Monday, April 30, 2012

Triple P mac n cheese

My husband has dinner duties on the days he has off from work, that's just how we have worked it out. He likes to cook (thank you God) and after 31 years, I have run out of ideas. I've always made the homemade mac and cheese, it's one of the things I'm pretty good at. Introduce Kevin to the mix, it's not that he has to one up me, he just ends up doing it.

The photo above doesn't do it justice, but my camera's battery was dying and that's all I got before it shut off. I'm sure we'll be making this again (ok, he will be making this again).

Triple P Mac n Cheese
cooked 8 oz noodles (pick you favorite kind)
sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 oz -1/2 cup shredded)
fontina (2 oz-1/2 cup shredded)
baby brick (2 oz-1/2 cup shredded)
salt and pepper to taste
The 3 P's
1 jalepeno pepper minced
1/2 cup red pepper minced
1/2 cup mini pepperoni

1/2 cup bread crumbs (we used dried)for topping

Add the cheese to the roux until nice and smooth (the roux recipe is in an earlier post)

Place your noodles into a oven safe dish, we used a 5 quart casserole dish. Add in the cheese sauce, then the peppers and pepperoni, salt and pepper to taste (a dash of each will do). Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top and bake for 30 min in a 350 degree oven.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lemon bars

I was fortunate enough to have all four grandparents live through my High School years and even now as I entered the year of my 30 mark, I have two out of the four. Chuck, Nancy's amazing husband, and Lucille, my southern grandma who calls everyone Sugar (pronounced Shugah). I guess it is fitting that her husband Al had a sweet tooth and was as skinny as a bean pole. As I was wasting time on pinterest, I found a recipe for Strawberry Lemon bars and was instantly zapped back in time to when my Grandma Lucille would make lemon squares upon request. Not sure if she made them from scratch or from a box... Not sure if I really want to know the answer, because either way, they were DELICIOUS! And as I baked these tonight, I thought of her. I will take her one this weekend when I bring her broccoli cheddar soup. I only hope she enjoys it as once I enjoyed her lemon squares.


A day of remembering four legged friends

Last year we said goodbye to my buddy Seamus, today marks the day he was born 12 years ago. He was born the day after our first family dog, Pepper passed away. We always said that Seamus had a little bit of Pepper in him. Three days after Seamus died, our orange tabby passed away. It was tough, the vet said that many times pets that have lived together a long time take the passing of their buddy hard and pass away too. As we mourned the loss of our two buddies we remembered how Chester (orange tabby) didn't leave Seamus' side during his final days.

There they are, buddies to the end.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Baby Bumblebee Bouquet Tutorial

Just over a year ago many of my coworkers were popping out offspring! The same pattern has repeated itself this year... Must be in the water! Anyways, for one of my first grade team members I made a "Baby Bouquet" for her new arrival, and I was really happy with the way it turned out. I secretly want to go into floral design, as well as radio broadcasting, but alas teaching is my true super power. Anyways, back to the tutorial... Here is the finished product I made January 2011. I didn't think to document the steps when I made this one.

But I have recreated a second one and have now documented each step for your enjoyment!

1 newborn onsie
3 newborn hats
2 newborn bibs
1 roll double sided tape
1 roll of regular clear tape
Flowers to match the baby cloths
Flower Pot
Styrofoam green floral thingy (That is the technical term)
Coffee filter
Push pins
Floral tape
Wire cutters (I couldn't find mine and subbed in a pair of medical scissors)

Step 1: Take the green floral insert and cover it with the coffee filter, pin it in place with the push pins. Depending on the size of your insert, it may not cover the whole insert. That's okay, just put the uncovered side into the flower pot. I use the coffee filter because as your push flowers into the styrofoam it sheds, and the coffee filter keeps the shedding to a minimum.

Step two: Fold the onsie and bibs into thirds and secure with double sided tape.

Step three: Place more double sided tape on the onsie and bibs and roll them into a bud. Tape the outside seam edge with regular tape to fully secure the buds.

Repeat Steps 2 and 3 with the hats, the only difference is you fold the hats in half, instead of into thirds.

Step 4: Cut the flower stems as close to the base as possible and strip the stems of their flowers and leaves.

Step 5: Cover the tip of the now stripped stem with floral tape and insert it into the bottom of each bud. The floral tape protects the clothing from getting ripped and it also is slightly sticky so it will provide some traction and keep the bud in place.

Step six: Cut the stems to a length you desire. I make the bud in the middle the tallest, and then the buds that surround it slightly shorter. Arrange the buds in your flower pot, pushing them into the floral styrofoam.

Step seven: Wire flowers and leaves together onto stems to make bigger bunches of flowers and prevent crowding in the foam. Be sure to cover any wire you use with floral tape to hide the shiny wire and prevent any unraveling.

Step 8: Celebrate Husband finding the wire cutters... even though you are almost done, but this saves you time and cursing because using a pair of medical scissors was not the best alternative!

Step 9: Arrange flower and leave bunches to fill in your floral design and hide the coffee filter. Once you feel your arrangement is full enough you can add further decorative touches. I like to add bees to my arrangements because I have an affinity for them because of a nickname I received from an old friend, Emblebee. I also recently found out bees are a symbol for industry and my name means "industrious"... Okay enough of that, you want to see the finished product!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Baking tip from Auntie M

I currently have the dough for these cookies chilling in the fridge. I doubled the recipe and added in dark chocolate chips and the new teeny tiny PB cups in addition to the milk chocolate chips and the PB chips. I cannot wait to bake them and then of course eat them! As I was baking tonight I thought of a tip from my Aunt Martha, one that was passed to her from Grandma Nancy. She taught me to mix the baking soda (or powder) and salt into a smaller portion (about a 1/2 cup) of the requested flour. Then mix that into your wet ingredients. This way you're less likely to get that gross clump of baking soda (or powder) in a cookie. Enjoy this tip and the recipe! ~eem

Hey wait a minute...a son can help fund raise too.

My awesome brother is having a mini art show in Madison, Wisconsin.  All proceeds go to National MS Society.  Yay Paul!
I love this one
The showing is at: The Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St., Madison, WI.

I love how these all pull together.  

More groupings, very cool. 

I think of country drives when I see this one.  What do you think of?

If you can't get to Madison and are interested, post a comment and we'll get you the hook up. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Let's bake a cake!

 Mom, Nancy, let me "help" with the baking when I was pretty young.  My oldest baking memory involves using a hand mixer and chocolate cupcakes.  I don't mean an electric hand held mixer, I mean the rotary mixer, powered by your hand.  Something like this...
What I really remember was that the batter started out a rich dark chocolate and after a few minutes of turning the crank the batter had fluffed up in size and was a light mocha color.  Those cupcakes overfilled the cupcake tin while baking, must've been all the air I was pumping into that batter.

Another memory burned into my brain from that day was my Uncle Kenny remarking that the cupcakes were the "best" he'd ever had.  That was it...I was hooked.  The recipe was from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, .  I wore that recipe out!

Learning to bake was also a side lesson in math.  What do you do when you need 2 cups of flour and all you can find is a 2/3 cup?  Use 3 measures of the 2/3 cup.  All I have is a teaspoon and the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon.  Fill up the teaspoon 3 times and then 1/3 full. 

Another life lesson learned while baking was patience, as in  wasiting for the cupcakes to cool before frosting.  Favorite recipe, also from Betty Crocker, creamy white frosting. 

Mom gave me a copy of the Betty Crocker's Cookbook when I headed off to college.  I'm not sure what happened to that copy, maybe a former room-mate took it in error.  Did I lend it to one of my kids? 

I recently bought myself another copy, different cover, hope it has the same chocolate cake recipe!

Other places to search for cake recipes: or


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pretzels and queso...yummy

I love me some pretzels, home made are the best. Let's get this dough on the road

  Dough 1 1/3 cups warm water
1teaspoon white sugar
2 tablespoons warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one packet)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter , melted
4 cups all-purpose flour
  kosher salt

Boiling Liquid
2 quarts cold water
baking soda (1/2 cup)

In a small bowl, mix   1/3 cup of the warm water (105-115 degrees) with the the white sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Then sprinkle the yeast over the top.  let stand until foamy (5-10 minutes).
    If your yeast mixture does not foam, it's dead, best to start over.

Here's a tip from Nancy:  to test the temperature of your water if you don't happen to have a thermometer to check the temperature of the water:  run your tap water until it is warmer to the touch than your body temperature but not HOT, this should be warm enough to activate the yeast. 

Add the remaining cup of warm water along with milk, brown sugar & melted butter and swirl to dissolve the sugar. (If using a bread machine add mixture to bread machine at this point and continue).
Move mixture to mixing bowl and flour. Mix  on dough cycle or med-low speed. If using a bread machine, Remove  dough from bread machine once it forms a nice a firm, pliable dough ball.

Add more flour if necessary. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured table and knead for 2 minutes.

Roll into a 2 foot long log and cut into 12 even pieces.

Cover dough with plastic and a damp cloth and let sit for 10 minutes.

Form dough into rolls, knots or bite size balls and arrange on a lightly floured surface.   Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap.
Let the pretzels rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

 While oven is coming to temperature:  Lightly oil 2 baking sheets. AND In a large stockpot, bring the cold water to a rolling boil and add baking soda.

Next, drop two rolls into the boiling water and boil for no more then 30 seconds (10 seconds for the bite sized), turning once.

Carefully remove with tongs or slotted spoon and hold above pot and let drain.

Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Repeat with the remaining rolls.

Place  rolls on the oiled baking sheets and bake on the upper and middle racks of the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until browned all over. Let rolls cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. I'll be back later with the cheese dip.~mpr

I'm back...did you miss me?

Here's the run down for some easy peasy home made queso.  So much better than the store bought and it doesn't have any yucky preservatives in it.

1 1/2 cup milk (we used 1%)
2-3 Tbs solid Roux (see post right below this one for directions)

4 ounces cream cheese (cut into small chunks)
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
4 ounces Pepper Jack cheese
4 ounces Sharp Cheddar cheese
4 ounces Baby Brick
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp table salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
4 ounces diced green chilis

Heat the milk (do not boil) to just before scalding (bubbles on the edge will do).  Add the roux.
Bring the heat back up.
Mix in the cheeses, a little at a time, til melted.
Add those dry seasonings (adjust to taste)
Add the can of chilis.

You're done! 
This makes about 3 cups...pour it on some broccoli, dip pretzels in, go ahead and use those nacho chips in it too.  Experiment!  Enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

You call it gravy, we call it roux

I have to give credit to where credit is due and I owe the roux (sounds like rue) to my wonderful mother-in-law Lu.

I never learned how to make gravy that wasn't lumpy until I was introduced to the roux.  Roux?  I had never heard of it.  It's the basis for many a good sauce.

Here's a little twist that my oldest daughter came up with:

Solid Roux

I use this each time a cook for soups or cheese sauces. I struggled to add the hot liquid slow enough to a fresh rue without breaking it and forming lumps, or getting that grainy flour taste. So after watching many episodes of @"Diners, Drive-in and Dives" where I witnessed chefs and cooks add a solid rue to an already warmed liquid I had to figure out how to do it myself. So I searched my good friend Google and found the process on various sites. This one made the most sense to me, although I don't remember exactly where I found it.

 To add it to your recipe, warm the liquid you are using in a pot over medium heat, but don't bring it to a boil. If using milk you will want to whisk it as it is warming to prevent scalding. When small bubbles form around the edge of your pot, add the rue to your liquid and whisk until dissolved. I use half of the solid rue to thicken soups ranging from 4 to 6 cups of liquid. I use two smaller chunks (about 2TBS) to thicken cream sauces for mac and cheese or gravies of 1 to 2 cups of liquid. If adding cheese into your rue, you will want to raise the temperature of your rue to a simmer and begin to add your cheese small amounts at a time. This will prevent clumping or oil separation in the cheese sauce.

Equal parts flour and unsalted butter I use 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) 1/2 flour

Melt butter over medium heat, whisk in flour and cook for four minutes while stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and pour into a container that won't melt from the heat.

Allow to cool and solidify at room temperature then store in sealed container in the fridge for up to a month.