Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy News

Happy news for our household! Today my daughter and son-in-law announced in church that they are expecting their first baby. *insert wildly goofy grin here* I am going to be a grandma!!!

Back to your regularly scheduled lives...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Night Out On The Town

Tonight, Steve took me out to one of my favorite restaurants. Ember Woodfire Grill in Livonia, NY. 
This place is wonderful. Seasonal menus, fresh, clean ingredients. It's a foodie's dream come true. It's housed in the old train depot that was a flower shop when I was in high school. A little nostalgia there. 

Tonight I had a new dish and an 'old' favorite. Nothing is really old on the menu, but when I order the same thing four times in a row, you know it's amazing.

This was the new dish. Crab cakes with Chili Lime Aioli and Remoulade. 
Isn't it beautiful? It was so good. It's topped with finely diced bell peppers, that were also throughout the crab cakes. Wonderful.

And this is my old favorite. Sweet Potato Egg Rolls.
Topped with a sweet ginger glaze and chopped fresh apple. 
I love these things. LOVE them.
I'm talking, if I was offered a final meal, this would be what I asked for.
They are on the Tapas menu, but I order them for dessert. 
SO good.

So if you are ever in Livonia, make a reservation for dinner at this place. It's worth it. Terrific atmosphere, nice music and an incredible variety of food. I don't know who the current chef is, but he or she is on my list of favorites!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Playing in the Kitchen - Raspberry Lime Tea

So I finished making the syrup for the Italian Soda last night, and had all of the pulp left over from the berries and limes. On a whim, I decided to see if I could get a second use out of them. As a rule I don't like anything in my tea. I prefer my tea Irish style. Put the sugar in the cake and the milk in the baby's bottle and leave the tea plain! However, my son enjoys different flavors of tea, so I thought I'd give it a shot. It looked and smelled good, but looks can be deceiving! So I poured it over some ice and discovered something amazing...I actually liked it!

I get so tired of water, but the amount of sugar in juice and soda gets really overwhelming when you're just trying to stay hydrated.

So here's what I did.

~Place all of the pulp into a wide-mouthed 1 quart canning jar.
~Add 1 family sized decaf tea bag (or 4 regular sized tea bags.)
~Fill to the top with almost boiling water.
~Give the pulp a gentle stir so the hot water gets through it all.
~Let steep up to 30 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.
~Remove bags and let cool completely, then strain through a fine mesh strainer.
~Serve over ice.

This tastes plenty sweet to me, but I don't like sweetened tea, so adjust to your taste.

If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Playing in the Kitchen - Raspberry Lime Italian Soda

After running around in disgustingly hot weather today, I wasn't up for much cooking. I decided today was the day to try a Pinterest find I've been looking forward to.

You can find the recipe at Will Cook For Smiles. There are a ton of gorgeous pictures on the site. In fact, you won't find the recipe until about 1/3 of the way down the page. ;o)

It cooked up quick and easy and tastes wonderful!

My adjustments to the recipe:
~Raw sugar in place of white
~One regular lime instead of two key limes
~Realized too late that I only had 12 oz of raspberries instead of a full pound. I just went forward and made it, and didn't adjust the recipe for my lesser amount of raspberries.

My husband and son really liked it, also. I like things less sweet, so I drank it as is. You might want more syrup if you like a sweeter soda.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Meatballs in Bulk

Despite today's scorching heat, I had to do some cooking. By the time we get home from work, no one cares about cooking. Time to restock the freezer so we have some wholesome meals to enjoy again!

This has become my favorite way to do meatballs. I do not have the time or energy to pan fry them, and I don't really care for the texture when they are oven baked. So I cook them in the sauce. I normally use regular sized crock pots, but today I was doing a very large batch, so I used my 18 Qt. Nesco Roaster. My dad got that for me years ago, and I love it! Perfect for bulk cooking (and Thanksgiving turkeys!)

Leni's Notes:
~You can cut this recipe down if you don't want to make such a large batch. As written, this recipe makes 8 - 9 dozen meatballs, with a lot of extra sauce for serving with pasta.
~Next time I do this, I might throw a couple links of Italian Sausage in, just for a little bit different flavor.
~24 meat balls will fit nicely into a gallon sized freezer bag, and lay flat for storage. I throw a couple cups of sauce in, also.
~The original recipe for the meatballs came from this cookbook. I used to have a link for the recipe online, but the page seems to be missing.
~Great with pasta, but my family's favorite is meatball subs. ;o)


Meatball Mixture:
2 C panko
2 C milk
4 eggs
3 C parmesan
1/4 C dry chopped onion
1/2 C dry parsley
2 tsp jarred minced garlic
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
6 1/2 - 7  lbs lean ground beef

3 jars marinara sauce (I use Wegmans Smooth Marinara)
3 (28 oz.) cans tomato puree
2 C water
2 T oregano
2 T raw sugar
1 T basil
1 tsp garlic salt

~Mix meatball ingredients in a large bowl until evenly combined.
~Mix sauce ingredients in a large bowl, place a quarter of the mixture in the bottom of the roaster.
~Use a standard cookie scoop (about 1/4 cup? Maybe a little less?) to make meatballs uniform.
~Gently drop them into the sauce, so they kind of make craters in the sauce. 
~When you have one layer, cover those with another quarter of the sauce mix evenly over the meatballs, enough to cover them completely.
~Start your next layer of meatballs, and continue on until all meat mixture is used.
~Make sure all meatballs are completely covered in sauce. 
~Cover, set to 250 (or low, if you're using a crock pot) and let cook for 5-6 hours.
~When done, gently stir them to loosen any that have stuck to the sides or cooked together.
~Let cool a bit before packaging.

Blessings from my wonderful-smelling kitchen to yours!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Filling the Freezer

I admit it, I HATE cooking when it gets hot. I don't even want to eat! Alas, my family insists on eating every single day.

This week I'm working on stocking up the freezer with pre-made meals. That way all I have to do is throw it in a crock pot or the oven and be done.

Here's the lineup:
Twice-baked potatoes
Enchilada Casserole

Today I made 8 1/2 dozen meatballs that are cooking away in my roaster pan. I'll post the recipe later tonight. With only three of us at home this summer (and an occasional drop-in from the newly-weds) these should last us a while.

I also have the VBS closing picnic to put together on Friday. It will be fun to serve everyone. I'm not able to help with VBS during the week this year, so at least I'll get to enjoy the closing program and see what they did all week. My contribution for the week was to make pinatas of their bug mascots. Forgot to take pictures. Whoops. My apologies to those who asked for final results. I'll see if my daughter can get pics before they are destroyed. ;o)

Stay safe in the heat, everyone. This stuff is dangerous.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

So How About That No Bullying Policy?

As you know, I love MasterChef. I really enjoyed last night's show, but it left me pondering. If you are unfamiliar, there is one contestant on the show who really plays up her tough girl, loud mouth attitude. Her language is vulgar when she's angry (Yeay, Luca, for telling her to watch her mouth...the voice of reason and class.) Anyways, she's also fond of telling tales of beating girls up in the past, yada, yada, yada...

Last night it came to a head when someone challenged her bad behavior. Now I get that conflict gets ratings, but she told this woman point blank that she was going to beat the tar out of her if she didn't shut up.

Here's what I have been thinking about. The producers should eliminate her, I don't care how good of a cook she is. We have this whole National Anti-Bullying campaign going on. We tell kids every day, in every way, that bullying will not be tolerated, and adults have your back. Really? This woman is nothing short of a bully girl grown up, still bullying. Hoping to be taken seriously as a chef, while she cussing people out for cooking better than she does. Threatening to physically harm people and being a vulgar individual.

Kick her out. Make a statement. Practice what you preach, America!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Summer of Ganache

I think this is quickly becoming the Summer of Ganache.

Such a simple, elegant way to add a beautiful richness to a dessert. And so easy to screw up. ;)

Today I was winging it. Through an odd set of circumstances, I ended up not having all of the ingredients I needed to make what I wanted. I was topping a Banana Cream cake.

~This mixture was much thinner than I expected, if the pan didn't have sides, I could not have poured it on until it set up some. Oops.
~I wasn't crazy with how the white chocolate melted. Some of it really didn't want to melt, and I it looked grainy. But I had a lot of other factors, so I'll reserve judgment. But I might use Ghiradelli next time.
~I was out of vanilla (how did that happen?) and the unsweetened chocolate really needed flavor. I've never used rum in it before, but I thought the flavor would work.

So, here's what I tasted good, but we'll see how it sets up.

In a glass bowl:
4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
8 oz. white baking chocolate, chopped

In a sauce pan:
2 oz. Rum
1/4 C raw sugar
1 C heavy cream

~Heat cream over medium heat, stirring regularly to keep from scorching.
~When it begins to boil, remove from heat, and pour over chocolate.
~Stir the mixture continuously, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
~Pour over cake or into a container for later use. (Like an after work snack.)

I'll report back how this turned out. *fingers crossed*