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Archive for January, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Does anyone know what is happening this weekend?  That’s right…it is Super Bowl Sunday!  It doesn’t matter is you like football or not (I do), a lot of people watch the Super Bowl for the awesome commercials.  I know my husband does.  He likes football, but he loves the funny ads.  We are celebrating with some family and friends so that night is all about party food.  Yum!!

My dad’s birthday is also this week on Groundhog Day (Happy birthday, Dad!), so I am treating him to grilled steaks and oven fries for his big day.  I hope everyone has a blessed and fabulous week!

Lasagna Soup with Quick Peppery Cheese Bread (both new recipes)

Cheeseburger bundles (new)

Grilled Steaks with Oven Roasted Fries

Country ham biscuits with oven roasted fries (I still didn’t get this made last week, so they move again to this week.)

Pizza night

Super bowl night: sausage balls and taco dip (new)

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Biscuit Taco Bake

Most Monday nights, C & I eat supper with his parents.  I usually fix food that night and am always looking for a great new one dish supper that is easy to transport.  This is another one of my Pinterest finds.  In fact, a lot of the new recipes coming up are from there.  Check it out and if you want to follow me, my username is picperfcooking.

This is a great fix it and go meal.  I left mine pretty plain, but you can top it with any taco fixings you like such as shredded lettuce, sour cream, or salsa.  Give it a try!

1 pound hamburger
2/3 cup water
1 packet taco seasoning
2 tubes (12 oz. each) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 (15 oz.) can chili (or 1 1/2 cups leftover chili which is what I used)
1 cup + shredded cheddar cheese

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Note: I fixed the taco meat the day before so that is why all of the different ingredients are not pictured.

Brown the ground beef then add the water and taco seasoning. Cook, uncovered, on medium-low until the liquid evaporates.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 13×9” baking dish.  Quarter the biscuits and place in the prepared dish.

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Layer the taco meat mixture next, then add the chili and cheese.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.  Enjoy with your favorite taco toppings.

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Please join me at Miz Helen’s Country Cottage for Full Plate Thursday.

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Join me and other book-loving bloggers over at A Few More Pages for today’s list of Book Beginnings.  I recently read the newest Jennifer Weiner book, “Then Came You” so the lines I am going to share with you today are from that:

“The man in the suit was watching me again.  It was March of my senior year in college, a clear, chilly afternoon, when I felt what was, by then, the familiar weight of a man’s gaze, while I sat by myself in the food court.  I looked up from my dinner, and there he was, at the end of the line for the salad place, looking at me the way he had for the past three weeks.”

Screams “stalker”, doesn’t it?  Well, he really wasn’t a stalker and you learn more about it as the book goes on.  Did I enjoy this book?  Yes.  Could it have been better?  Yes to that, too.  This was a pretty easy read and I enjoyed it, but it almost wrapped up too neatly for me.  When it looked like the world was going crazy for all of the characters, everything just smoothed out in the end and everyone found their peace.  That’s wonderful, but terribly unrealistic.

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A winter’s sunrise…

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Boy, where does the time go?  It just seems like a few hours ago I was writing about last week’s menu plan and now it is time for another one.  One thing is certainly true…the weekends are never ever long enough!  I was able to work on my furniture re-do project a little and the two pieces are now ready for priming next weekend.  Yay!! 

I definitely have to hit the grocery store this week though.  I have time to do it this week and since it is this close to February, I am counting this as my big grocery shopping trip for February.  I had noticed that in the last few months of 2011, our grocery bill was way too high, so I started investigating why.  The holidays were one reason.  I was cooking a LOT of goodies for special occasions, but I also notice another trend.  I was overbuying quite a bit, too.  That revelation led me to the decision that instead of doing a weekly menu plan on my calendar, I would do a monthly one as well so it would be easier to do my grocery shopping.  I still have to stop once a week or so for milk and fresh fruits and veggies but I am trying to only buy staples once a month.  It worked in January.  Our grocery bill was down by about one hundred dollars from November and December and I hope this trend continues.

Deep Dish Pizza Casserole

Sausage Bake with fruit

Country ham & biscuits with oven baked fries (This didn’t get made last week.)

Grocery night

Pizza night

Shredded Pork BBQ with oven baked fries

Italian Cream Cake (my dad’s birthday cake)

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Yet again, I found this recipe on Pinterest, but the original poster was a blog called The Novice Chef.  This link will take you to her version of this cake.  I don’t make a lot of layer cakes apart from my Italian Cream cake, and after I tasted this one, I think I know why.  This was good, especially the frosting, but the cake seemed a little dry to me.  I think sheet cakes and Bundt cakes stay more moist, but it may be that I was too spoiled after eating that Coca-Cola cake a couple of weeks ago.  Oh, man, was that cake good!

I got good reviews from my family and friends for this, but I don’t think I will be making it again. It was ingredient heavy and time consuming, so the results just weren’t worth the time spent for me. Win some, lose some.

For the cake:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For the frosting:
4 oz. egg whites (3-4 large egg whites or about 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 sleeve Oreos, run through the food processor until finely chopped

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For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Prepare two 9” cake pans with Baker’s Joy and wax paper.  Sift the 3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. I like to do this onto a paper plate so it is easier to handle. In a cup with a pour spout, mix the milk with the vanilla.

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In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until light and creamy. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl. Beat in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the milk mixture and scraping down the bowl.

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Mix 2 cups of the batter with the melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate. Scrape the remaining batter into the pans. Dollop the chocolate batter over the batter in the pans and swirl with a knife.

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Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 35 minutes, until springy. Let cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and invert onto a rack. Peel off the paper, turn the cakes upright and cool completely.

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For the icing:
Lightly whisk egg whites and sugar together over simmering water in a double boiler until egg-white mixture is hot to touch or a candy thermometer reads 140°F (60°C).

Pour hot whites into a room-temperature bowl and whip at medium high, with a wire whip, until double in volume and stiff peeks have formed. When the mixer stops, the meringue should not move around in the bowl. Meanwhile cut up butter into 2-inch pieces. (The butter should be slightly moist on the outside but cold inside.)

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On your mixer, remove the whip and attach the paddle. Add half the butter into the bowl immediately and pulsate the mixer several times until the meringue has covered the butter completely. To pulsate the mixer, turn it on and off in a jerky motion. This forces the butter on the top to the bottom of the bowl. Add the balance of the butter and pulsate mixer several times. Slowly increase the mixer’s speed, starting with the lowest speed and increase the speed every 10 seconds until you reach a medium high speed.

Continue beating until the mixture begins to look light and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Reduce speed to LOW. Add vanilla and Oreo crumbs, continue to beat on LOW speed for 45 seconds. Then beat on MEDIUM-HIGH speed for an additional 45 to 60 seconds.

Place one layer on the cake plate and cover with the buttercream. Place the 2nd layer on top and frost the cake with the remaining buttercream.

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Up until the last few weeks, all of the photos on this blog were shot with a super-zoom compact Sony H7.  C and I have had this camera for about four years or so and were really pleased with it.  It was simple to use, but it also had a lot of different options if you didn’t want to shoot on automatic. 

C & I are both photography fans and he has been wanting to buy us an digital SLR for a year or two, but I was too cheap to do it.  Well, I finally gave in and we bought one as our joint Christmas present because C told me he was going to buy it for me if we didn’t buy it together. He can be stubborn like that! 🙂 So during Thanksgiving weekend, we ordered a Canon EOS Rebel T3i with a 18-135mm lens from Amazon while it was very much on sale.

Wow is all I can say! WOW!  This is one awesome and complicated camera!  My mom and dad had a film SLR when I was growing up and I remember trying my hand at photography back then.  I would try to shoot “artistic” shots of flowers and my Cabbage Patch dolls.  Then I would use my allowance to have them developed.  Isn’t that funny?  Several times there was a finger or even a toe or two if I was shooting down in the pictures, but I was hooked.

This is not something you take out of the box, turn on, and then start shooting beautiful, gorgeous shots.  Nope, there is definitely a learning curve involved in this.  Thankfully, another Christmas present I received will hopefully help with that.  I had been wanting to improve my food photography for a while even before we decided to upgrade our camera so I asked my in-laws for the book “Plate to Pixel” by Helene Dujardin.  I have just started it, but in the few pages that I have read there is a lot of information.  Ms. Dujardin’s shots are so pretty and I hope to be able to duplicate some of the beauty with practice.  She has done seminars at The Pioneer Woman’s ranch and I wish she would do one around Kentucky because I would love to have more instruction.

So bear with me, folks.  The photos on here might get worse before they get better, but I am trying my best to learn the ins and outs of our new favorite toy!

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