Aug 31, 2011

Cowboy Casserole

Lisa at The Cutting Edge of Ordinary inspired me  to make this dish after reading her hilariously titled post "Cowboy Casserole - looks like dog food - tastes delicious." I put my own twist on it to suit what I had in my pantry and in my freezer, but the basic idea is the same. It may not sound like much, but believe me, it is comforting and seriously delicious.

If you are anti canned soup, by all means, you can make homemade cream of mushroom soup at home. All you have to do is google a recipe. I for one have always liked them and I do not look down on anyone else who uses them. No food snobbery here! Okay, with that out of the way, are you ready for the recipe?

Aug 30, 2011

Food Blogging & Negativity: Do you post recipes that you hate on your blog?

Today I'm touching on a variety of topics dealing with food blogging, but the theme between them all is negativity.

First up, Bad recipes. They happen to the best of us. We make a recipe with the best intentions and it turns out to be a total flop. What is your next step?

  • Do you redo the recipe, hoping it will be better? 
  • Do you post the recipe on your blog with a negative review? Is it constructive criticism or an out right attack to the blogger?
  • Does it make any difference if the recipe came from a food blogger as opposed to a food celebrity, like Paula Deen or Bobby Flay? 
  • Is your first instinct to blame yourself or the recipe? 

Secondly, negative opinions. You don't like the quality or type of ingredients used in a recipe. What do you do?

  • Do you take inspiration from their recipe and tweak it to fit your dietary standards?
  • Do you immediately dismiss it and move on?
  • Do you leave a comment informing the food blogger that they are using the wrong ingredients and as a whole their recipes stink?
  • Do you get on your blog and write a long rant about how anyone who ever cooks with ------ ingredients is a terrible cook and should be ashamed of themselves?
I used a cake mix. I must be
a horrible person
These are all questions I wonder about frequently while I am browsing other blogs.  I try to keep my blog as uplifting and positive as possible. Even when I tell you all the things I hate about your blog, I try to do so in a hopefully light hearted way that is meant to be helpful and not snotty.

I don't come across very many hostile and mean spirited food bloggers, but they are for sure out there. Just like hostile and mean spirited comments, I don't get a ton but I know they are out there. The most frequent style of hostility that I personally come across is people who are food elitists.

Let me clarify one thing real quick. If you are not a fan of cake mixes or canned soups, that is just fine. There are from scratch alternatives for almost everything out there that is a convenience product. I am totally A-OK with the fact that you don't like them. What I am not A-OK with is when people rant on their blogs about how lazy, stupid and horrible people are who do use them. 

The food bloggers who say (I'm paraphrasing but this is what I read) that anyone who EVER uses a cake mix is a lazy, fat, horrible cook. That using a can of cream of chicken soup is literally poisoning their children and they should have their kids taken away.  I'm not exaggerating these remarks, I have run across quite a few of them the past few years. Does this kind of hostility and negativity bother anyone else?

Run for your life!
Ahhh, the horror!
I recently had a young woman who pinned one of my casserole recipes onto a Pinterest board that she had titled, "This is why you are fat." I was stunned, although I probably shouldn't have been. What is stunning to me is that someone has so much free time to be so negative and spiteful. (On Pinterest of all places, which is normally so fun and inspiring. She had literally created a board of all the things she hated. Hah!)

You and I don't eat the same? Hey, that is fine by me. I'll leave you alone, how about you leave me alone too? Keep on blog browsing and don't let the door hit your butt on the way out.  What I don't get is pinning a bunch of random food blogs on Pinterest and leaving comments of, "GROSS!" "THIS IS DISGUSTING!" and the like. How awful and mean spirited is that?

All I can think is that this is a girl who has a lot of hate in her heart and she feels the need to lash out at people on the internet. It is kind of sad, but frankly it riled me up because how snotty and judgmental her comments were. We are all young bloggers at one point, and to see something like this when you are new can be a real buzz kill.

Back to the recipes, do you take the time to write up a post, take pictures, and type up the recipe when it was a dud? Do you name names, calling out the blogger who provided the recipe? Or do you just skip posting it and move on?

I am absolutely a skip posting it and move on kind of person. I don't think most food bloggers would ever intentionally post a bad recipe. I tend to question if I really followed the recipes closely, if I misread an ingredient amount, and scrutinize if it was my mistake that a recipe turned out bad. What about you?

For some reason I will admit that I am far more lenient and forgiving to food bloggers and their recipes than I am of the celebrity cooks out there. I am more likely to post a negative review on a Food Network recipe than I am to visit a blog and leave a comment. I am not saying that is right, but it is just the way I feel. I connect with fellow food bloggers and I feel a sense of solidarity between us all. I want to uplift others, not tear them down.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topics above. Do you get negative comments on your blog from food elitists? Or do you get blamed for a dud recipe even when it is clear the cook didn't follow your recipe closely? Please share in the comments.

Also - Inspired by eRecipecards did a thoughtful review of one of my recipes and my blog as a whole today. He poked a bit of fun at me and the things I hate about blogs. Check it out. See, I can take a joke when it is a good natured jab. :)

Aug 24, 2011

Peanut Butter Cornflake Clusters

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I've been on a mission to try to use up items from the pantry before I make the big move to Montana next week. I had a full box of unopened corn flakes that I wasn't sure what to do with. I knew I could use them for Cornflake Crusted Chicken, but I'd still have a ton leftover to deal with.  When I came across this recipe at Sticky, Gooey, Cream, Chewy, which Susan called the 'Holycraptheseareamazing Cookies,' I knew I had hit the jackpot.

Basically what we are dealing with here is a chewy, delicious candy bar-esque dessert. The recipe makes a ton of cookies and it only has a few ingredients to boot. My family loved them and I bet your family will too. Ready for the recipe?

Peanut Butter Cornflake Clusters
Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on how big you make them

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 jar (18 oz ounce) peanut butter, crunchy or smooth (I used creamy)
  • 6 cups corn flakes
  • 3 oz good quality chocolate of your choice

1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup over medium-high heat until it comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter, stirring until smooth and incorporated.

2. In a large bowl, mix the corn flakes and the peanut butter mixture together, gently stirring very well until all of the cereal is coated.

3. Drop spoonfuls of the cornflake mixture onto wax paper.

4. Heat the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Drizzle over cornflake clusters and let cool. Serve when they have cooled.

Source: Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy

Aug 22, 2011

Asparagus Gruyere Tart

It is time for my favorite foodie event, the Secret Recipe Club!

I came across the original recipe for this Asparagus Gruyere Tart from 'Chefanie Frasco' at The Chefanies while participating in a fun little foodie event, the Secret Recipe Club, which was created by Amanda at Amanda's Cookin'.

The idea of it is you are assigned a fellow food blogger each month, it is kept a secret of course, and you go to their food blog and pick a recipe (or more) to make. On the assigned date, everyone posts their creations and you go and visit and see all the goodies that were made. Sort of like a secret Santa, right?

My host who is organizing my group for this month is Tina from Moms Crazy Cooking. Thank you Tina for hosting!

The Chefanies is a combined blog of two ladies named Stephanie. In their words, "This blog is our spot to share our favorite recipes and the stories (and people) behind them.  We try to use only organic, seasonal (in California terms) and fresh ingredients."

Right off the bat, I was impressed by their colorful banner for their blog title, contrasted to the clean and fresh white background of their website. It is orderly and clean, which is exactly what inspires most people to get in the kitchen and cook. As I browsed through their recipes, it was clear that The Chefanies value fresh, local produce. I considered quite a few recipes to make, including the Chopped Heirloom Salad with Spicy Ranch, Strawberry Feta Salad, and the World's Greatest Cheesecake. I happened to have half of a package of puff pastry ready to be used up and the Asparagus Gruyere Tart was calling to me, so off I went!

I made one substitution, which was the type of cheese I used. Ideally I would have loved to use Gruyere, but I ended up using a mix of fontina, Parmesan, provolone, asiago and mozzarella. Even though I had to use my second choice for the cheese, it turned out so delicious. This is a simple and delicious recipe for cheese and vegetable lovers alike. Ready for the recipe?

Aug 18, 2011

Cinnasticks Copycat (aka Cinnamon Sticks)

I hope you are ready for an easy, tasty treat today. I made these Cinnasticks when I made the Cheesy Garlic Sticks and both were very well received. I think it is kinda fun to make these things at home instead of relying on delivery, but that is just me.

Most cinnamon stick recipes have you add the cinnamon sugar mixture to the dough and then bake it. In the past I had tried this, and while it was good, it made the topping a little crunchy and weird. This time around, inspired by a comment from a former Domino's employee on a recipe I saw on, I made my cinnamon sticks according to what the reviewer instructed.

Instead of adding the topping and baking, I brushed the dough with butter flavored oil, baked it, and after it came out of the oven warm I sprinkled it with a cinnamon sugar mixture, then followed up with the icing. 

The icing recipe is more of a throw it together and adjust as necessary. The original recipe called for an entire box of powdered sugar which seemed like way too much icing for just one pizza, so I scaled it back.

Aug 16, 2011

Ham, Garlic and Herbs Cheeseball Spread - 5 Minute Appetizer

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A while back I made a delicious Ham, Scallion & Pecan Cheeseball from Squirrel Bakes. Of course being someone who doesn't plan ahead well, I didn't take any pictures and told myself I'd make it again and take some proper shots. As I was recently looking over the recipe again, I started to think of ways I could make the recipe come together even quicker. What I came up with was inspired by Squirrel Bakes, but with my own twist.

I knew this was going to be a difficult one to photograph in an appetizing manner. Ideally I would have styled it like Squirrel Bakes did, with a cheeseball covered in large pecans. For the individual crackers, I would have also added pecans on top. What can I say, it was about 11 at night and I was starving for a snack, so I whipped this up in a hurry. It may only take five minutes to make but it is seriously tasty. Ready for the recipe?

Aug 12, 2011

Breakfast Scramble Turnovers

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Warm and delicious breakfast turnovers. Ah, they are so darn good. It is wonderful how puff pastry transforms what might normally be a hum drum breakfast scramble into a hand held tasty treat.

One tip that I have for cooks who are looking to add more vegetables into their meals is to cook up a big pot of sliced onions and bell peppers until they are soft and the onions are caramelized. Let cool and store it in the fridge. Now they are ready to be added to pasta bakes, quesadillas, and breakfast turnovers like these. I happened to have spicy sausage to use up so I added that in with the vegetables and freshly shredded cheese. So good! Ready for the recipe?

Aug 9, 2011

Cold Tea Gingerbread with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

If I ever have my own bakery, this recipe is going on the menu. Delicious doesn't even begin to describe it. Moist and spicy with the pleasant tang of whipped cream cheese frosting. This recipe is from 1910 and from the amazing cookbook, Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters. Ready for the recipe?

Ten On Tuesday - Ten More Tasty Food Blogs

Tuesday has rolled around again, so it must be time for another Ten on Tuesday feature. What is it? Kim from It's a Crafty Life describes it best. "Today's the day when you blog about whatever's on your mind...random info about you, events going on in your life, a top ten list, ten pictures, long as it is 10 items!" If you would like to play along check out It's a Crafty Life.

Today I want to share ten tasty food blogs that I am really enjoying. I have done this once before, and since it has been a few months, I thought it time to bring you a new batch of amazing food blogs that I love.

The theme that ties this batch of ten food blogs is that I bookmark, oh just about EVERY SINGLE recipe they post. No joke! They each bring different things to the table, be it beautiful photography, a unique and charming voice, or the ability to make you drool all over your keyboard. Hopefully you find a new blog or two to subscribe to. Enjoy!

Ten More Tasty Food Blogs You Should Be Reading

1. Plain Chicken. Recipes you need to see: Chicken Parmesan Crescents, Creamy Grilled Chicken Piccata, Artichoke Bread and Sausage Pancakes.

2. Brenda's Canadian Kitchen. Recipes you need to see: Coconut Cream Crescent Pie, Jalapeno Popper Cheeseburgers, Chocolate-Peppermint Loaf Cake and "Lime in the Coconut" Frosted Cheesecake Bars.

3. Lauren's Latest. Recipes you need to see: Chocolate Mint Truffle Cookies, Lemon Crinkle Cookies, Cheesy Taco Pasta and Garlic Rubbed Steak with Blue Cheese & French Fried Onions.

4. The Cozy Little Kitchen. Recipes you need to see: Tropical Pineapple & Coconut Bars, Hummingbird Cake with Toasted Pecan Cream Cheese Frosting, Caramel Apple Cake and Florida Key Lime Pie.

5. Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Recipes you need to see: Chicken Pillows with Creamy Parmesan Sauce, Cornbread with Fluffy Honey Butter, Southwest Egg Rolls with Creamy Chipotle Dipping Sauce, and Cheddar and Herb Biscuits.

6. Your Homebased Mom. Recipes you need to see: Orange Creamsicle Scones, Citrus Cream Cheese Pull Apart Rolls, Lemon Cream Chicken and Grape Salad.

7. Stephanie Cooks. Recipes you need to see: Mediterranean Pasta, Bang Bang Shrimp, Mushroom and Garlic Cream Tartlets, and Creamy Noodles.

8. Life as a Lofthouse. Recipes you need to see: Strawberry Ooey Gooey Cake, Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu, BBQ Chicken Salad with Homemade BBQ Sauce, and Strawberry Cheese Danish.

9. Shugary Sweets. Recipes you need to see: Italian Chicken, Rolo Turtle Fudge, Jalapeno Corn Dip, and Peanut Butter-Finger Bites.

10. A Pretty Life in the Suburbs. Recipes you need to see: Root Beer Chocolate Cupcakes, Rice Pudding, Meat Lasagna, and Strawberry Vinaigrette.

Aug 6, 2011

Cheesy Garlic Sticks

All righty. Cheesy Garlic Sticks. I make them all the time. They are delicious, they only take a handful of ingredients, and often they are filling enough to make a meal out of on the cheap. I've tried a bunch of little tweaks to come up with what I think is the most delicious recipe for Cheesy Garlic Sticks. Ready for the recipe?

I don't make my own pizza dough. If you like making dough, by all means, go for it. I have yet to be satisfied with homemade pizza dough. So what I do is pick up premade pizza dough from Papa Murphys. It comes already rolled out, it is the 14" size, and is only $3! Compare this to pre-baked dough, which can run upwards of $6, and dough from a can, which I think tastes kinda gross. Note: From the comments on this post it has come to my attention that not all locations sell the dough premade, so you should call ahead and ask them if you don't want to waste a trip.

When you get your dough, it may need to be 'proofed', which just means it may need to rise. The longer you allow your dough to sit out and proof, the thicker the crust will be. I make my pizzas within a half hour to an hour of buying them, and I think the dough is just perfect. Not too thin, not too thick, just right. I lightly brushed the dough with olive oil, focusing on the edges so they would brown up nicely.

Next up for me to decide on was the type of cheese. Packaged shredded cheese melts really strange I have found. Whatever they put on the cheese to make it so it doesn't stick together in the bag will inhibit the cheese from melting and being nice and ooey gooey. So I ended up buying a ball of mozzarella (not the kind in water) and I tore the pieces of cheese with my fingers and covered the dough. If I had any really thick pieces of cheese, I flattened them slightly, but overall it was a quick process of pinching pieces of the cheese off of the ball and covering the dough.

After that, I grabbed a spoon and my jar of minced garlic from the fridge (I know, I know, but I love that stuff), I drizzled just a little bit of the garlic infused oil on the pizza, as well as some of the minced garlic itself. A sprinkle of Italian spices on top and it is ready to bake.

I've also added dried garlic powder to this, in addition to the garlic oil / minced garlic, to make it extra potent. If you are a garlic fan you might want to use both. It really just depends on how much of each you use. If you don't have minced garlic in a jar, feel free to use dried garlic instead. This is not a fussy recipe, just use what you got.

All in all, I thought it tasted fantastic. You can substitute a shredded cheese if you'd like, but in my experience it doesn't get super melty and delicious. It just sorta sits there.

Aug 2, 2011