Friday, December 31, 2010

Food Journaling

I know it's cliche, it being the first of the year, but I'm ready to start a new journal - let me clarify, a "food journal." A food journal?!? I know, it seems a little obsessive, right? It's actually more the awareness about what I'm eating that's the name of the game. Not your average "Dear Diary," more along the lines of tracking what I eat.
I found the solution to my not-so-mainstream journaling with a print-it-yourself fitness journal. I hesitated rather than running right out to buy it. I'm a designer and could make my own, but my husband suggested I buy it rather than adding another project to my list. So I downloaded the Move More Eat Less (MMEL) Fitness Journal for $14.99. The journal tracks before and after photos, measurements, goals, food, exercise, and journaling (feelings). Read more here.
I did start moving more this week by hitting the lap lane at the swimming pool near my house with my daughter, and I invested in a water bottle. I've printed and assembled the aforementioned journal and am ready to start.

Are you setting any goals or resolutions this year? I hope you'll comment and share. Here's to your success as you dig into your goals!

Happy New Year!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Norwegian Butter Cookies

"Twas the week before Christmas, I sat down to my Mac,
Looking for Christmas recipes with no time to slack, 
Stopping my online search--I knew my mistake...
--My-- recipe box already had family favorites to make!"
My recipe box is a keepsake, a wooden box from my husband's grandmother. The box holds her recipes and now mine too. I found a recipe for Norwegian Butter Cookies. Danish stories suggest leaving out porridge with butter for the nisseWould a nisse like butter cookies? After reading the stories, would anybody chance it? We'll be saving a couple of these little beauties for Santa Claus.

Cookbook Bites: Norwegian Butter Cookies
Fresh baked Norwegian Butter Cookies
Norwegian (& Danish tooButter Cookies
2 C butter
1 C powdered sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t almond extract
4 C unbleached flour (sifted)
2/3 C slivered almonds (chopped)

Let the butter come to room temperature then mix together. Add in powdered sugar and salt and mix well, then add in almond extract and mix again. Next add the flour gradually mixing as you go and then mix in the almonds and chill over night. Let the dough warm up enough to shape into balls. Press down with a cookie press or with a fork and bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until the cookie edges just start to brown.
This is the recipe I found, I altered it by adding 1t almond extract.*
Slivered almonds, chopped.
The dough, chilling overnight. (BTW the milk in the background is "low fat" not "fat" milk... ewww!)

*Got the idea to add almond extract from

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all!

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Taco Soup

"Sleeping  Beauty's Winter Castle" at Disneyland in Anaheim, California

There's one very good reason to go to Anaheim, California and you've probably already guessed what it is: to visit Disneyland! Another reason? El Torito's Tortilla Soup!

Last week we escaped a over-hyped blizzard and headed to Disneyland for Thanksgiving. While we were there we took a "Holiday Tour."
We visited some interesting places in Disneyland--there was a Menorah in an upper window on Main Street U.S.A., we tasted peppermint fudge at the Candy Palace, and visited a Thanksgiving turkey (pardoned by the president) near Reindeer Roundup. During our trip I spotted two people wearing turkey hats (yes, fake roasted turkey, oye.) It was like a strange "Where's Waldo" moment.
 Peppermint and chocolate fudge samples.
A pardoned turkey.

On a chilly rainy night we went to El Torito's restaurant. Their Tortilla Soup is serious comfort food! The following recipe seems to be as close as I can come. I've been trying to make it at home--trying recipes both packaged and from scratch.

Taco Soup
1-2 T Olive oil
5-6 Chicken tenders
Black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes (juice from tomatoes and all)
1 can beans (your choice: Northern, Black, Pinto, Kidney--rinsed well)
1 box chicken broth
1 onion (red, white or yellow)
Taco seasoning (1 pkg - Or make your own)
Splash (1/8-1/4 C) Milk

Sour cream
Crushed corn chips
Grated cheese
Note: El Torito serves their soup with avocado slices

Start by cooking the chicken tenders in olive oil with a couple of grinds of black pepper. When the tenders are cooked put them on a plate and cut them into bite sizes and pull out the tendon bit. Put the chicken back in the pan. Chop up the onion (about 1 small onion or 1/2 C chopped onion) and toss it in the pan to caramelize and cook with the chicken.

In a medium-large soup pan, add the chicken broth and heat on medium. When the chicken starts to caramelize (i.e. turn golden brown, and the onions are somewhat translucent) add the taco seasoning and about 1/2-1 C water to the frying pan. This deglazes the pan and ensures the taco seasoning gets mixed in. Add the chicken mixture in the frying pan to the chicken broth in the soup pan. Add the rinsed beans and the splash of milk. Heat approximately 10-15 minutes and serve with your favorite toppings.

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P.S. - My favorite Disneyland rides decked out for the holidays? "Haunted Mansion" and "It's a Small World." What are your favorite rides at Disneyland?
Haunted Mansion
It's a Small World

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Gyros*

I grew up across the street from Katina. She was a widow, thin with gray hair, and she was spunky and generous. Originally from Greece, Katina shared plates full of homemade Greek pastries and cookies with my family. I'm pretty sure she made Kourabiedes, Karidopita, Melomakaroma, and a deep fried, rolled, phyllo treat dipped in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon - I'm not sure what it was, but Mmmm.
A couple of years ago I decided to make gyros. I made them "by-taste" from tasting gyros at the Greek Souvlaki and Yani's Greek Express. When combined with classic movies like Jason & the Argonauts (about the myth), with stop-motion special effects by the talented Ray Harryhausen you can't go wrong! 

It's just a little creepy when Talos turns his head. "Oh gee! Run!"

The skeleton battle is classic.

Chicken Gyros*
Olive oil
4-5 Chicken tenders*
1 white onion
1 cucumber
1 package crumbled Feta
1 1/2 C sour cream
Black pepper
Ground pepper
Greek seasoning
Italian seasoning
1 package Greek flat bread (not pita bread)

Add olive oil to your pan, add 4 grinds of black pepper, and the chicken tenders and cook thru. Cut the chicken into bite sizes and put back in the pan, add a little olive oil if needed and add Greek and Italian spices to taste. Remove from heat. Slice up and quarter cucumber. Cut up onion into large chunky pieces.
Dice about 1/4 C of cucumber. In a bowl add sour cream, diced cucumber and thin a little with milk - add Greek and Italian seasoning to taste. To combine, warm the flat bread so it will "wrap" easier (25 seconds in the microwave). Place spoonful of chicken towards one section (the top of the gyro), add cucumber, onions, feta and sauce to taste. Roll like a cone and eat.

*You can easily make these vegetarian by omitting the chicken.


P.S. The featured Baklava came from Apollo Burgers. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pop Tarts II

Have you wondered, as a "foodie," what the best possible mode of transportation is for your iPod, or or cell phone? Have you considered a toaster pastry?

My daughter wanted to make these, and knew how to put them together, so we headed to the craft store and the rest is history. What flavor are these Pop Tarts, er, toaster pastry pockets? Cherry! Red sprinkles with cherry filling on the inside; extra padding to protect your electronics not to mention added cuteness.
(Don't miss the other Pop Tart recipe, the kind you bake. Mmmm!)

Toaster Pastry Device Pockets
2 pieces of light brown felt (pastry)
2 pieces of red felt (cherry filling)
1 piece of pink felt (icing)
Red beads (shaped like sugar or sprinkles)
Embroidery floss (pink and light brown)
Embroidery or thin tapestry needles

Place your electronic device on the fabric and cut about 1/2 - 1 inch around it on each side. You will need to cut out 2 pieces of brown felt, 2 pieces of red felt and 1 piece of pink felt.

Sketch your icing shape with pen or pencil on to the pink felt. Make your sketch a little big so you can cut around the "sketch" on the inside so there's no outline from the sketch showing. Next sew the "icing" (using pink embroidery floss) to one piece of brown felt. Using same color floss sew on the "sprinkles."

Trim the red felt about 1/8th inch. Center the red felt inside the brown felt then with the brown floss, sew together the edges of 3 sides of your "pastry" (the 2 long sides, and 1 short side, to create the pocket). Try to catch the edges of the red felt as you sew, to secure the layers together. The brown felt will cover the filling as it is sewn closed. Last of all, "finish" the edges at the top that aren't sewn together, for the "look" of a pastry (see photos above).

Enjoy sans calories!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chicken & Dumplings

This recipe is a hybrid of busy day--meets--chicken soup and old world dumplings. Want to know how to make them?

Suz's Chicken & Dumplings
Olive Oil
Black Pepper
Ground Thyme (optional)
6-8 Pieces of frozen chicken tenders (un-breaded)
2-4 C water (It's soup, so to taste.)
1 packet Chicken of Lipton "Noodle" soup
1-2 Cans Green Beans (1 if you want it more like stew)
2-3 T Chicken bouillon

In a large soup pan (the stock pot) add 1 T olive oil, 2-3 grinds of black pepper and the chicken to brown. When the chicken is done remove to a plate and cut into bite sizes. Add the chicken back to the pan and add some water (about 1/2 C) to deglaze the pan. Add the green beans (with the juice from the can), the remaining water, the soup packet and bouillon (to taste). Add 2 shakes of ground Thyme, simmer and move on to the dumplings!
While cooking I noticed a pink glow coming from the windows. You're looking at the Oquirrh Mountains at sunset.
Does the photo-cropping help make it look less "processed?" Drat! You can still see the boxes.

Bisquick Dumplings
2 1/4 C Original Bisquick
2/3 C milk

Stir together...
If the dough looks like this, add a "splash" or two of milk until the dry is mixed with the wet. (A "splash" being approximately 2-4 T of milk at a time). Bring the soup to a boil.
Woah there Tex! That's some perfectly good soup! What are you droppin' in there? Don't panic! Drop the dough by spoonfuls into the soup (careful not to splash - use 2 spoons like with drop cookies). When the dough sinks a little once added to the soup keep the faith. Do not stir the soup.
Once all of the dumplings have been added reduce the heat to medium. Cook uncovered 10 minutes, then cover and cook for 10 more minutes.
These are freshly cooked dumplings.
Here's what they look like when they are cut open and you add butter. Now they look edible. It's just another way to get your carbs. Serve with butter. Really. And Kosher salt. Yum!

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Light Holiday Reading...

In this issue of the "Food Network Magazine" they're featuring a pumpkin mousse, which is something I usually make this time of year--they've "kicked it up a notch" with a ginger snap crust. In "Bon Appetit" magazine there's a friendly "Halloween Bark" that looks like a lot of fun to make with peanut butter cups, orange and yellow M&M's, and buttery toffee!

In the "spirit" of the Halloween season, I wanted to share a funny little book that I found at Barnes & Noble called "Horrorscopes: A Little Book of Misfortunes." It's one of those books you can pick up, thumb to any page, and read something funny. Here's today's "horrorscope:"

October 3
"Possessing a tempting blend of literary and culinary abilities, you should find success by authoring cookbooks. But use caution when editing your work. Accidentally calling for half a cup of arsenic instead of Asiago could leave many readers with a bad taste in their mouths."

Hope you're enjoying the Harvest/Halloween season!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Busy Day Soup

You know those days when you have a lot going on? Well I suppose that's everyday. Hmm. Let me try again. Autumn's arrived with tired sunflowers, changing leaves and cool mornings; all clues that Nancy Drew would have been sure to connect-the-dots on to conclude: it's time to start making Busy Day Soup again.  I'm sure Hannah would have made this for Nancy and her dad if only she had the recipe! This soup is a family favorite and it's easy to make. I hope you like it too.

Speaking of Miss Drew, as the new TV season is rolling out, you may be interested to know that you can watch both Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys on Netflix. 
Busy Day Soup
1/2 lb. hamburger
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can bean and  bacon soup
1 can alphabet soup
1 can tomato soup
1 small can nibblets corn
2 cans water
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Brown together hamburger and onion, then add bean and bacon, alphabet and tomato soup. Add corn,  cans of water and chili powder. Simmer until hot. (Served above with homemade croutons)

Recipe Source: Jacque Jensen, Table Scraps pg. 18, and I posted it at too.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peanut Butter Crackers

I wanted to share a lawn-mowing-day treat with you. My Dad taught me how to mow the lawn, I would try to make patterns in the grass; checker-boards and diagonal lines just to change things up a bit. (You know, make the backyard look like a golf course?) He also taught me how to make these little crackers. Don't turn away because of the simplicity of the snack. Read on and squirrel this vital information away for later. The next time you're spending the day outside working on the yard and you need a little energy, head inside to get hydrated and have some peanut butter crackers.
Peanut butter crackers were always part of our Saturday gardening ritual. After we'd been out in the garden mowing the lawn, edging, weeding, et al he'd send me into the house to make us some peanut butter crackers and get some sodas. (May I pause and comment on the water droplets on my thumb? I was not trying to get the "dew drop" effect... but hey, clean hands right?)

Peanut Butter Crackers
Jar of Peanut Butter
Ritz Crackers 

Create sandwich "cookies" by spreading peanut butter on one cracker and stick another cracker to the peanut butter. Simple. (Much better than the pre-made packaged crackers.)

Recipe Source: Dad

I've got my energy back now so I'm heading back to the garden. :)


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mini Pain au Chocolat

This summer we took a road trip to Minnesota and decided to take along homemade, not-so-processed snacks. My daughter pitched in and we prepped: cheese & jalapeno stuffed cherry tomatoes, cherries, puff-pastry parmesan pretzels, and ginger snaps.
Road trip snacks
Road trip snacks: cherries, cookies, pretzels, cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes
For a quick breakfast on the road? Pain au Chocolat.

Mini Pain au Chocolat
Mini Pain au Chocolat

These mini stuffed croissants are just as good as they look! My daughter made them while I was packing. (I snuck one fresh from the oven the night before we left. Had to! Warm chocolate? Seriously heaven!) I worked at a French bakery when I was in high school where I was first introduced to stuffed croissants which are amazing; like ham and swiss, or the classic Pain au Chocolat--simply divine!

Easy Mini Pain au Chocolat

1 tube of freezer, crescent roll dough
1-2 Hershey bars

Unroll the dough and cut dough into rectangles. Place a piece of the chocolate bar on the dough and roll the crescent dough up around it. Bake at temperature on the dough package (probably around 350) about 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Source: If you've ever made mini pigs-in-a-blanket with Little Smokies, you already know what I'm talking about here. Only sweet instead of savory. :)

To quote Mr. Bingley in Pride & Prejudice "Enjoy the day!"

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Thyme Tea (Hot Lemonade)

There's a cold going around and it's only September! I just had my first big sneeze this afternoon. Wheee! So, cold remedies? This one's old school: thyme tea. Plain thyme tea is gross, so I'm addding fresh lemons and some local honey.
This is the tea steeping. You can breathe in the steam as it's steeping for sinus relief (It's not a decongestant or anything, just for comfort. Careful with the hot steam!)
Thyme Tea (Hot Lemonade)
2 t dried thyme leaves
1 green tea bag
1 small pan of water (About 3-4 C)
1 lemon
2 T honey
1 T sugar

Bring water to a boil add the thyme and green tea. Steep for 5-10 minutes. Juice 1 lemon and pour juice into a large mug through a strainer. Discard the tea bag then pour the tea into the mug through a strainer. (Save the remaining tea for later.) Add honey... then Oooooo! That was tart! Sugar to taste. The lemon gives this a hot lemonade taste which is more palatable than the plain tea, plus the lemon feels good on a sore throat. 

Recipe Source: Me, Suzanne Nikolaisen

P.S. You can buy loose, dried thyme leaf at health food stores. (While you're there check out "Tea for Flu" by Good Earth.) Read more about thyme.

About the honey, we went to an urban beehive tour presented by  Ellen Hartz. (Photos courtesy of my husband.) Interesting fact? Bees forage for 2 miles around the hive. Ellen gave us a jar of honey to take home. (Thanks Ellen!)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Simple Sesame Noodles

I'm reading The Pioneer Women Cooks and was reviewing recipes on her site when I found the following recipe for Simple Sesame Noodles. Big time yum!

Simple Sesame Noodles
12 oz thin spaghetti noodles
¼ C soy sauce (La Choy Lite)
2 T sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T rice vinegar (Lite-low sodium & sugar)
3 T sesame oil
1/4 t cayanne pepper (I didn't have the hot chili oil)
4 T olive oil (Didn't have canola oil either)
2 T hot water
4 green onions, sliced

While cooking the noodles, combine the ingredients with the exception of the green onions. When the noodles are done, drain and put them back in the empty pan and pour the sauce over them. Toss the noodles, then add the green onions and toss again.

Original recipe: Simple Sesame Noodles, by Ree Drummond

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Club: The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond

Welcome to the latest book club read: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond "...a homespun collection of photography, rural stories, and scrumptious recipes that have defined my experience in the country. I share many of the delicious cowboy-tested recipes I've learned to make during my years as an accidental ranch wife..." From Ree Drummond on the book flap.

Breakfast Bowls (My "quick" adaption.* Pioneer Woman's original recipe is on pg. 56-57)
1 onion
1 t olive oil
1 t butter
1 can sliced potatoes (drained)
6-8 slices bacon (cooked and chopped)
6 eggs
1/4 C milk (organic)
1 C grated cheese

Preheat oven to 325.  Butter 6 oven safe ramekins and place on cookie sheet. Put butter and olive oil in frying pan. Chop onion and saute. Drain and chop potatoes and add to onions. Pan fry until they caramelize. Spoon potatoes into the ramekins. Cook bacon, chop then sprinkle over the potatoes. Sprinkle half of the cheese over each. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk with milk then pour evenly into the ramekins. Distribute the rest of the cheese evenly and bake for 20 minutes.

*I only had part of the ingredients from the original recipe, but it still turned out to be a really good and hearty breakfast. The melted cheese was gooey--and this was a great combo of ingredients! The Breakfast Bowls brought everybody together for Saturday breakfast yesterday. Your family might really like them too!


Update - March 2011: Did you know Ree has published two additional books since this post?

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Yesterday we followed a pretty creek, up a narrow canyon, to Pineview reservoir, to a lake we'd never been to before. We spent the day with family, taking rides on their pontoon boat. I wanted to make a homemade treat to share around, so I made brownies. It seemed a safe bet that eveybody could enjoy brownies, but the wildcard was that I wanted to break free from "box" brownie mixes and bake homemade brownies that would be "just right." Not too chocolate-y (like Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownies... which I like), or cake-y (like the recipe on the baking chocolate box - also good).

I went searching for a recipe on All Recipes. Could it be done? One brownie recipe that everybody likes? One recipe to rule them all? Quite possibly. In fact at the time of this blog post 45,310 people on All Recipes had saved the top rated "Best Brownies" recipe. See what you think. (My experience? Everyone including the pickiest eaters liked them.)

Best Brownies
1/2 C butter
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla (I used Mexican Vanilla)
1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 C flour
1/4 t salt (kosher salt)
1/4 t baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook. (Baked for 22 minutes as instructed by reviewers. I used an All Edges Brownie pan.)

Recipe Source: All Recipes, Best Brownies by Angie

"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting
1/2 C butter
2/3 C cocoa
3 C powdered sugar
1/3 C milk
1 t vanilla

Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine; stir in 2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa. Add 3 cups powdered sugar alternately with 1/3 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract beating to spreading consistency. About 2 cups frosting. (I cut this recipe in half and there was plenty of frosting.)

Recipe Source: Chocolate Frosting: Hershey's Kitchens


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