Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Texting Roundup

I’m not one of those people who wants to impress you with my cooking. I want you to come over and share it with me, or at the least, I want to inspire you to make whatever dish I just attempted and enjoyed. I’ll never keep a recipe secret from you, and I’ll be genuinely happy if you decide to attempt a recipe that I’ve blogged or posted somewhere.

And I LOVE getting picture texts from people who have.

Like a college friend who is raising three beautiful children and has to work around gluten allergies, and somehow still has time to send me pictures of her version of things that I’ve blogged about, like my Grandma Dorothy’s German Potato Salad, or what seems to be modification of my peach crisp (the text itself only said “Mmmmmmmmmm”).


Or my sister-in-law, who sent me a picture of my Home Ec coffee cake, modified for a Bundt pan, which seems like such a classy improvement over my square Pyrex dish. Judging by the fact that almost half was gone by the time she took a picture, her family enjoyed it!


Or my other sister-in-law, who is working her way through a bunch of recipes that I gave her and who has shared evidence of her success with twice-baked potatoes and apple crumb pie (both of which I think I need to make again and blog about!).



Or my BFF, who shared her first experience with her new Kitchenaid mixer, along with a picture to show that she also has a puppy that understands very well when there is something yummy on the counter.



Or my brother, who just seems to like to send me pictures of things he enjoys eating in general.



To all of you, and to those who participate by telling me about things they’ve made or by sending me recipes, thank you. You make this fun.

Also… brief note: hubby and I are giving Nutrisystem another go. I may be posting less frequently until we’re done with it, though I’ll definitely still be posting. I’ve got pictures from a bunch of things that I’ve made and haven’t had time to blog about yet, though, so don’t give up on me just yet. Smile

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Apple Crisp

So many of my friends have been talking about apples lately. Seems like everyone's going apple-picking, then turning their produce into applesauce and apple pie and apple crisp. I felt left out and decided to join in with store-bought apples. Coincidentally, I saw honey crisp apples at the grocery store the other day. I had never heard of them until I read a blog post by a friend that has moved to the South and desperately misses her New York apples… until she found these. I figured they must be good so I picked up a bunch.

I made apple crisp a week or two ago. It was my first apple crisp ever, and I didn’t have the time or patience to really devote to searching for a great recipe. I settled for one that was easy and had good reviews. I thought it was decent, but nothing special. It used white sugar instead of brown, though, and just didn’t seem to have enough topping. Since I still had some apples left, I thought I’d give it another shot and work a little harder to make it a delicious apple crisp.


I started off with slicing the apples as thinly as I could. They seemed a little crunchy in last week’s attempt, and I thought this might help.


This recipe is definitely different. It called for pecans and walnuts in a food processor.


They sure look different all chopped up.


I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I thought a “dash” of cinnamon and nutmeg were nowhere near enough, so I did a 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg. And rather than sprinkling them on the apples and baking them for a little while, I put them in with the brown sugar and flour. Mainly because I failed to read the directions.


I dumped the mixture in the food processor with the nuts and blended it up. Then I turned to my butter. It said to add “diced butter.” I had never diced butter before. It was surprisingly fun. Clean cuts, didn’t stick to the knife, somehow very satisfying material to slice up!


When I added this to the mixture in the food processor, it took on the consistency of very course, wet sand.


It was pretty strange to spoon it on over my apples. Couldn’t shake the feeling that I was spooning stuff from my childhood sandbox onto my apples, making pretend food.


If I’d read the directions thoroughly, I’d have baked the apples for a little while first. Oh well. Baked them now!


Not a great picture, and I admit, I played with the “brightness” and “contrast” scroll bars because it was originally kind of dark, but does it show you how good this smelled?

Or tasted?

I guess not. Too bad. It smelled and tasted pretty amazing. Just saying.


Recipe in Tastebook soonish!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Crock-Pot Pork Chops

Sometimes I forget that there are other meats at the grocery store besides chicken breasts and ground beef. I guess those are what’s most familiar. Sometimes, though, I mosey on over to the pork section and come home with something different. Recently I did that and ended up with pork loin chops. Then I had to figure out what to do with them. I’m not the biggest fan of pork, but given hubby’s propensity toward meals that include meat, I try to include it here and there. It seems like it always ends up dry and overcooked, though, so I decided to find a crock pot recipe for them.
The description of this recipe almost put me off of it: “'Family and friends call me the 'Crock-Pot Queen,' reveals Janet P. of Meadville, Pennsylvania. 'Of my many slow-cooked specialties, this is my husband's favorite.'” I have trouble believing that there are really people who call her that. I imagine that this is a nickname that someone called her once when she put something nice together, and it made her glow, and now she imagines that people really refer to her by that. I bet people roll their eyes and let her think that. But her recipe looked decent, and it had a lot of good reviews, so I thought I’d give it a try.
First step, throw those pork loin chops in a skillet and brown them.
They smell DELICIOUS.
While that’s going on, chop up a green pepper.
And an onion.
The recipe said to add a can of mushrooms, but I opted to go with fresh.
Pork chops are still frying up. Make a sauce with tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, and salt.
Put the pork chops in the crock pot. The recipe said to do 6, I thought 3 was plenty. Plus, that’s what I had.
Top the pork with the green peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
And then pour the sauce over everything.
Cover and simmer on low for 4-5 hours. I hate recipes that have that time period, because I am at work for much longer than this! But this was my day off, so I was able to start it in the early afternoon so that it was ready for dinner.
Then I did some housework and went to my zumba class.
When I got home, it time to put everything together. I cooked up some hot white rice in my rice cooker and served the pork and vegetables on top of it.
It was good, but I wouldn’t say it was anything extraordinary. Janet P. of Meadville, Pennsylvania, your description is quite misleading.
But it was very easy, and it was a nice change. I’ll probably make it again.
Recipe in tastebook at some point.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Liquid Libations by a Wannabe Bartender

Hey guys, Jolie’s husband here. Last Friday night, after skimming through a bartender’s guide Jolie got from a friend as a gift a while back, Jolie and I were sitting around and I felt inspired. I looked at her and said, “Let’s get drunk tonight.” She smiled and said, “Ok…” At that point, I suggested that we head over to the liquor store and stock up on some booze.

We don’t drink very often, with the exception of the occasional beer and wine. We never go out to clubs or bars, and I thought we could enjoy some nice liquor concoctions with the amazing dishes that Jolie likes to prepare.

So, off to the liquor store we went. I decided we needed some basic liquors to build a liquor cabinet. At this point, I had an epiphany… Where do we physically put our liquor? The answer hit me like a ton of bricks. Of course, we could store them in the bookshelf cabinets in the dining room! So we picked up several liquors: Disaronno Amaretto, Bacardi Superior White Rum, TripleSec, CaboWabo Tequila, Smirnoff Vodka, and Bombay Gin. We had been sitting on several other liquors, some for months, others for a few years! We already had Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey (which was a gift from a good Army buddy of mine from a few years back), Peppermint Schnapps (from a friend of Jolie’s a year or two ago), a few shots of Malibu Rum, and a few shots of Captain Morgan Silver Spiced Rum (delicious with Cherry Coke).


That evening, I searched for a Long Island Iced Tea recipe online, through allrecipes.com. I found a really good recipe named Mrs. Baxton’s iced tea.


  • 1 fluid ounce vodka
  • 1 fluid ounce gold tequila
  • 1 fluid ounce rum
  • 1 fluid ounce gin
  • 1 fluid ounce Cointreau or triple sec
  • 5 fluid ounces sweet and sour mix
  • 2 fluid ounces cola
  • 1 lime wedge

Directions: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice; pour in vodka, tequila, rum, gin, Cointreau, and sweet and sour mix. Cover and shake until the outside of the shaker is frosty. Place a few cubes of ice into a highball glass, and strain in the iced tea. Top with the cola, and garnish with a wedge of lime.

Fortunately for me, Jolie had inherited a nice aluminum cocktail shaker with strainer and a jigger. So after looking over the list of ingredients, I figured I’d substitute the gold tequila for white and get to work. I made the drink as directed, and it was really good, although a bit much on the sour mix, but we really enjoyed the drinks.


After waking up Saturday, I checked the Android app market on my phone for bartender’s guides and found a fantastic app called, “Mixology.” Let me tell you, this app is phenomenal. The app has so many recipes, and you can even build your own liquor cabinet with different liquors and mixers that you can use to find drinks from your ingredients. It is super user friendly and I was really excited to find it.

After playing with the app for a bit, I realized there wasn’t a huge drink selection with the liquors we had so I decided we should hit the Class Six (liquor store on a military installation) while we were at Fort Meade Saturday, waiting for the tailor to finish my uniforms. We picked up a bottle of Malibu Rum, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Kahlua. I wanted to get a bottle of Southern Comfort but they were sold out.

On Sunday, Jolie decided to invite one of her coworkers over for drinks, and she figured she could make dinner while we were at it. She had a few ideas in mind, so I helped her decide on her yummy baked pasta/cream cheese/Italian sausage dish (damn, it was good!) After playing with my app more on Sunday, I realized we really needed to get some more mixers, so we went back by the liquor store and I got a bottle of Frangelico and Southern Comfort. After that, we swung by the grocery store for mixers. We picked up pineapple juice, cranberry juice, soda water, club soda, grape juice, cherry juice, and Seven-Up.

Once we got home, it was crunch time, at least for Jolie. I was trying to run recipes by her for suggestions on what drinks to make, but she was in her zone in the kitchen, so I knew it would be up to me. Jolie had mentioned several times over the past few months that she really wanted a Cosmo, so I found a really good recipe on my app and decided that’s where we would start.


  • 1 1/4 oz vodka
  • 1/4 oz Triple Sec
  • 1/4 oz Lime Juice
  • 1/4 oz Cranberry Juice

Directions: Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass Garnish with lime wedge.

I followed the directions pretty closely but I added an extra oz of cranberry juice to them so the drinks didn’t taste like pure vodka. They came out very pale, not dark red like cranberry juice and the ladies really liked them. Unfortunately, we don’t have martini glasses so I had to use our margarita glasses instead. After making the drinks I let them know that we were out of lime juice and the next round would have to be something different.

Once everyone finished their Cosmo, I flipped back through my app and found a recipe for “California Liquid Cocaine.” It sounds pretty intimidating but it really wasn’t that bad.


  • 1 part Amaretto
  • 1 part Southern Comfort
  • 1/2 oz Malibu Rum
  • Pineapple Juice

Directions: Pour equal parts of Southern Comfort and Amaretto in a large tumbler filled with ice. (Glass should be 3/4 full). Add the Malibu Rum and top of with pineapple juice. Stir. Beautiful colour layers are created.

I wasn’t very sure how much to use as a “part,” but being as the drink was to be served in a highball glass, I figured we’d probably want two oz of each. The drink did layer a little bit but not what I would have expected based on “Beautiful colour layers are created.” Nevertheless, the ladies absolutely loved the drink. I intended to have some red wine with dinner but we were all still working on these instead.

After dinner, I asked if anyone wanted some delicious coffee to accompany Jolie’s Apple Crisp dessert. They both said yes, so I set the coffee to brew. Once it was finished, I poured out 3/4 coffee, added a spoonful of organic sugar, two tablespoons of whole cream, and a shot of Frangelico. The girls loved the coffee. Jolie’s coworker went on to tell me about how this topped the best coffee she could remember having. I do remember thinking, after the first sip, that the Frangelico really brought out the flavor of the coffee. It was really delicious.

I hope you enjoyed my introductory post. I apologize that my writing isn’t as flawless and perfectly formatted as my darling wife’s. She has quite a bit of formal education on me Smile with tongue out

I will be sure to post back with other liquid libations as we test them out in the future!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Roasted Creole Potatoes

As has been the pattern lately, I don’t really have a reason for trying this recipe other than the fact that I had a few miscellaneous ingredients and an allrecipes search came up with it.

First, cube some potatoes. I chose to use red potatoes because that’s what I had, but I also just really like them. Didn’t bother to skin them, just scrubbed them first.


I saw a youtube video recently about knife skills and techniques, so I’m relatively confident that I actually did this right. Usually, that’s not the case – usually I just make things up!

First, slice in one direction…


Then turn the potato 90 degrees and slice in the other direction (also lengthwise)…


Then turn it on end and slice it crosswise. Little cubes should fall off.


Here are my cubes! I put them in my awesome turkey roasting pan. Wasn’t sure what else to do. It worked.


And then toss in some other ingredients, like chopped green and red bell peppers, as well as onions.



Also, some sliced andouille sausage (the main inspiration for this meal). And I’m a little ashamed about the next part. See, I was reading the reviews. One of them said something like, “This dish was okay. I didn’t have andouille sausage so I used hot dogs. I didn’t think it was that great, I don’t think I’ll make it again.” A later review commented on this, saying something like, “Don’t rate and comment on the recipe if you’re going to substitute hot dogs for sausage!!!!!!@!”

A valid point, of course, because hot dogs are nowhere near as fancy or tasty as sausage, plus they have an entirely different taste. But it got me thinking… dinner must have lots of meat for hubby, not sure if there’s enough sausage, and I have some hot dogs in the freezer….

So yeah, I added some chopped up hot dogs, too. Hey, it’s not like the queen was coming over. Though maybe she would like hot dogs in her potatoes.


Sprinkled the whole thing with olive oil, paprika, Creole seasoning, garlic powder, and ground black pepper.

Toss to coat and roast it at 400 degrees for an hour. Scrumptious!

I fail with the coloring of the pictures; the meal wasn’t this yellow. I really should re-read that camera manual, shouldn’t I?


But it was yummy. Spicy, flavorful. Also greasy, but then again, I added more oil than the recipe called for because 2 Tbsp didn’t seem enough to coat everything. Maybe next time I’ll stick to it. But it was a nice meal, and gave me something new to do with andouille.

And hot dogs.


Recipe in TasteBook soonish.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu

I’m not real sure what possessed me to try this recipe, other than hubby and I had purchased too much deli meat and cheese and I was feeling adventurous. It had been a while since I tried something creative like this, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Warning: It didn’t look nearly as elegant as it should have.


First, pound some chicken breasts out and put a slice of ham and a slice of cheese. I used Monterey jack instead of Swiss because that’s what I had. Roll it up, ideally not letting the insides peek out, and secure with toothpicks.

MUCH HARDER THAN IT SOUNDS. Mine looked ridiculous with all those brightly-colored party toothpicks sticking out in all directions.



Mix flour and paprika in a bowl, and then dip each piece of chicken in the mixture. Everything wanted to come unpinned, and the toothpicks made it hard to coat the chicken. But I managed, I guess.


Fry the chicken in butter. Very healthy.


After it’s browned on all sides, add some dry white wine and chicken bouillon granules. Cover and let it simmer on low for about a half hour. Forgot a picture, sorry.

In the meantime, whisk together heavy cream and cornstarch.



When the chicken is cooked thoroughly, take it out of the pan. Put it on a plate and set it in a warm oven.


Gradually pour the cream sauce into the wine sauce in the pan, mixing continually until it thickens up. Then just serve the chicken and pour the wine cream sauce over it.


Not bad, not bad! It was a little labor intensive for what it is, but it’s also a nice fancy twist on simple chicken breast. Hubby didn’t have any because he’d eaten at Taco Bell on the way home, but he ate a good portion the next day and I think he liked it. I know I did. It was very flavorful and filling, and the cream sauce kept leftovers from being dry.

Recipe in the Tastebook soonish.