – Easy, and yummy.  My kind of Dinner!   (though please excuse my puff pastry, as .. umm.. well… It didn’t really “puff”, pretty sure I left it to thaw in the fridge too long, that being said… it was still yummy,  actually more like just the “top” of the traditional crusted pot-pie.. so it worked.
It all started out as a beautiful sunny day…  and even “warm”, the sun’s ray almost “hot” through my hoodie… SO, of course, we had to take a walk.  One of the things I love about our province is that you just never know what you’ll see in your own “backyard”. 

Turtle Turtle

I love seeing the flower buds starting to emerge from the hard ground; it’s hard to imagine that something so delicate can grow in what appears to be a harsh environment.
Everything is slowly starting to show new life, new growth.
**sigh** soon everything should be green AND in full bloom, AANNDD it’ll stay warm all night… HOT at times even.  Until then, when the crisp air takes over for the evening, go on inside,  warm up with a hearty serving of Deconstructed Mexican Pot Pie.. mmmmmm
Deconstructed Mexican Pot Pie
  • 1 sheet  frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup each of chopped red, green, orange peppers
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped ( 4-5 rings of pickled jalapenos)
  • 1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2- 3 Chicken boneless/skinless chicken breasts chopped
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • salt/pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees . On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry.  Using a sharp knife, cut squares / circles that will fit over the bowls you are using to serve; repeat 3 times to get 4 pastry rounds.
- Arrange the pastry rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake until deep golden, 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan (I used a wok), heat the oil over medium-high heat; add in chopped chicken, cook until no longer pink, stirring frequently. Season with taco seasoning, salt to taste.

- Stir in the onion, bell peppers, garlic and jalapenos. Stir occasionally until softened, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Stir in the flour for 1 minute, then stir in the chicken stock until thickened.
- Lower the heat and season with hot sauce to taste.
   - Spoon the chicken filling into the bowls or mugs and top with the pastry rounds.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lasagna Roll-ups...and a small plea for Spring to hurry and WARM up!

Happy First Day of Spring!  I would love to report that it was warm…and sunny… and all the Cherry Blossoms are blooming here on the West Coast – BUT *sigh* I’d be fibbing.   In some of the higher areas… we’re still getting snow! (nope, no bitterness detected here... pfft! Think Mother Nature is messing with our minds! (well, she’s messing with mine at least)  BUT, trying to find the little positives on what seems like Winters last ditch effort of sticking around…. It also means cool nights…which ALSO means comfort food.   Though I am the type of person who fully believes BBQ Season is year-round… there’s something about a good hearty comfort food meal on a chilly night that seems to warm you from the inside out.   Lasagna Roll-ups fit that perfectly, putting a creative twist on the ole’stand-by yummy pasta dish, pairing perfectly with some fresh bread and glass of vino. 
First of all, let me say, this is recipe is easy to change around.  Pretty much anything you would put into your own normal Lasagna dish could apply here.  So be creative, clean out your veggie crisper drawer in your fridge… or indulge a little (like I did a bit---heehee) and toss in some different cheeses and such. (Moderation is still the word of the month... guess I'll just have to go round' the block a few more times with the pooch!)  This would also be great to make night before, so when you get home from work you can just pop it into the oven.  Of course… toss a salad, bake up some no-knead Sourdough Bread (I threw in Asiago Cheese and Roasted Garlic…holy YUM!!!) aannnnddd  you’ve got yourself a hearty-comfortfood-homemade-warmyourinsides-yummy meal.
Lasagna Roll-ups
  • 1 package Johnsonville Ground Sausage
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 package fresh Lasagna Sheets
  • 1 Jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 2 cups Mozzarella cheese
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • Salt/pepper to taste
- Cook ground meat over med-high heat in a large frying pan until no longer pink.
- Add in chopped spinach, garlic to meat mixture and stir frequently until spinach is wilted
- Remove from heat, stir in ricotta cheese, ½ cup of pasta sauce – TASTE… add salt/pepper if desired
- Lay out 1 lasagna sheet, add a spoonful of meat mixture

- Carefully / loosely roll up noodle and place in a 9 x 13” pan.
- Continue with remaining pasta sheets/meat mixture, carefully placing each roll-up next to eachother in pan so they don’t unravel
-Top roll-ups with remaining pasta sauce, making sure they are well covered
- Add provolone cheese slices, layering on top of pasta sauce (yes yes, this is part of my induldgence)
- Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.  Then cover with Aluminum foil and bake in a 350F preheated oven for 35-40 mins or until cheese is melted and fork is easily inserted/removed from a roll-up. 
**if you like, remove foil for last 5 or so min and brown up cheese (Broiler on High works well for this, just watch it carefully as the cheese burns easily!)
- Remove from oven and let sit for 10 mins before serving.
Serve with some fresh bread, pour yourself a glass of vino and enjoy! 
Now….come on SPRING (I know it's your "first day this year" BUUUUUT)… WARM WEATHER… SUNSHINE…  I’m just about done with Winter....pretty please?!  With a Cherry Blossom on top?!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Uncle Fester's Cinnamon Buns (aka Sourdough Starter Cinnamon Buns)

They say, "Don't judge a book by it's cover."  Well, for anyone who has seen, used, and/or nurtured a Sourdough Starter, knows.... it's not pretty.  I mean, Uncle Fester is a pretty suitable name for "the blob" that's growing in my fridge.  I've been quite devoted to Uncle Fester, making sure to feed it at least once a week, and before baking with it, I take it out the night before, feed "him", after all, I want to make sure the starter is in it's (oops... HIS) MOST active state..... Well, not too long ago, I did just that.  It started off as an typical "feeding".  We were headed up to the lake for the weekend, and I thought this would be a great chance to put Uncle Fester to work! The end result, YUMMY Sourdough Starter Cinnamon Buns, but... the start of the process... well... let's just say....  it looked more like a science experiment gone awry...
Sourdough Starter Cinnamon Buns
It all started normal... I took Uncle Fester (how to make your own sourdough starter here) out of the fridge the night before I intended to bake, fed the sourdough starter, and left on the counter, loosely covered (per everything I read)... checked "him" before I went to sleep, and all was well....  in the morning, as I groggily walked over to the counter to brew my first cup of coffee....  I found this:
Uncle Fester (Sourdough Starter)
OOPS!  Guess umm, well... looks like my Sourdough Starter is quite healthy!  (or had one heck of a party while I was sleeping) *giggle*  ANNNYWAYS..... I then had a choice...  thank goodness for Keurig, as I can only think so much prior to that first cup of coffee.....  I could clean up Uncle Fester, toss out a portion, feed, and then bake later on that afternoon as planned.. or... what the heck, why not use him while he's most active.  I pushed "brew now" on my Keurig, and started the dough for Sourdough Starter Cinnamon Buns.  What else would a normal, everyday, working gal first thing in the morning after finding out something oozed and bubbled all over her counter top do? Who ever thought Sourdough Starter for just for bread and pizza dough, were sadly mistaken!!
Uncle Fester's Sourdough Starter Cinnamon Buns
  • 2 cups active sourdough starter
  • 3 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter (melted)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
- In a large bowl combine Sourdough Starter, flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and eggs until well blended
- Knead dough in bowl for 5 to 7 minutes, or until mixture is smooth
- Let rise in warm place until doubled. Punch down. On a lightly floured surface, press dough into rectangle.

- Combine melted margarine, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spread mixture over dough

- Starting on long side, roll up dough, jellyroll fashion.

- Press ends together to make a seam. Score and Cut in 1-inch slices, place in an ungreased pan.

- Allow rolls to rise to double their size.  Preheat oven to 325F.
- Bake at 325F for 20-25 min until lightly browned.
I added a simple milk/confectioner's sugar glaze overtop while they were still warm!   (mix couple tablespoons of milk with enough confectioner's sugar to desired thickness) These are light and flaky....so good right out of the hot pan... or slightly warmed in the microwave.

SO, from "blob" to.....
Sourdough Starter Cinnamon Buns
Who'd of thought "Uncle Fester" / Enter YOUR OWN Sourdough Starter name here....to create something as sweet as some fresh-made from scratch - homemade cinnamon buns!  Have a great weekend everyone!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

White Chocolate & Pretzel Peanut Butter Cups...Salty Sweet Treat!

Peanut Butter... who doesn't love peanut butter?!  Peanut Butter & Chocolate... heaven!  It's not often I crave sweet treats.  Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by desserts everyday. BUT when the craving hits... it hits! Even though March IS my month to focus on all things "better", everything in moderation is key. (There's that "moderation" word again!)  I believe indulging a little, makes it easier to resist falling off that ole' bandwagon. These White Chocolate & Pretzel Peanut Butter Cups taste like the "real" peanut butter cups, however I changed it up a bit and used white chocolate, and crushed mini-salted pretzels and tossed them into the peanut butter batter base.  BINGO...a sweet salty treat, quick and easy to make - NO OVEN TIME required!!  Gotta love it! 

Of course, you end up with 12 of these Peanut Butter Cups, so my advice... share. (remember...that whole "moderation thing".) But you do have my permission to lick the bowl..and spoon, AND any fingers that just happen to get batter on them. I mean.. just saying... that's what I would do. okok.. DID.. that's what I DID. haha. There shall be no wasting of peanut butter in my house!
White Chocolate & Pretzel Peanut Butter Cups

White Chocolate & Pretzel Peanut Butter Cups
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup crushed salted mini pretzels
  • 2 cups white chocolate (chopped)
- Place all ingrediants except for the white chocolate in a food processor. Blend the mixture until the it takes on a sandy texture.
- Place 12 cupcake liners into a muffin tin. Using a medium ice cream or cookie scoop place 1 scoop of the base mixture into each cupcake liner.
- Press the mixture down into the cases to form an even layer at the bottom of each cupcake liner.
- Use your finger if needed to smooth out and even the layer in the cupcake liners.  (lick fingers after ...totally appropriate!)

- Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler.
- Using a spoon, top each peanut butter filled cupcake liner with 1 scoop of chocolate. Smooth the tops of the Peanut Butter Cups with the back of a spoon.
- I added a whole pretzel on the top of each and pressed in lightly, before the chocolate was set.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight (if you can wait that long!)


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Thaw and Cookies for Duke Dog – a Thursday Picture Quickie!

“They Say” Spring is just around the corner….  Up at the Lake this past weekend, it sure FELT like it was knocking hard at winter’s door.  Aside from it being a windy weekend, the sun peaked out, the ice and snow melted creating mini rivers and lakes…. It actually felt warm outside, sun reflecting hot off the snow covered ground.  Although does appear that Winter isn’t leaving without a fight (we woke up to a dusting of snow, and our famous Coquihalla Highway is still a winter wonderland) ….after weekends like we just had at the lake, I just know Spring is coming!! I even feel a little more motivated – planning out meals, trying to be more active, first attempt of dusting off the ole' Winter Blues. So, in light of me not NEEDING a plate of sweet ooey gooey goodness  to graze on.. I decided to try out something just for Duke Dog.
I’ve honestly never before even thought of baking my own doggie treats, I’m typically too busy trying the latest dinner dish, mixing up a new bread recipe, or baking my OWN darn sweet treats.  BUT, in the month of March.. continuing on with that whole “moderation” theme, and knowing I reaaaaalllllyy don’t need a fresh batch of cookies.. or chocolate.. or…. *sigh* I decided to try out a recipe from one of the sites I’ve newly discovered.  Peanut Butter & Bacon Cookies from Doggy Dessert Chef  . 
If you love your pooch at allll, check out this site.  I can’t wait to try out more of the different recipes, and if Duke’s reaction to them are anything like last night and his own plate of cookies – I’m sure any canine would be in heaven!   For Full Recipe – check click the link:  Doggy Dessert Chef .

Here’s a few pictures from the Spring Thaw… it’s amazing, after being in Alaska last year, and seeing the REAL-LIFE Glaciers and their paths, activity trails, when you walk around and check out what the snow and ice melting is doing.. you realize, it’s really not all that different.  Heck – who needs Alaska when you have your own MINI glaciers melting and carving their way through to wherever the water flow will take them.
Got Ice?!
The creek that drains into Allison Lake is opening up, just another sign things are starting to heat up! (Guess there's no more snowmobiling over top that water opening eh?!)
Puddles are forming on top of the frozen lake… not so sure about snowmobiling over these either!  (yes honey, I KNOW the ice is *still* pretty thick)….
Somewhere under there… there’s a dock that’s quietly waiting to host Centsless! Can you say APU3 this year?!?!
For those that know/knew “Tiffany” …  she’s hanging on… barely….

Annnnnd because I’m a “dog snob” ..here’s a few more pictures of Duke & his own Special Cookies!  Have a great weekend everyone!