Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Better late than never 4th of July menu

You guys I am the absolute worst when it comes to making fun holiday food. I totally drop the ball, almost every single holiday. Ack! In any event, here are some delicious recipes to make for your friends and family this July 4th.

July 4th Menu

Drinks
Bourbon Mint Iced Tea
Pina Colada Slush
Apricot Coolers with Cherry Ice Cubes

Appetizers
Bacon and Tomato Dip
Pimiento Cheese and Crackers
Best Spinach Dip Ever

Sides
Bodacious Broccoli Salad
Shrimp Louis Pasta Salad
Corndog Muffins

Main Dish
Grilled Beer Brats
BBQ Chicken Pizza
Muffuletta Squish Sandwiches

Dessert
Rhubarb Pie
Banana Split Brownie Pizza
Grilled Bananas with Milk Chocolate

Cornflake-Crusted Baked Chicken

Pretty, right? (sarcasm) This is such an old picture...I really should update it. Maybe someday, but not today. Anyways, crunchy cornflake chicken! It is delicious, it is crunchy, it is better than breadcrumbs.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chai & Chocolate Chai Concentrate

I'm stressed out. Super stressed. Stressed to the max. Stress can take a serious toll on your energy, and while I am a big fan of the morning and afternoon cup of coffee, it is nice to change the routine. A delicious alternative is to take a mug of black tea and add a spoonful (or two) of this chai concentrate.

Monday, June 27, 2011

White Chocolate Peanut Butter

Brace yourself. This is some seriously good eating. White Chocolate Peanut Butter and homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam. Easily the best PB&J I've ever had, and I'm willing to bet the best you've ever had too.

I mean, just look at the deliciousness. Are you ready to make some? Good because it is super simple.


Have you ever tried making homemade peanut butter? What are some creative flavors you would like to add?

Note: I am paranoid about storing this at room temperature, so I stick it in the fridge. It will keep for several weeks in the fridge, otherwise if you keep it at room temperature, I would say it will last one week, but you better keep an eye out for anything funky growing. Yuck, see that is why I store mine in the fridge!


White Chocolate Peanut Butter
Makes 3/4 cup


  • 1 1/2 cups dry, roasted peanuts (I used salted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips/chunks/bars, melted


1. Add peanuts to a food processor and blend until a thick nut butter forms. Stream in oil and vanilla with the processor on, continuing to run it until the mixture is smooth. You can add more oil if needed, just do it in small increments.

2. Turn off processor, add melted chocolate, and turn processor back on. Blend until smooth.

Source: How Sweet It Is


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Strawberry Summer Cake


Before I get to the recipe for this delicious Strawberry Summer Cake, I wanted to say thank you for all the feedback on my previous post. If you missed it I asked what you thought the ideal amount of posts per week was appropriate for a blog. I am still mulling it over. Jo-Anna sent me a great link from Will Work for Followers that addressed this very issue. Check it out here if you would like to see his answer for the ideal posting frequency. I was leaning towards trying out posting every other day, but after reading Dan's post I am still trying to decide if every day will be better for growing my blog. Who knows? I sure don't.

Anyways, on to the cake!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homemade Maple Syrup

At my place there are a lot of nights where breakfast becomes dinner. Between having breakfast for breakfast, and breakfast for dinner, we tend to go through a lot of maple syrup. I wanted to try out a homemade syrup recipe, just a basic Maple to start. It turned out great and it was very simple to make.

No candy thermometers necessary, just stir continuously and pay attention to how it looks while it is boiling and it is as simple as that. It is cheap to make and you know exactly what ingredients are going into it. It is thinner than commercial syrups because it doesn't have corn syrup, but that is a good thing.

This recipe lends itself well to adding other flavorings, like raspberry or orange extracts. Onto the recipe!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Recipe Request - Spicy & Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

If you have a great recipe, lay it on me. I've got a bunch of raisins in the pantry and this is about the only way they will ever get eaten. Leave a comment with a link, the recipe itself, or let me know the name of what magazine/cookbook it came from and I can track it down. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Caramel Bacon Rolls

As promised I have my recipe for the Caramel Bacon Rolls. If it is only two ingredients can it be considered a recipe? Probably not, but I'm doing it anyways.

I had already made the regular bacon cinnamon rolls a few times before and I figured I would try using a different flavor of rolls for my contribution to the bacon party. At first I was going to try orange, but at the last minute I decided to try caramel instead, to channel the candied bacon craze that is going on amongst the foodies. I thought it turned out delicious. I would still like to try the orange rolls next time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

Oh yeah baby. Bacon Cinnamon Rolls. They are the perfect sweet and savory combination. If you want to fancy it up, you can of course make the cinnamon rolls from scratch, but I really like the Pillsbury Cinnabon style of canned cinnamon rolls, so I use those. You can use a good quality precooked bacon, or regular bacon. I like the precooked bacon from Costco personally.

Either way, you have to crisp up the bacon a bit before you add it to the cinnamon rolls. Use the microwave or cook them up in a pan. One reason I like the precooked bacon is I can nuke it for a minute and I'm ready to roll. I never cared much for standing over a skillet getting splattered by bacon grease. If your bacon is extra extra fatty be sure to trim it off.

In my experience when you add bacon to a roll like this, it takes a few extra minutes for the middle roll to cook though. Ovens vary, so make sure you take it out and test it to see if it needs extra time to bake. To test it, just pull out the pan, poke the middle roll gently with a spoon or random utensil, and if it is still doughy, it needs to bake longer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The weekend where much was done.

You guys. I'm a woman on a mission. Check out what I made (and will blog about post haste)
  • Chai Tea Concentrate 
  • Chocolate Chai Tea Concentrate
  • Homemade Maple Syrup
  • Homemade Chocolate Syrup
  • White Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Cinnamon and Raisin Peanut Butter
  • Chocolate Fry Sauce (Totally crazy but it was good)
I still have to make a few things, including:
  • Bacon Cinnamon Rolls (2 batches)
  • Bacon Caramel Rolls (2 batches)
  • Strawberry Freezer Jam
  • Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Am I nuts? I have no idea what has gotten into me but it feels good to actually get stuff done on the weekend.  Recipes for all of this junk to come soon!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sweet & Savory Spinach Salad

My mom made this salad a lot while we were growing up. She made the dressing from scratch, but you can save some time and buy a bottle of poppy seed dressing instead. I don't know what it is about the combination of spinach and poppy seed dressing, but it is oh so good.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Shrimp Etouffee

Like I mentioned a couple days ago, I'm on a Cajun kick. I have always wanted to try shrimp etouffee, which it turns out is delicious! There are apparently two schools of thought on etouffee. Some believe that it should not have a tomato component, while others say it should. My mom made this for dinner a few weeks back and she went with the tomatoes. I made a corn spoon bread to go with it and while it was edible, it wasn't as good as my cornbread supreme.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Working at a restaurant- Cooking confessions & humiliations

We have been talking about our food confessions. A lot of them involve snarfing down way too much food. Or hiding the good food from our family, so we can snarf it later. Hah!

Today I wanted to share a few embarrassing cooking confessions that all occurred while I was working in a restaurant many years ago. Normally in the kitchen you might start off washing dishes, and I did, but since we were short handed I only had about 20 minutes at that station before moving on to the pantry. The pantry is basically the cold line - you prepare salads and desserts. Since this restaurant was slightly upscale, there was a ton of prep work to be done for each dish.

I started each day by taking stock of what vegetables, fruits and nuts were low in stock, and prepped them. Then I made the salad dressings from scratch. Then I moved on to making the croutons, which I inevitably burned since I would forget to set a timer. After the basics were done, I made whipped butter, piped it into rosettes onto parchment paper, and got those ready for the waiters to serve with the fresh bread.

What made it quite the workout was the fact that our freezer and refrigerator were at the bottom of the building and I had to hustle my butt up and down the stairs all day long, carrying stainless steel pans full of ingredients. When the kitchen is 110+ degrees in the Summer and you are sprinting down flights of stairs, believe me, it can get to be a workout. You tend to linger a few minutes longer in the walk in refrigerator than necessary just to cool down your body.

I guess I should say a word or two about the chef. The one real positive that I can say about him is that he gave me a job when I was about 18 and had no kitchen experience other than home cooking. That was very nice of him. Other than that, he was kind of a creep. Being a chef is, I imagine, very stressful and difficult. It takes strong personalities to do the job. Unfortunately his personality was that of condescension, hotheadedness and sarcasm. He was all smiles and charm during the interview, but once I got to work, it all changed.


Basically this was my dream job, working in a 'real' kitchen (and starting at the bottom was just fine with me), and I think he knew it and very quickly started to treat me like crap because I was too nice. Being a female in a mostly male kitchen is hard. Don't let anyone tell you different on that. You have to have a thick skin to deal with all of the extra criticism, and having thick skin is something I've never been good at. I should also state that while plenty of times I deserved the criticism, there were also twice as many times that he made it a point to humiliate me, ridicule me, and generally try his best to be an awful human being.

Working in a kitchen is also physically very hard. You know how employees are supposed to be guaranteed breaks during the day? Yeah, that doesn't fly in a kitchen. You work hard for 14 hour shifts, in 100+ degree kitchen, and you consider yourself lucky if you get a single 5 minute break to catch your breath during your shift.

So that is all to say, when I messed up in front of him and the other cooks, it was humiliating. Totally mortifying. I'd try to laugh it off and focus on the task at hand, but I still have pangs of embarrassment when I think back on it. Like the time when I:
  • Threw out the hearts (the insides) of the romaine lettuce, the very best part, because I thought the 'heart' of any lettuce was bitter and not meant to be eaten. The chef stood staring down at the trash can, a whole bunch of romaine hearts looking back up at him, and he proceeded to chew me out in front of the line cooks. (Of course, he should have)
  • Took far too much time washing each strawberry by hand instead of rinsing the entire (huge) carton at once, utilizing the clear carton they came in, which has holes in the bottom, and works great as a colander. He proceeded to chew me out in front of the line cooks. (Of course, he should have)
  • While cutting up a pear for a complex salad tower (yes, a salad tower!), I sliced off the side of my thumb. Normally you would wrap it up, throw on a rubber glove, and get back to work. This cut was so bad I spent the entire night in the back of the kitchen, holding it up high above my head and applying pressure while it refused to stop bleeding. So humiliating!
  • I locked myself in the sub zero freezer at the bottom of the building, which could have killed me. This was an old hotel that the restaurant was in, and if you made the mistake of letting the HEAVY door to the sub zero close behind you, you weren't guaranteed to be able to open it to get out. I was locked in there for about 45 minutes freezing my butt off, with no phone of course. When they say sub zero, they mean it! Luckily after a while a line cook walked by the adjoining room, I banged on the door and he heard me and freed me. I never made that mistake again.
  • Finally, the straw that broke the camels back. The final incident before I quit. There was a big wedding we were catering, and I had the most boring task of rolling up a truck load of deli meat and arranging it on a giant mirrored serving dish. This thing was several feet across, and thin as a piece of mirror. It took forever to roll up all that meat, and I was hustling. Right in front of me, the chef pulled aside a line cook and loudly made fun of how long it was taking me to finish the task, then laughed at me.
    I was so pissed off, and I told myself tonight I would quit. I didn't want to let him get to me, but I'd had enough. Want to know the best part? As he and another cook were moving this giant piece of glass to the basement to refrigerate it, the weight of ALL of that deli meat broke the mirror, and it all came crashing down the stairway. Karma baby!
Looking back on it, I really wish I hadn't quit. I let a creep get under my skin and I quit a job that I really, really loved. Very shortly after I quit, so did the chef! Which makes me think he had some issues going on in his real life that perhaps he was taking out on me, but I'll never know. Since then, they have relocated and renamed the restaurant, completely reworked the menu, and I hope the environment there has chilled out a bit. When I look back on it now, as hard as it was and for all the crap I put up with, I miss it so much, and I'm thankful that I had the opportunity the take a peek into the restaurant industry.

Every night after a grueling day in the kitchen, I'd put the top down on my red convertible (this was before I was a mommy with a mommy car), put Pink Floyd in the CD player, and drive home under the bright moon and stars. I had put my entire heart and body into making it through each day, and I was so happy.

Have you ever worked in a profession kitchen before? How were your experiences in the kitchen?

Smothered Cajun Cube Steaks (Aka Smothered Swiss Steaks)

I've been on a serious Cajun kick lately. Anything and everything Cajun, yes please, give me more. I have a huge playlist of Cajun & Zydeco music (some of it is even sung in French), recipes in my recipe box, and a bunch of new food blogs, like Cajunlicious, Cajun Delights, Real Cajun Cooking, that I am subscribed to.

I'm a happy girl living vicariously though these websites. (Go check out those sites, by the way, they rock! If you know of any other great Cajun sites, please leave a comment with the address)

I wanted to try out a few recipes that normally I'd never try. I'd had Shrimp and Crawdad Po'Boys before and an amazing bread pudding, but that was about it. Those were items that I'd ordered from a great little restaurant in Montana of all places (warning, music on site), so I hadn't even tried cooking anything I would consider Cajun.

The first dish I made was a Smothered Cajun Cube Steak Dish, which is also known as Smothered Swiss Steak. I don't really care for that name, though, because if you aren't familiar with the dish it just makes you think it is covered in cheese, which it isn't. The Swiss in Swiss Steak is the term used to describe the way the meat is tenderized.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Caramelized Peaches with Ice Cream

I'm feeling uninspired today. I have been sitting here a while, trying to think of an interesting way to introduce this dessert, but it just isn't coming. Here is what you need to know: Peaches are delicious. Roasting peaches in the oven brings out a delicious flavor that is perfect for a light Summer dessert. If you would like to lighten it up you can substitute sorbet for ice cream. I think I'll stick with ice cream though.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Secret Recipe Club - Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I have a deep love for zucchini breads of all kinds. I make them all the time. Up until recently my favorite had been a coconut zucchini bread (recipe another time, ahem), but my top spot has now been replaced by the ultimate, the best, most amazing (according to Ali) Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Weekend Wrap Up - June 12th, 2011

Welcome to The Weekend Dish! Sunday is our day to read a quick recap of what happened this week at Jam Hands. Also included is site news, a thank you to referring websites and the featured commenter. Thank you for visiting and making this site a great place to be.

Recipes this week at Jam Hands
Thoughts and other stuff
Site News
Top Referring Sites of the Week (in no particular order)Thank you so much for all of the visitors you sent my way.
Featured Commenter of the Week!
Would you like to be my featured commenter of the week? All you have to do is leave a comment sometime during the week and it could be you!

Miranda at Mangoes and Chutney. Miranda shares her love of food at her website, Mangoes and Chutney. Along with hosting a weekly link up, Fat Camp Friday, she blogs during the week to share delicious creations that have come out of her kitchen. She also posts her monthly menu plans, her quest for the perfect mac and cheese, and she has a regular spot on her blog to showcase other food bloggers. She shares the love, in other words. That is my favorite kind of blogger. 

Be sure to check out her recipes for Coconut Curry Shrimp, Mango Curry Chicken, and (oh boy) Brownie Cheesecake with Chocolate Drizzle. Thank you so much for being a reader and commenting Miranda.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flat Bread Taco Supreme

Taco time! If you love tacos but are getting tired of the same old flour tortilla, give this recipe for Flat Bread Taco Supreme a try. For a time saver it utilizes canned biscuit dough that is dry cooked in a pan until browned. If making dough from scratch is your thing, by all means feel free to Google a recipe, but dough is one thing I don't have much patience for, not to mention my oven is possessed by the devil, so I either buy my bread products or buy raw/frozen dough.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Blogging Round Table Discussion: Is it wrong to post recipes?

Food bloggers and the recipes they post. I have seen the topic brought up regarding posting recipes from published cookbooks or magazines and that bloggers have been 'strongly advised' to remove any recipes from their blog lest they face 'further action.'

What is new to me, however, is the thought that it is a faux paux to post a recipe, even with adaptions, that comes from another blog. This is assuming they even give credit back to the original posted. Instead, you should only link back to the website.

What do you think?

I have to say, while I am of the 'to each her own' line of thinking, the longer I mulled over this, the more confused I became. Why put your recipes on the internet if you are going to become so upset when someone posts it on their blog?

To clarify, this is not when someone steals your photographs or a recipe and says "This is MY photo, this is MY recipe that I created." This is when someone says, here is a recipe from such and such blog, here are my adaptions, ta-da.

I do not subscribe to food blogs that are photo's only, with no links to a recipe. I just don't see the point of it. Furthermore, if I want to see photo's only with no recipe attached, I'll just go browse Pinterest. Hehe.

I am of the opinion that if you are that upset that someone loved your recipe enough to blog about it, give you a link back and credit you as the recipe creator, you should probably say "Thank you, thank you!" Better yet, write yourself a cookbook and stop posting recipes online.

Okay, your turn. Do you agree with this train of thought? Why or why not?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Smokey Marinated Drumsticks

This recipe for Smokey Marinated Drumsticks is a dinner my mom made a lot growing up.  It has a delicious smokey flavor with the addition of lemon juice, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. You can dip the chicken in the marinade if you'd like.

Yoo-hoo, guess who is 2?

My little energizer bunny turns 2 today.


Someone tell me what happened to this little chub??

Happy Birthday bubs. I'll try to convince your sister to not boss you around all day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Raspberry Caramels

Wow, those caramels sure are bright! I know. I accidentally dropped the bottle of food coloring in the pot. They taste great though.

As I have learned, handling caramel can be a sticky affair. I lightly sprayed my hands with non stick spray before rolling into little logs, as well as chilling the caramel when it became too warm while sitting out at room temperature. I tried out the plain recipe as well, and let me tell you, it was amazing!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Blast From the Past - Hawaiian Haystacks Two Ways

Raise your hand if you have heard of Hawaiian Haystacks. Anybody? Well, I bet a few of you have. It is more of a retro dinner and I need you to have an open mind going in to this, the recipe is a little quirky.

How to see what posts from your website people have pinned on Pinterest.

Last week I explained what the dealio was with Pinterest. I had a bunch of people ask for invites (by the way, did all of you receive them? I hope so). Before I forget, my link to my boards is here, if you'd like to follow me.

This week I wanted to have a quick follow up post on how to see what posts from your blog people are pinning on Pinterest. You may have started to notice traffic coming from Pinterest.com when you check your statistics, but if you want the bigger picture of all of your posts that have been pinned, all you have to do is put this in your web browser, substituting your blog URL. Be sure to leave off the "http://www." part of your address. Just put the end of it, for me it was "Jamhands.net"


Here is the text if you want to copy and paste it (you still have to add in your URL at the end of it):

http://pinterest.com/source/

After you put that in, you should see a page like this, featuring all of the posts other people have pinned.


Ta-da! This can be very handy to see what posts of yours have resonated with readers. I hope this helps for all of the new Pinterest users.

Linking up to:  

The Weekend Wrap Up - June 4th, 2011

The weekend dish is a quick recap of what happened this week at Jam Hands. Also included is site news, a thank you to referring websites and the featured commenter. Thank you for visiting and making this site a great place to be.


Recipes this week at Jam Hands
Thoughts and other stuff
Site News
  • I've got a poll for you to vote on in the right hand sidebar. Please take a quick second to vote and let me know what you'd like to see posted about at Jam Hands. Thanks!
  • There are so many new followers, feed subscribers and email subscribers! Welcome welcome welcome. Can you believe that these numbers have tripled in the last month? Thank you so much for visiting and commenting, it makes me smile!
Top Referring Sites of the Week (in no particular order)
Thank you so much for all of the visitors you sent my way!
Featured Commenter of the Week!
Would you like to be my featured commenter of the week? All you have to do is leave a comment sometime during the week and it could be you!
 
Jen at Domesticated Nomad. FUN! That is how I'd describe the projects Jen does. Whether it is an amazing Star Wars themed kids party with fun food, or tutorials like easy peasy sidewalk chalk paint and how to make Subway Art, there is a little something for everyone.


Have a great week and thank you for visiting!
-Ali




Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mocha Toffee Brownies

It is about time for some chocolate, don't you think? These brownies are ultra rich, ultra chewy, and ultra caffeinated. Enjoy them with a big glass of milk. You don't have to feel too guilty about eating them either, the recipe is from Cooking Light.

If you are a coffee fanatic, you could even make a simple coffee glaze to drizzle over the top with powdered sugar, a little instant coffee and a bit of milk. Just stir well to incorporate the powdered sugar then drizzle over the top. If that sounds like too much coffee flavor for you, then you might want to stick with a chocolate or caramel glaze. I had mine plain since that is what the recipe called for, and they are great that way too!

Updated: One thing I forgot to add earlier was that freezing these brownies for a few days, then defrosting, made them much less potent on the coffee flavor, and also incredibly moist. If you make these and they have too much of a coffee taste, I highly recommend freezing and trying them after a few days.

Bloggers who have also made this recipe: Something Swanky


Project Repeat Meals! Go!

In an effort to update older posts with missing pictures I am remaking a few meals this weekend so I can add a picture. Here is meal number one. Lasagna Soup.

Check out the Lasagna Soup recipe here.
It is a very economical meal to make and easy to adapt. I used sweet Italian sausage that I cooked earlier in the week in the oven. Before I added it to the soup I sauteed it in a pan with a ton of garlic just to brown it up a bit. You can also use cooked ground beef if you'd prefer. 

Can I just say what the hell was I thinking in cooking two big packages of sausages at the same time? I'm starting to get sick of eating it, I tell you what. I made a basic spaghetti with sauce and sausage earlier in the week, then the lasagna soup, and I still have 4 sausages left. Yurp. I think I might do lasagna sandwiches with the rest of it and call it good.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Are you on Pinterest?

Do you know what the big deal is about Pinterest? I know there have been a ton of posts lately about how cool it is, but if you haven't checked it out yet, you may be wondering what all the hype is about.

I'll try to explain this simply, like I'm explaining it to my Mom. God bless her, but when she just came to visit and I asked her to click the play button on the Netflix that was streaming on the computer screen, she looked all over the mouse itself to find the play button. Sorry Mom, haha. Anyways, on to Pinterest!

Basically what you have here is a way to bookmark websites. Instead of calling it a bookmark, they call it a 'pin.' Instead of putting the bookmarks into folders like you normally would using IE, Firefox, or Chrome, you create 'boards', which are just your categories of your 'pins'.

I've got a lot of food themed boards, along with some fun ones like DIY, holidays, kid stuff, rainbows and more. So that is how you set up your pins.

If you are in the mood to browse other peoples pins, just click on either 'Discussions' or 'Everything' from the Pinterest navigation bar. From there, you can pick a category if you'd like.

If you find something to save to your boards, click the repin button on the image. That's it! Of course, be sure to follow some people that have posted pins that you enjoy. Half of the fun of Pinterest is browsing through all the beautiful pictures and discovering new things.

So have I convinced you to try it out yet? Good! Last that I saw there was a wait list of a couple weeks (not sure what it is now), so if you want to leave your email address, or email me directly with it, I can send you an invite. (jamhandsblog at gmail.com)

Happy pinning!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese Wrap

I especially enjoyed this wrap. Makes me feel oh so healthy. (Never mind all the cookies I've been eating. Ahem.) Roasting the vegetables brings out their flavors and the goat cheese adds a bit of tangy flavor and creaminess.

The basic idea here is to add a bunch of veggie to a roasting pan, coat with a little olive oil and spices, then cook them. If you would use different vegetables I'd love to hear what you would use, since I have made this so many times I am completely out of ideas for it.

Possible fillings would be: pesto, red onions, eggplants, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, red bell peppers, spinach, Parmesan cheese, hummus or balsamic vinegar. If you wanted to you could make the pesto creamy by adding a little mayo to it and stirring it well.