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Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Baked" Brownie

Well, another year has come and gone. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't incredibly eager to welcome 2012.
I clicked on my New Year's Eve post from last year and laughed when I read through it. I was excited about 2010 and the prospects that were to come in 2011. After the new year began, I was all about the lucky foods that we would eat to ring in the New Year. Well, wow. We sure ate well but I'm 110% confidant that all of that stuff about foods bringing "luck" was a total crock of crap! 2010 was a good year. 2011, not so much. But... it has been a year of growth and lessons learned. So, that's a healthier way to look at it. And that is my New Year's resolution: to think more positively and to look forward. In regards to 2011, I will remember the positive things that did happen. My sister got engaged! Ron's career blew up. We traveled across the country, saw new places, and we vacationed in Whistler, B.C. and San Francisco. I managed to finally make my law school's Dean's List, a task I had been intent on doing since I began school but always fell short. Even more exciting, it was during my only full-time semester and when I had the hell that was Advocacy! So, bravo to me! (Toot toot.) We also grew: as people, as a couple... and we are stronger, so much stronger. So in every storm, there is sunshine. And most importantly, we closed out the year by getting married. After an eight year courtship, Ron and I finally became husband and wife. And it was such a happy occasion.

I wrote in last year's posting: "It will be interesting to read what this post says next year: Ironman, J.D. graduate, and a Reed!!" Oh boy. Hmm, I'm not an Ironman. I never got there. (Insert positive spin now.) But, I'd likely be dead if I had attempted it in the physical and mental state I was in. There will be other times and other events; it just wasn't in the cards this time around. So, cheers to being alive! Technically I'm not done with school. (Insert positive spin now.) But I only have one more week! That's right, only 5 days! And, I'm not even a Reed. (Insert positive spin now.) Well, okay. I am a Reed! I only say that I am technically not a Reed because: (1) our marriage pretty much just happened (7 days ago) so in terms of being all lawyerly like, the name change hasn't been filed, and (2) I don't intend to fully change my name (and Ron is okay with that so long as I am a 'Reed' on facebook :) ) so I'll be a hyphenated pseudo-Reed. But, we are married. I am a wife. Ron is my husband. And of all of the three things I thought I'd be on December 31, 2011, being a pseudo-Reed is the absolute best of the bunch. Truthfully, the fact that we closed out this year on such a high note takes away almost all of the pain that we experienced to get here.

I've long heard that phrase: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." And I've since heard: "God does not give us anything we cannot handle." And when I look back at this year, I'll remember it as a year that we triumphed, pushed through, and made the most of what we had. We stuck together, put our heads down, and just barreled through a number of obstacles. I learned my lesson: I will not plan my life so meticulously. And when I stray, I will not feel so defeated when I end up needing to turn back because I hit a dead-end. Life is a bit crazy right now anyway with our future residence up in the air. So, I suppose 2012 will be a year of whatever the hell it wants to be. As the Cheshire Cat so wisely informed Alice, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." So, so be it. I'm open to the future. But I do intend to stick with some of my New Year traditions. I've already baked the Neujahrspretzel. And, well, like 2008 and 2010's good fortune, Ron and I are going back to Orlando to participate in the Disney Marathon Weekend to kick-off the year. With any luck, I'll convince Ron that Disney Marathon Weekend is our best New Year's tradition. As it is, I've already locked us in to the 2013 event.

I close out this year with a treat that I've had on my mind to make for nearly one year, the amazing Baked brownie. It is a famous recipe. And for good reason. Fudgey in the middle and with a thin crust on the top, there is enough chocolate to curb your sweet tooth for a month (or immediately make you run to the platter and grab another one). My oh my, it's pretty damn delicious and incredibly decadent. Friends, thank you for reading my musings and for sticking by me when I fall off radar and vent about my daily struggles. This blog often serves as my therapy, so thank you for being my counselors. Cheers to turning the page on one chapter and starting the next. I wish you a peaceful, prosperous and safe journey throughout 2012. Happy New Year!
Baked Brownie
recipe on Brown-Eyed Baker who adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
Yield: 24 brownies (or 12 if you make giant Ron sized brownies)
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9x13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.
  3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off of the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.
  4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
  5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve. 
  7. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Double Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies

When we lived in Minnesota, I LOVED going to the grocery store. Not just because I love grocery shopping, but also because I would treat myself at the check-out line. I'd grab an individual piece of candy (if at Kowalski's: it was a sea salt caramel, or if at Byerly's: it was a chocolate, pecan, caramel thing) and savor it when I got in the car. I never kept candy in the house so the grocery store was the only time I'd indulge. In fact, the candy was so traditional, that the one time I did not get a piece of candy, I was stopped by a police officer for speeding. Gasp! (In my defense, we had just moved into the neighborhood and I had no idea what the speed limit was. No no, that's not an excuse but it does play some relevance to the situation. It was my first ticket in years and I was not going very fast but I was crossing over an uphill bridge that apparently was 30 mph because I was in a residential area. Ooops. But I must put partial blame on Ron for this incident. I had asked him to grab me my candy as I ran elsewhere to finish another task. Apparently, the noob thought it was wise to buy his own piece of candy, never offering to share it and I was left without any candy, and I might have been upset about this and probably yelling about the fact that I had never left the Highland Park Lunds without a piece of Lunds chocolate.)

Nowadays, I've kicked it up a notch. Anytime I am at the Metropolitan Market, I leave with several dark chocolate miniature mint patties. Like my favorites from Minnesota, these candies are locally made and just delicious. I just can't get enough of them. I go on and off with my love for mint and mocha but when it is here, it is in full swing. As a kid, I always turned to Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream at the ice cream shop. I've been obsessed with Junior Mints ever since Kramer knocked one into that person's body cavity during that episode of Seinfeld where him and Jerry watch a surgery. I share my mom's love of York Peppermint Patties. I often indulge in peppermint hot chocolate. So when I first tried these mints after moving to Seattle, I was instantly hooked. And I have to leave with several because I don't have a car on most days. In Minnesota, I used to find reasons to go the grocery store "for groceries" just so I could get my candy. Now, I don't have that luxury as the grocery store is a 2 mile walk up a steep hill. Not terrible but also not pleasant in a downpour. Thankfully, I exercise restraint when it comes to the mints when they are in the house. They have a special place in the pantry.

On our recent trip back to Seattle, I picked up a copy of Every Day with Rachael Ray for reading pleasure on the plane. It's not very often that I find a recipe that appeals to me so much that I simply must make it as soon as I see it. But that's pretty much how I felt with these mint cookies. I had been craving thin mints and knew that this cookie would be off the hook! I decided against using my locally made peppermint patties. Reason being, they are a bit bigger than typically miniature York patties and they also cost about $.69 a piece! I cut the recipe in half to make 12 cookies but felt the York would work better here because it was an appropriate size. And they did. These cookies are the best cookies I've ever made. And that's saying something because I've made a buttload of cookies in the past several years. They are soft, chocolately, fudgey, minty, and incredible. If you like the chocolate and mint combination, you absolutely must try these! The recipe takes some planning because it needs to be chilled. The chocolates need to be chilled as well. I found that it worked best to press out the dough and have a helper stand near the fridge to take out a piece of chocolate one at a time.
Thanks, Mom and Dad for the external flash! I've been slowly learning how to take pictures with my new DSLR camera. The flash comes in handy during late night photo sessions!
Double Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies
from Every Day with Rachael Ray
Yield: about 24 delicious cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 stick (6 ounces) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 egg
  • 24 miniature (about 1 1/2 inch) peppermint patties, such as York, unwrapped and chilled
  • 6 oz. white chocolate (not chips), chopped (Note: I used chips here. Take that!)
  • peppermint candy canes, crushed, optional (I did not use these.)
Instruction
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the flour, cocoa powder, both sugars, salt and baking soda on low speed. Beat in the butter, then the egg. Turn out the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk; seal. Refrigerates until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment. Working with 1 Tbsp of dough at a time, use your fingers to evenly encase each peppermint patty with dough. Place on the prepared pans and smooth the dough with your fingers. Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until just firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool slightly. Transfer the cookies on the parchment to a rack to cool completely.
  3. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cooled cookies. If using, immediately sprinkle the crushed peppermint candies over the cookies. Let set completely before serving or storing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Butternut Squash and Kale Wheatberry Salad

When I say I've been cooking and baking again, I guess I should embellish on that a bit more. I've been... largely baking, somewhat cooking. I guess I'm making up for the fact that I barely baked this entire holiday season. A large part of that was due to the fact that I needed to look pleasant (and not pleasantly plump) in my wedding photos. But it was also because I wasn't feeling very festive. Apparently now I am making up for it. However, given the fact that Ron has lost a significant amount of weight from his own job-related stress, a cookie now and then is totally fine.
Today I planned to blog about the most amazing cookies known to man but decided to post about those tomorrow. Instead, I've decided that my blog could use some healthy food. Some actual food. Some food that didn't include butter, sugar, or flour in the ingredient list! I've been eating a lot of root vegetables lately but I've been lacking in the greens and grain department. I suppose to chomping down on squash and carrots isn't terrible but I rather enjoy eating the colors of a rainbow each day. This salad is like Christmas in a bowl! I saw it posted on Joanne's blog the other day and absolutely had to try it. I love Joanne's blog and read it every single day. Any time I need some good vegetarian recipes and some serious humor, I turn to her blog because her recipes never fail me. This one was no different. It's so good. It's extremely filling and has a chewy texture from the wheatberries with the sweet tartness from the cranberries. The original recipe called for pomegranate arils but given my history with those buggers, I opted for something a little less frustrating. This would be the perfect dish to bring to a winter potluck. It makes a ton, it's packed full of nutrients, and is hearty enough to be served as a meal.
Butternut Squash and Kale Wheatberry Salad
adapted from Eats Well with Others
Yield: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 medium butternut squash, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1 bunch kale, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (from one lemon)
  • sea salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or 1 pomegranate's worth of pomegranate arils)
  • 1 lb brussel sprouts, halved and roasted at 400 degrees for 15 minutes
  • 1 cup wheatberries, soaked overnight and simmered for 1 hour
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and simmered for 30-40 minutes or until tender
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice (from one lemon)
  • 3 Tbsp cherry balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine butternut squash cubes with the oil, minced garlic and sprinkle with a few pinches of sea salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread into a single layer. Roast until fork-tender, but not falling apart (about 30-40 minutes). Once done, roast the brussel sprouts, if not already done.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the kale, lemon juice and salt with your hands, massaging it together. It should wilt into half of its volume after 3 minutes or so.
  4. Make dressing by whisking olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and dijon together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When the squash and sprouts are done roasting, remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Then, add to the kale, along with the cranberries, brussel sprouts, wheat berries, and chickpeas. Gently toss together then coat with dressing; toss until evenly coated. Season to taste. Enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Oreo Peanut Butter Pie

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy Hannukah! Happy Christmas! I hope that you all had a wonderfully, beautiful holiday with your loved ones. I know I certainly did.
It has been a crazy, crazy few months. But I can honestly say that my recent trip back to Pittsburgh was the absolute best holiday and happiest that I have ever been. I was still stuck in finals mode upon arriving in Pittsburgh (small moment to again apologize to my parents for getting a glimpse of "Finals Ashley" who exploded into a combustion of tears, shouts, and total insanity. . . and small moment to again commend my now-husband for patiently putting up with all of those tears, shouts, and total insanity for 3.5 years) so the trip didn't quite start off on the right foot. But then we had a wonderful day at the spa and when the big day finally arrived, I was happy. Truly, truly happy. And that's how a bride should feel on her wedding day! After 8 years, you'd think that I wouldn't have been as emotional as I was. But I was. Ron is the most amazing person. I am incredibly blessed and I thank my lucky stars every day that I found such a wonderful man to spend my life with. We spent Friday, December 23 celebrating the 8 years we've shared together (complete with a few jokes, like the Minister who began the ceremony "We are gathered here today to celebrate the love of two people who have clearly rushed into things") in the most magical, Disney-princess like celebration of all time. But most importantly, we spent the evening with our families, the people who matter most to us in this world.

Then we spent Christmas Eve with our families combined, watching the Steelers with the family and some friends, and eating fantastic food. My mom works tirelessly to make our lives amazing and she pulls out all of the stops for the holidays. The entire family hadn't been together for Christmas in five years. And she had a household full of her family and two new sons. It was a wonderful trip... and I have to thank her for the majority of it! Yesterday, Ron and I flew back to Seattle with a calm feeling of comfort. And now, I have a few days to hang out in Seattle - doing things involving minimal brain activity - before I depart to Minnesota for a one-week J-Term course. Then, I get to fly down to Orlando immediately after it ends to participate in Disney marathon weekend with Ron and to spend a week drinking Butterbeer on Universal property and running from ride to ride over at the Disney parks.

Another positive, I've been cooking and baking again. And it feels good. I never realized the pressure I put on myself to find new recipes until these past few months, when I lost some interest and stopped tagging 100 recipes per day. Fortunately, I think I've found a healthy medium so I'm back to happily cooking and baking. I made this pie for our Christmas Eve dessert... and I think people were pretty happy with it. I first saw posts for Peanut Butter Pie several months ago, after the blogging community united to make one in remembrance of a friend's husband had recently passed away. It was such a sweet touch and it was remarkable to see hundreds of people from across the country - many only friends through the Internet - help Jennifer in her time of need. I heard again about Peanut Butter Pie from my friend, Jamie, who made one shortly after trying it during their Thanksgiving dinner. I was intrigued by said Peanut Butter Pie so I decided that it would be served for our dessert this Christmas. And wow. It is incredible. It tastes like a creamy Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. If you really want to impress, buy all of these super healthy-for-you ingredients and mix this up before your next gathering.
Oreo Peanut Butter Pie
from Lighter and Local made "For Mikey"
Yield: 1 pie
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces Oreo cookies
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • crumbled oreos, chopped peanuts, chopped pretzels for garnish, optional
Instructions
  1. Pulverize the Oreos in a food process until fine.
  2. Combine melted butter and finely ground Oreos in a small bowl; stir with a fork to mix well and press mixture into the bottom of a buttered springform pan.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate over the bottom of the cookie crust. Sprinkle the chopped peanut on top. Put pan in the fridge while you make the filling.
  4. Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a smaller bowl and place in fridge while you prepare the rest of the filling.
  5. In bowl, beat cream cheese and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer to low and gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Beat until all ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.
  6. Take 1/3rd of the whipped cream into the filling mixture. Once filling is light, fold in remaining whipped cream. 
  7. Pour the mixture into the springform pan. Sprinkle garnish over top, if using. Cover and place pie in fridge for three hours or overnight before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

I'm here. And I'm hanging in there. I've been wanting to blog. When Ron mentioned to me this morning that he recently saw my previous post - and said no one would ever read my blog again because it was so sad - it made me realize that I miss cooking, and food, and blogging! I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who reached out to me over the past few weeks. I appreciate your kind, heartfelt words and I cannot begin to tell you how much your support means to me. Thank you.
We're adjusting to a household without Salem... but it's been a little bit tricky. This is the first semester of finals that I haven't had her on my desk, kicking me and spilling coffee all over my books. I attribute most of my law school success to Salem. :) Before a final, I used to teach her everything there was to know about a subject. What the heck am I going to do come January when it's time to start studying for the bar exam? Cali tends to swat at me when I'm being too loud around here... so I suppose its back to studying like a "normal" person.

It's been rather busy around here. Recently, I finished a 71 page paper. Yep, 71 pages. Honestly, if you were a professor and you saw a 71 page paper in your inbox, what would you think? It was quite a project. But it's complete. Phew. I also finished up an externship with a local attorney who opened his own Immigration Firm in Seattle. He is a Mitchell grad, extremely down to earth, very successful, and working with him saved me from me over these past few months. I felt bad for him; he was the only social interaction I had apart from Ron, so some days I was likely a bit too amped for work. Now I'm studying for finals... annnddd getting ready for our wedding!! It's so crazy that our wedding day is almost finally here. 15 days to be exact. Ron and I have been together for nearly 8 years. We already feel married, obviously, but there's something to be said about a formal ceremony surrounded by your family. We're having a small, intimate ceremony on the evening of December 23rd. Honestly, I would have loved to have planned a big gathering with all of our family and friends. But we plan to have a lovely dinner with my parents, Ron's parents, our siblings and their significant others. Christmas in Pittsburgh with some wonderful holiday music and wine. Naturally, we're a bit behind the ball when it comes to our planning, so thank goodness this is untraditional. Ron just got his suit... his alterations are supposed to be done a few days before we leave. And I think he ordered his cufflinks too late so they probably won't arrive before the wedding. And me? Well, dress #1 became X-rated when it fell off of me. After realizing I lost some unplanned weight and realizing that dress #1 looked like I was draped in a really pretty garbage bag, dress #2 fits beautifully.

I haven't been doing a whole ton of cooking lately. I'm still dealing with that pesky stomach thing so my appetite has been a bit off. But, I'm also avoiding the kitchen for big meals because I'm burning everything! I remember back in 2007, when I was studying for the LSAT, and I was a bit preoccupied. I messed up boxed mashed potatoes three times before I finally got it right. So, you can imagine what happened when I tried to cook something for Thanksgiving dinner this year... oh my. Think kitchen disasters. I'm not exaggerating. I did decide to bake the other day. I was rummaging through some recipes that I had saved a while back and stumbled upon these sugar cookies. I have to admit that while sugar cookies are not my ultimate favorite, I do enjoy them... particularly those ones that you can get from the grocery store that are just so sweet that your teeth hurt. I don't think I'd choose a sugar cookie over another type of cookie but sometimes you are just in the mood for a specific type of cookie. And on this particular day, I was in the mood for a really good sugar cookie. Have no mistake. These cookies are not healthy cookies. But they are really quite good. They are as soft and fluffy as sugar cookies get. So if you are a sugar cookie fan, I highly suggest you add these to your holiday cookie spread. Note: the recipe calls to chill the dough for one hour, so plan accordingly. Enjoy!
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Annie's Eats
Yield: about 2 dozen large cookies
Ingredients
For the Cookies
  • 4 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 5 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Frosting
  • 5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 7-8 Tbsp milk (plus more, as needed)
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Sprinkles (optional)
Instructions
  1. To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking power and salt, and whisk together to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar; beat together on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients just until incorporated and evenly mixed. Cover and chill the dough for one hour.
  2. When you are ready to bake the cookies, scoop a scant quarter cup of dough and roll it into a ball. Flatten the ball slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart. Bake about 10-12 minutes or just until set. (Do not overbake. The edges should be no more than very lightly browned, if at all.) Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. To frost the cookies, place the confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk and whisk until smooth. Add additional milk as necessary, 1 tsp at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. If desired, tint with food coloring. Frost the cookies and top with sprinkles if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baby Salem

It is with an extremely heavy heart that I write this post. Tears haven't stopped flowing since Friday night and my brain is a puddle of mush. But, I turn once again to my food blog to post because I need to find an outlet in some way. Again, I turned to my food blog to post about the loss of my best friend.
Little Baby Salem

In October of 2003, I adopted the cutest, most lovable, tiniest feline of all time with the biggest green eyes. She was the color of midnight - all black - with a patch of little white hairs on her chest. (It later turned into three tiny white hairs.) She could fit into the palm of my hand. I remember my mom coming down to visit my apartment the day after Salem came home with me. "Where is she?"she asked. "Right there," I replied, pointing at her bed. "Is that her? Oh my goodness!"Salem was curled up in a tiny little black fur-ball and could easily be mistaken for a tiny stuffed animal.

Salem developed some annoying little habits when she was a kitten. Early on, she found ways to get in to trouble. I don't discredit my room-mates for her upbringing; Erin taught her that flowers and plants were delectable dining and Kristine taught her that cheeseballs were toys to kick around the house and drinking glasses were full of interesting things to lap. But her most annoying habit was her inability to tell me when something was wrong. She'd be stuck in a drawer (by her doing) and buried under clothes for hours before I'd find her and rescue her. She simply didn't meow or let me know she needed help. Growing up, dogs were the prominent four-legged family member of choice in our household (save for a brief appearance by two loving parakeets). So Salem's appearance in my life was new. Pre-Salem, I had never thought of myself as a "cat person." In fact, cats baffled me. But what I had failed to realize pre-Salem was that cats have a personality of their own. They are quirky, strange, lovable, kind, and just fun to have around. Salem loved to play hide and seek, she loved to chase me around the apartment, she loved to sprint across the room, jump on her bed, and slide into the walls. She still can't control herself and slides into walls all the time. She often found ways to break things that were twice her size. And she somehow managed to find herself in the most interesting of all locations (when the closet door is open, Salem finds a way to jump on top of it and balances). She was quite the dare-devil as a kitten and through her younger years. She still is. On Saturday night's visit at the ER-ICU, she tried jumping off the table, despite her IV's and obvious lack of energy.

Salem can also be very feisty. So it was difficult to learn that she was a diabetic. It was not the treatment that concerned me but rather the fact that Salem turns demonic at the veterinarian's office. I remember asking Ron, "How in the heck is she going to spend so much time at the veterinarian's office?" Most people don't seem to understand my relationship with Salem when they meet her. Cali, our calico, is extremely friendly. She approaches people - old and new - with the same inquisitive look, tail wagging, purring like crazy. Salem is much more withdrawn. She takes a "Why are you in MY house, human?" approach to anyone, excluding me. Due to her impatience with others, people would often wonder why we had such a special bond. With me, she was on my lap purring, cuddling up beside me at night. She would play with me, jump on my desk and take over my laptop when she wanted attention... with me, she's my best buddy. She's my baby. At night, I say "Bedtime Salem" and within a matter of minutes, she jumps on the bed and curls up beside me, purring herself to sleep.
But because she is feisty with everyone else, I was so concerned about the fact that Salem would spend a lot of time visiting the place she despised most: the veterinarian's office. Not only does Salem hiss and growl, but she spits, scratches, and does everything in her power to get the heck out of dodge as soon as she arrives. When I learned that Salem had diabetes, it was scary. I was confused. I needed answers and was overwhelmed by the responses on the internet. Her initial vet didn't want to treat her. He said it was a mild case - nothing serious - but I now realize that he might've avoided treatment because Salem has 'caution' stickers on her folder. In May, I decided to switch veterinarians to the local doctor in Minneapolis. He immediately recommended treatment, expressing surprise that Salem hadn't been treated yet. I felt terrible but I simply did not know, or understand, that she was desperately in need of insulin. She was started on insulin - a low dose - and developed a good relationship with a wonderful and patient doctor. I was so concerned but the vets were fantastic. Stress caused her blood glucose to rise and we were in the middle of packing for Seattle, I was never at home because I was trying to take evening courses at Hamline to finish up school. It was a terrible time to try and get her regulated... so the vet directed us to keep her on the low dose until we found a new doctor in Seattle.
Shortly after arriving in Seattle, I found a veterinarian and took her in to get tested. We started the process to get her regulated. She was doing okay, despite the changes in her surroundings. But eventually, the vet switched her insulin to a more-readily available insulin. I immediately expressed concern with Salem's reaction to the newer insulin but trusted the vet's decision and insight. As weeks passed, I did not notice any changes in Salem's diabetes. I also grew concerned about Salem's insulin - it had developed a potent smell - but I was assured this was okay by the vet's office. But she continued to act funny so I brought her back in to the vet. I'm home every day with Salem so I am entirely aware of any changes in her behavior. When she doesn't eat, normally she goes back to her daily routine shortly thereafter. But she'd been acting strange. In my heart, I knew something was very wrong. Her vet appointment last Monday seemed okay. Her vitals were fine, she did not have any ketones in her urine, and her blood test came back fine, save for her blood glucose. Her BG was very, very high but the vet simply directed me to switch her back to her old insulin. I ordered the old insulin, patiently waited, freaked out with the FedEx truck had a mechanical problem and the insulin was delayed, and went to inject her insulin on Friday night.
Salem's blanket since she was a kitten.

But Salem had been extremely withdrawn that day. The vet's words on Monday had seemed calming, almost as though it was just simply Salem's "case of the Monday's," but I did not have a good feeling. I did everything I could to watch after her. She was on my mind all week - like always. On Thursday, I made a donation in her name for the Tree of Hope at Petco. I wrote "Salem" on the star and smiled, knowing that she was helping another kitty. But regrettably, I waited until Friday night to act because I simply thought she would turn around once she received her new insulin with dinner. But when it was time for dinner and insulin, she turned her head and walked away and went to lie down again. She didn't come sprinting like she normally does. I immediately called the doctor who directed me to a 24-hour emergency care center. I got out her crate - she resisted so bad - but I got her in there. She was still alert. At 7:30, during a Seattle hail-storm, I packed up Salem and we rushed her through Seattle traffic to the ER unit across town. I expected it just to be a bad stomach-ache. I expected it would be a shot of an antibiotic and we'd be out of there in an hour, with Salem.
Sleeping in her favorite place. No box was ever too small for Salem.
Salem slumped down depressed when we arrived. My heart sank. I wonder if she knew...

The doctor took her back to examine her. He returned and told us that Salem was in DKA, a very serious and life-threatening complication of unregulated diabetes. As he spoke with Ron and explained the treatment (Salem would be held at the ICU on insulin drip, with IV, and nutrition tubes), I sobbed hysterically next to him. Immediately, I blamed myself. I still do. I should have learned how to check Salem's blood glucose at home. I should have taken her to the vet sooner. We should have spent more time getting her regulated. I should have trusted my instincts. I should have gotten her regulated before Minneapolis. And, as always, thoughts of "my God, if we only would have stayed in Minneapolis..." crossed my head multiple, multiple times. In addition to unregulated diabetes, the vet explained that Salem's situation might have been attributed to a concurrent cause. They did a sonogram. Some of her lymph nodes were enlarged; "she might have cancer," but a later test came back negative. But she still wasn't responding to the treatment. They believed she had something else - an inflammatory disease - or something else. They couldn't control it. They didn't know what it was.

When we took her to the critical care center, I expected to leave with Salem. But instead, I had to walk back to her crate as she was getting hooked up on IV's. She hissed when she saw it opening. But then she recognized that it was me. She quickly got up, stumbled over, and let out the tiniest little "meow." I have never felt so hopeless. My heart has never broken so fast. I have never felt more like a parent who was desperately trying to save her child. I can only hope that her last words to me were "Mommy, Help. I love you" and not "Why? Please don't leave me here." As her time went forward and I began to lose hope, I wished we could take her home. I didn't want it to happen while she was there. But, we couldn't.

Distracting me from work.
We visited Salem every day she was in the ICU; it was heartbreaking. She didn't spend a whole lot of time looking at us, though I pleaded with her to fight through this. I apologized. I told her I loved her. And I begged her to understand that she was away from home because she was very ill and needed the appropriate care. Salem's condition went downhill while she was there. Despite their aggressive treatment, she couldn't pull through. Some of her numbers had gone in the wrong direction... and they were not sure why. I'm not sure why. But there were underlying issues.

Yesterday afternoon, we visited Salem. She did not look well but we had heard some encouraging news. I left feeling the best I'd felt in days. But last night, the vet called and explained that Salem was starting to decline rapidly. I asked so many questions. I pleaded. But we had to make a decision. Salem hated needles. She didn't want a life of needles. And she was hurting, hurting very badly. Ron called back. He was a wreck. I don't know how he had the strength to do it.

I couldn't believe it had come to this. It went from Salem has a tummy-ache to Salem will be home in 2-5 days to Salem is not responding well to treatment to Salem might have cancer to Salem might need a blood transfusion to Salem is dying. We had figured out how to bring Salem home for the wedding. We planned to cancel the honeymoon. I planned to learn how to test her blood glucose at home. If it was cancer, we were prepared to pay thousands of dollars for treatment. But as I spent all weekend counting down the minutes until I could call the doctor again, part of my heart died each time I spoke with a vet. All weekend, I was a wreck. I couldn't do anything. I picked up a book. I put it down. I turned on the computer. I shut it off. The sun was out - it was beautiful - but I hopped on the treadmill; then stopped when I erupted into tears. I couldn't think about life without Salem; I could not fathom it. In the past year, I've lost an uncle, a grandmother, and Madison. We've transplanted ourselves across the country, away from friends and family, and it's no secret that I haven't transitioned and hate Seattle with every ounce of my being. We're getting married in December and I'm trying to finish up school. But I'm hurting. And I've been hurting for a while. I started to withdraw last September. But I feel like I've changed drastically in the past few months. I've spent the last few months alone, in the house by myself, for a large part of the day trying to finish school independently. But I'd end up spending so much time just hanging out with the girls because I didn't have anyone else to talk with. Salem spent every day by my side. When I did yoga, she climbed on my yoga mat. When I cooked, she jumped on the counter. When I studied, she laid on my books. And when I laid down, she laid down beside me. And with the semester coming to an end, I don't know how I'm going to get the strength to continue without her. I don't know if that sounds extreme but I'm in a place that I don't think I've ever been. And even though I have so many things to be grateful for, I'm having a difficult time seeing them clearly and thinking ahead.
Patiently waiting for Fancy Feast time.
I only hope that Salem realizes that we didn't purposely put her in the ICU to torture her. It breaks my heart to know how bad she hated the vet - being poked and prodded - and that's how she spent her last few days. It breaks my heart knowing that she resisted going in her crate on Friday... she used to love her crate. But would she have suffered if she was at home? I guess I can't ask myself these questions. We tried everything to save her and to be able to bring her home. I hope she knows we did everything we could. I tried everything to keep her healthy while she was alive. But I think I could have done more. Salem held on until we got there. But her respiratory started to drop as soon as we arrived. One of the vet techs brought her in - the vet tech was crying, she'd spent the past few days trying to save Salem, and she apologized. We were able to spend a few moments with Salem before the vet came in. It was so hard to see her in that state. I told her to be strong. I told her how much we loved her. "Bedtime Salem," I said. I told her she was such a good little girl. And she was my best buddy. And she was going to a place where she wouldn't need to be poked with needles ever again. And Ron and I sobbed and held each-other as she passed away in our arms.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Praying for Salem

Salem entered the ER-ICU on Friday evening for complications involving her diabetes. The veterinarians are very concerned because she is declining and not responding to the aggressive treatmen; they think there might be a concurrent issue. They say she is not in pain. I know they are doing everything that they can. But I don't know why she isn't improving. We've been able to visit with her twice. She is very depressed and won't look at us or move. Other cats in similar states have spent up to ten days in the ICU... but it does not seem like the vets are interested in allowing that much time.
Salem has been my baby girl for eight years. She's gotten me through some rough times. I cannot imagine how my life would be without her. I'm hoping and praying with the strength I have left...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reese's Pieces Cupcakes

I don't like leaving my blog unattended. Finding recipes and writing about them on my blog is one of my absolute favorite things. But I have been dealing with some health stuff lately that has left me struggling to find an appetite and struggling to find motivation to write. I've often dealt with similar stomach woes - this past year has been plagued by them - but it's been pretty bad lately. I've gone three weeks where I wake up feeling full and go to bed feeling full, yet there is minimal to no consumption during the day. The other day, I had to force myself to eat some toast just so I could get some type of calories in my system but ended up giving it to Ron mid-bite. For a person who normally has a ravenous appetite, it's really quite depressing when you feel like you're stuffed to the brim every waking hour. I miss food. I'm sick of wandering around the grocery store like a lost dog and canceling dinner reservations at the last minute. So unfortunately blogging about what I haven't been eating hasn't appealed to me.

Yesterday morning, I ventured to the doctor to get checked on, again. I expected it - which is why I put off the appointment - but she asked if I was doing it intentionally, alluding to a possible eating disorder. Trust me, I'd be eating something if I could and I told her the same. It's complicated when trying to explain this problem. To say I "don't have an appetite" is a severe understatement. Some of you might recall that the reason I had such a poor showing at the 2010 Twin Cities Marathon was because I had no calories in my system... so for over a year, I have had far too many days where I go without eating anything, for weeks at a time. We'll see what happens ... I'm really not trying to be a hypochondriac and it's likely nothing serious but I wanted to at least explain my absence from posting.

So why is there a picture of a cupcake here? Well, I realized that today marks the second-year anniversary of PB and Graham. And even though I haven't posted as much during this past year, I still love my blog and I still continue to research recipes. At some point, my appetite will return and I will once again start making new things. But for now, I will celebrate my two-year anniversary with some delicious cupcakes that I made for a dinner that Ron and I had over the summer. Even though we ate them in August, I still remember how awesome they were. I left off the ganache (because I grew impatient). But you can click on the Novice Chef link below if you want the extra indulgence. Happy Birthday, PB and Graham!
Reese's Pieces Cupcakes
from the Novice Chef
Yield: 18 cupcakes
Ingredients:
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp warm water
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp instant espressor granules
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 1/8 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Reese's Pieces
Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
Instructions
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffins tins with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, combine vanilla extract, warm water, cocoa powder, and instant espresso granules. Whisk until well combined and set aside.
  3. Microwave butter until melted. Pour butter into stand mixer, add sugar, and mix on medium until cooled, about 4-5 minutes. Once cooled, add eggs one at a time, mix until incorporated. Add cocoa powder mixture. Reduce speed to low and add flour, alternating with the buttermilk, until just combined.
  4. Fill each liner 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks to cool for 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes on racks and cool completely.
Peanut Butter Frosting
  1. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine confectioners sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt. Mix on medium-low until creamy. Add the cream and beat on high until the mixture is light and smooth.
  2. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and garnish with reese's pieces.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

It's that time of year again where everything seems to be made with pumpkins. Last year, I went a little overboard on my pumpkin use. I was whipping up pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin granola, etc. But this year, I'm keeping it cool and sticking to some basics. I've already made some muffins and a pumpkin based chili. But now I plan to hold off on pumpkin because I want to make sure I enjoy my favorite holiday dessert (pumpkin pie) without being sick of the main ingredient!
These muffins are delicious and pack just enough pumpkin to give you a delightful taste of autumn. They are quick, easy to make, and the perfect grab-and-go breakfast. Enjoy!

Note: I always link back to the source where I found the original recipe. But sadly, I cannot find the source for these! I found the recipe scribbled on my recipe pad and could not locate a bookmark. I feel terrible so if the person who posted this recipe should ever happen to stumble on my blog, I apologize in advance. Please send a comment so I can attribute the recipe to you!
Pumpkin Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins
Ingredients
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup WW flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 - 3/4 c pecans (or nuts or seeds of your choice)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin tin.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour through salt) in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet (pumpkin puree through vanilla extract) ingredients.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  5. Fold in the pecans.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Detox Salad

This past weekend, Ron and I spent Friday and Saturday in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is a little town about 2.5 hours from Seattle that is modeled after a Bavarian village and surrounded by mountains. I've wanted to visit this place for several years now, so when I saw that they had an Oktoberfest marathon weekend, I was stoked. As soon as we learned we were moving to Seattle, I registered us for the half-marathon! Awesome! Well, not completely 100% awesome. Ron and I have been on a streak of going on terrible short weekend trips. First, our trip to Whistler, B.C. was cut short thanks to my getting terribly ill (and Ron wearing shorts in 10 degree rainy weather). Then, our weekend trip to San Francisco was quite possibly the worst trip I've ever experienced in my life. So we weren't expecting much going into Leavenworth but we still had high hopes.

Overall, the trip wasn't terrible so we were pleasantly pleased! Perhaps our bad streak is over? (Please say yes.) The town absolutely exceeded my expectations! It was completely adorable with cute little shops that all seemed to be Christmas related; I spent nearly an hour inside Kris Kringl! But it was the hotel -- ohhhh, the hotel -- that caused us to duck out a day early and lose a couple hundred dollars (a room during off-peak time is $79 but was marked up to $249 per night for this weekend!). The hotel was... BAD. You see, I somewhat knew going into it that the hotel was not going to be good. The run was scheduled for the last weekend of Oktoberfest - the most popular weekend of the year in Leavenworth - so nearly all rooms were booked by the time I was trying to get a room. So, when I found one, I jumped on it without doing much research. A few days before the trip, I checked the reviews and saw that our hotel was ranked 20 out of 20 hotels in the little town. Oh boy. Let's just say we should've slept in the car. Dirty grim aside, at 3:00 in the morning, I was still up, staring at the ceiling wondering why we weren't invited to the party above us. I didn't complain about, ahem, the bugs, smells, or stains, but I did mention the noise to the woman at the front desk. "For $250 per night, I just assumed we'd get some sleep in the hotel." She replied, "It's Oktoberfest. What do you expect? Most people are drunk so we figure it's a non-issue if guests just pass out." Oh, ok. Hospitality fail?

But, despite our lack of sleep, we somehow ran a delirious 13.1 miles the following morning. I think we would have done much better if we had slept and didn't spend 50% of the course running on single-file trails in the woods. But it went ok and we had fun. The sun came out and the mountains were beautiful. We spent the remainder of the morning walking around Leavenworth and eating hearty German fare that inspired me to go on a vegetable binge once we returned. So here is this delicious detox salad that is based off of a salad from Whole Foods. I've never tried the Whole Foods version but so long as I have these ingredients, I'll be making this amazing recipe from Oh She Glows blog. I feel rejuvenated and detox'ed already! It makes a ton so you'll be eating leftovers for days.
Detox Salad
from Oh She Glows
Ingredients
  • 2 heads broccoli, stems removed
  • 1 head cauliflower, stems removed
  • 2.5 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4-6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • pure maple syrup, to drizzle on before serving
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, process the broccoli until fine. Add into large bowl.
  2. Process the cauliflower until fine; place in bowl. Process the carrots; place in bowl.
  3. Stir in the sunflower seeds, currants, raisins, and parsley. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Drizzle with maple syrup to taste and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chocolate and Pecan Biscoff Blondies

Several weeks ago, I started noticing a number of recipes posted for Biscoff this or Biscoff that. Quickly, I learned that the makers of those fabulous little cookies had begun selling a peanut-butter like spread. Bloggers were talking about the spread on their sites and coming up with fancy new ways to use the goodie in their recipes. So, as a lover of all spreads. And as a lover of all things Biscoff. I immediately rushed to the grocery store only to find that my efforts were thwarted by the Biscoff company, who had not yet begun to distribute the product to Washington state.
Naturally, I turned to the interweb to discover that Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, as per usual, had the products in store. So I did what I always do. I phoned home. And even though I said "just look for it the next time you run to the store," but thirty short minutes later, I received word that Biscoff spread had been purchased and was practically en route to Washington in a fancy little care package. I am so spoiled.

I had fun for the first few weeks eating this delicious Biscoff spread. You might recall that I made bread with it. Then I made ice cream with it. Ron made "adventure sandwiches" with it. (Ask him if you are interested.) And for a few nights, it was used in place of peanut butter for my daily peanut butter and graham snack. (This occurred before I swore off peanut butter and graham crackers, a sad and devastating day that I have yet to recover from, but that's another story.) But most importantly, I made these blondies when the recipe was posted on this amazing blog.

These blondies are so good that I can't even begin to describe how good they are. I always brag about my ability to portion control but I seriously couldn't portion control with these. There was almost a fight for the last crumb! Thank goodness I halved the recipe or Ron and I would be oompa-loompas right now. Nothing stopped me from eating them - not even skinny models who bring on periods of self-loathing. (I browsed through a Victoria's Secret catalog while polishing a blondie off. I subsequently threw the catalog across the room shouting offensive comments at the innocent women inside the magazine, but that's a diversion. . .) But just trust me on this, these are THAT good. And who cares if it sets you back a few extra calories for the day (or week?) because they are worth it. Just be sure to check online to see if your local grocery store carries Biscoff spread. Otherwise, it looks like Mommy Dearest will be sending you a care package too!
Chocolate and Pecan Biscoff Blondies
from Duchess of Fork, adapted from Joy the Baker
Ingredients
  • 10 Tbsp butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup Biscoff spread (please don't substitute this!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together until butter is just melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from stove and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then stir in Biscoff spread.
  3. Allow mixture to cool for 5 minutes more, then whisk in eggs and vanilla. (Mixture will be thick.)
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together salt, flour, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir until just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pot Roast

I know I've made pot roast before and blogged about it. But I tried a new recipe recently and fell in love with the dish. I'm a fan of all root vegetables but rarely eat them. This makes me sad. So, I saw some parsnips and leeks at the farmer's market recently, thought of this recipe, and snatched them up for a hearty dinner. We loved this recipe. It was hearty, tasty, and delicious.
You'll likely see a lot of comfort foods posting on here for the next few weeks or so. The change of seasons brought clouds and rain. With the clouds and rain brought sopping wet running clothes and muddy legs. With the wet running clothes and muddy legs came the desire to eat hearty meals that make the house smell wonderful. So here's the first of many comfort foods to come.

You can easily prepare this roast in a stockpot if you don't have a crockpot or don't want to spend all day waiting for dinner! Steps 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 are the same. But instead of using a crockpot, place your beef in a large stockpot. Bring the beef broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover the stockpot tightly. Simmer for 2 hours. After 2 hours of simmering, add the vegetables and continue to cook, covered, for 30-45 minutes or until the pot roast and veggies are fork tender. Then remove your pot roast and veggies from the stockpot and proceed with the next steps to make the gravy.
Hearty Pot Roast Dinner
from Washington Ranchers, Rathbun Angus Ranch
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp seasoned pepper blend or garlic-pepper seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 boneless beef chuck shoulder pot roast (2 - 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (optional if doing step #2)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 pound small red-skinned potatoes, cut in half, or into quarters if large
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 2-1/2 x 1/2- inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, cut into 2-1/2 x 1/2- inch pieces
  • 1 small leek (white and pale green parts only), cut in half lengthwise then crosswise into 1-1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Combine pepper blend and minced garlic to season the beef. Press evenly onto all surfaces of beef pot roast. 
  2. If desired, heat oil in stockpot over medium heat until hot. Brown pot roast on all sides. Pour off drippings and season beef with salt.
  3. Place potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and leeks in bottom of 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 quart slow cooker; top with seasoned pot roast.
  4. Pour beef broth around pot roast. Cover and cook on HIGH for 5-6 hours or LOW for 8-1/2 to 9-1/2 hours, or until pot roast is fork tender.
  5. Remove pot roast from crockpot. 
  6. Skim fat from cooking liquid and measure 2 cups into medium saucepan (add beef broth or water to cooking liquid to yield 2 cups, if necessary).
  7. Combine water and cornstarch; stir into cooking liquid. Bring cooking liquid and cornstarch to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
  8. Carve pot roast into thin slices. Season with salt, as desired. Serve with vegetables and gravy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Energy Bars

For some reason, I started drinking a lot more coffee since moving to Seattle. It was almost instant - as soon as we crossed into the county line - I started craving coffee. I'd get large to-go cups of 20 ounces of more when I was out running errands. I got a fancy new coffee pot that grinds fresh beans, in the loudest manner possible, in the earliest hours of the morning. I also lay in bed watching Frasier re-runs every night, secretly wishing there actually was a Dr. Frasier Crane, on a KACL radio station, and an actual Cafe Nervosa to go to in the mornings. On the one hand, at least I do not have a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, like everyone else in this town seems to have. But the coffee addiction is out of control. And it's not just coffee anymore! Now it's espresso too! I've developed this routine in the afternoon where I go for an afternoon walk to get an Americano around 2:00. Then, I sip on my Americano and listen to... Neil Diamond and shout the lyrics to "Cracklin' Rosie" until I feel happy enough to continue on my day. I don't get it either, I've never listened to Neil Diamond on a consistent basis before. But whatever makes us happy, right? And happiness is needed.
It's no secret that I'm not really, well, loving, liking, tolerating our time in Seattle. But instead of going off on a tangent about what I feel is stinky about this area, perhaps I should just work on the stinkiest thing of all: my attitude. Truthfully, it's quite exhausting being miserable. So I'm trying to change my attitude right now. And if Neil Diamond and copious amounts of coffee are going to assist in the process, then so be it. Every day, I count my blessings for the multitude of positive things I have, the health I have, and the people I am most grateful for. But I've had difficulty translating this to my general outlook and approach at life. Granted, I've never been one of those people with the brightest or sunniest demeanor. But I really need to focus on transitioning this gratitude-fueled energy to my outer well-being.

In addition to drinking coffee and Neil Diamond, I've also been finding happiness from these energy bars! This recipe come from my favorite Exercise TV motivator, Chris Freytag, a Minnesota native and serious exercise fanatic. Her workouts are kicking my butt, making me feel stronger, and I'm hoping that her workouts will transition me into wedding shape. These bars aren't free of sugar. (I might cut back next time.) But they are free of things that I don't like eating. They are adaptable (I'm thinking more seeds, or nuts, or raisins, or pretzels!), incredible, and delicious. They actually taste exactly like a Snickers or a Cliff MoJo bar. I've been using these to fuel on training runs for an upcoming marathon and they are definitely doing the trick and putting the pep in my step. Or is that the caffeine doing that? Whatever it is, try these next time you think about buying another PowerBar! An added bonus? They store easily! Wrap individual bars in wax paper and store in the freezer. Take them as you leave the house, let them dethaw for a few minutes, then enjoy!
Energy Bars
from Chris Freytag
Yield: 24 bars
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 1/2 cups puffed wheat cereal
  • 1/2 cup almond slivers
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Instructions
  1. Combine oats, puffed cereal, almonds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and chocolate chips in a large bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, and agave nectar. Bring mixture to boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  3. Pour mixture quickly over the dry ingredients (similar to Rice Krispie treats). Stir to combine. Note: the chocolate chips will melt.
  4. With wet fingers, wax paper, or the back of a spatula, press mixture VERY FIRMLY into a 9x13 pan lined with wax paper. Let harden. (Put in freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden quickly before cutting.) 
  5. Cut into approximately 24 pieces.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tortellini Soup

I'm very proud of myself. This recipe came* from the most recent Food Network magazine. This really shouldn't be a cause for celebration, but to me it is. Because it means that I have now cooked two recipes from one month's magazine!! And considering I normally tab about 40 recipes in each of the three magazines I receive each month (Cooking Light, Food Network, and Bon Appetit) but rarely make one, this is quite the achievement. I've been forcing myself to cook and bake from the many magazines I get on a monthly basis and the ridiculous amount of cookbooks I own. I don't know why I tend to cook and bake from food blogs. I think there is something to be said about recipes that come attached with pictures of the finished product. Not many cookbooks or magazines can pull that off without charging a ridiculous amount. So, I gravitate towards the photos that look most appetizing and go from there. But given the money I spend on the cookbooks and magazines, it's time to give them some love too!
We absolutely loved this hearty soup. It is an ideal 30-minute meal that can easily be prepped in 10 minutes. Everything practically goes into the pot at once so once it's in and simmering, you're good to go. The soup was very good. I loved the flavors and most especially, the colors. (We recently replaced the lightbulbs in the kitchen. Sadly, this photo was taken prior to the lightbulb change.) The seasoning is mixed in with the ground beef and after that it is super simple. Ron served as my sous chef for this recipe and helped with the canned ingredients. (This recipe can easily be made with fresh products, as opposed to canned, but the cans are the sole reason the recipe is simple so adapt as you wish.) I might hire him from here on out. The recipe makes a ton of soup so you'll have plenty of leftovers. Enjoy!

*Ok, it was listed on an advertisement for Sam's Club. But it still came from the magazine. :)
Tricolor Tortellini Soup
from Sam's Club
Ingredients
  • 1 lb grass-fed 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 x 14.5-ounce canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 x 15.25-ounce can corn, drained
  • 2 x 14-ounce cans chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pound tricolor tortillini or spinach and cheese tortillini (or ravioli)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. In large bowl, add ground beef, 1 Tbsp italian seasoning, paprika, salt, and pepper; mix to combine. Crumble mixture and add to skillet with diced onions. Brown in skillet over medium heat.
  2. In large pot, combine browned ground beef mixture, diced tomatoes, corn, chicken broth, water, 2 Tbsp italian seasoning, garlic, spinach, carrots, salt, and pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil.
  3. Once mixture is boiling, add tortellini to the pot and boil for 3 minutes. Decrease heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Waldorf Salad with Steel-Cut Oats

The Waldorf Salad, which is a blend of apples, celery, and walnuts, is a pretty dated recipe; it was first served in the 1890's at NYC's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel! I've never really made a true Waldorf Salad before. The salad is typically made with a mayonnaise dressing and I've been trying to lighten things up around our house, so I was very excited when I saw this "Waldorf Salad Reinvented" recipe in Mark Bittman's column in Cooking Light.
This recipe uses steel-cut oats and adds a very unique texture and flavor to the recipe. It is a healthy accompaniment to a dinner, a hearty salad by itself, and stores wonderfully. If you don't like the oats, you can replace it with any grain to suit your preference. I'll be making this again next time I'm in the mood for something wholesome, flavorful, and crunchy.
Waldorf Salad with Steel-Cut Oats
from Cooking Light
Yield: about 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups diced Granny Smith apple (about 1 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups torn radicchio
  • 1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese (or blue cheese crumbles)
Instructions
  1. Combine oats, 1 cup water, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 7 minutes (do not stir) or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Place oats in a medium bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Combine walnuts, honey, and red pepper in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat; cook until 4 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and honey is slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally.
  3. Combine remaining 1/2 tsp salt, olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add dressing, apple, radicchio, and grapes to oats; toss well. Place 1 1/2 cups oat mixture on each of 4 plates, and top each serving with about 3 Tbsp walnut mixture and 2 Tbsp of crumbled cheese.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Ron and I are on completely different breakfast schedules. I'm an "I need to eat as soon as I get out of bed" type person and he is a "I need to be up for a few hours before I eat, if I eat at all" type person. Ron is also a late-riser, while I am an early bird. Pair this with the fact that I get sick, grumpy and/or angry if I need to eat and you can see how this poses a problem when we have a planned breakfast, like pancakes.

Sundays tend to be "eat more breakfast than usual" days in our house. It's the day when I go out for longer runs so I'm normally up around 5:30 so I can eat, hydrate, glance through the paper, smell some fresh air and wake up before I head out for a few hours. So even though I love having pancakes before a run, I normally don't eat them unless they were frozen and reheated. (Blech?) I've confessed this before - but it needs to be re-confessed - I've never been successful with pancakes so Ron is the griddle-man. Yep. I refuse to attempt pancakes unless Ron is the one making them. It's worthless (and embarrassing).
But, we sure love pancakes in our house so despite the mess, they are made often. In fact, pancakes-for-dinner is currently on the planned menu for Wednesday of this week. :) And when Ron rolled out of bed yesterday, I had a treat for him that I was super excited for him to try. Regina, one of my loyal blog readers, sent this to my mom and my mom forwarded it to me. Ron is a cinnamon roll fanatic - and I NEVER make them because of a few past incidents with the rolling pin - so I was super excited to give these a try. Unfortunately for Ron, this meant he had to actually cook his own breakfast. But I did everything else so who can complain? (Well, he does. But he's a grumpy morning person.)

These pancakes were so fun and very decadent! I wouldn't eat these everyday but they are definitely going to become an occasional treat! They tasted exactly like cinnamon rolls, without all of the rolling, so I was very pleased.  Thanks, Regina, for reading my blog and for forwarding along such a fun recipe!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
from Recipe Girl
Yield: about 4 large pancakes
Ingredients
Pancakes:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cinnamon Filling:
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Glaze:
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Prepare pancake batter: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in milk, oil and egg, just until batter is moistened.
  2. Prepare cinnamon filling: in a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Scoop the filling into a small ziploc bag and set aside. The filling should become a consistency similar to toothpaste, not liquidy. (If it gets too hard, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up again but let it sit out for a bit to harden before adding it to pancake batter - it will be too runny and run all over your pancakes it it's too liquid.)
  3. Prepare cream cheese glaze: in a microwave-safe bowl, heat butter and cream cheese until melted. Whisk together until smooth then add in powdered sugar and vanilla extract, set aside.
  4. Heat large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick spray. Scoop about 2/3-3/4 cup of batter onto the skillet or griddle. After about one minute, snip the corner of your bag with cinnamon filling and squeeze a spiral of the filling onto the top of the pancake. When bubbles begin to appear on the surface, carefully flip them with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1-2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter and keep in a warm over until ready to serve.
  5. When ready to serve, spoon warmed glaze onto the top of each pancake. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Bagels

Happy First Official Day of Fall! I'm really missing Minnesota this time of year. Seattle is still having some warm days - today it's 80 degrees - and while I'm not complaining about the sunshine, I do wish we had some fall colors to gawk at. My favorite thing in Minnesota was riding my bike during the fall. I'd go for the longest bike rides in the most crisp, chilly fall air. Then, I'd come home and brew a carafe of fresh coffee, read the newspaper, and think about apple orchards and picking pumpkins. We're heading out for a long hike this weekend. Hopefully we see some fall colors while we're out!
So instead of reminiscing about the good ol' days, I decided to bake up some new memories and new smells. This bagels were absolutely delicious. The entire house smelled like a giant autumn-fest with cinnamon and apples taking over. The bagels were a lot of work (especially if you only make half of a recipe) but they are totally worth it. They dry out quickly so if you aren't going to eat them all in one day, then make sure you package them up and freeze them. They are delicious reheated. I enjoyed mine with some almond pumpkin seed butter. But they would taste amazing with anything!
Cinnamon Apple Bagels
from My Little Celebration, who adapted from Emeril Lagassi
Yield: 11-12 bagels
Ingredients
For Bagels
  • 2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees F
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packets active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
  • 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 small-medium granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. sugar
For Streusal Topping (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Add 1 Tbsp of butter to a large skillet over medium heat, then add the apples, 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 Tbsp sugar, and stir. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples are soft and caramelized. Add more sugar and cinnamon if needed. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, and 3 Tbsp of sugar in a large bowl. Stir and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of WW flour, the apple mixture, salt and 1/4 cup sugar and stir. Then gradually add 3 cups of AP flour and mix until the mixture comes together.
  3. Add 1-1 1/2 cups additional AP flour 1/2 cup at a time. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed, about 10 minutes.
  4. Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove from bowl and punch down the dough. Divide into 12 equal pieces, about 2-3 ounces each. Loosely form each piece of dough into a ball and then poke a small hole in the middle of the ball with your fingers. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place on a lightly greased surface, cover with a clean cloth, and let rest until risen but not doubled in a draft-free spot, 20-30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a baking sheet. Prepare the streusel topping by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl with fingers or a fork. (If too wet, add more flour. If too dry, add more butter.)
  7. In a large heavy pot, bring 12 cups of water and the remaining 1 Tbsp of sugar to a boil. In batches, add the bagels to the water and boil, turning for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip bagels on the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 5 minutes. If adding streusel topping, remove the bagels at this point and turn the bagels over. Spoon the topping onto bagels after you have flipped them. Then, return bagels to the oven for another 30-35 minutes. If you are not adding streusel topping, do not remove bagels at the 5 minute mark but rather leave them in the oven for a total of 35-40 minutes. 
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Corn and Green Chile Bisque

In the years that I've posted on this food blog, I've learned that all food cannot be aesthetically pleasing. I'm sure this soup could look beautiful in appropriate lighting and with the correct dishes. But the soup looks like baby food, to be kind. However, I refuse to keep this recipe from the blog simply because it does not look as appetizing as other things on this blog! This delicious meal has a backstory! Since moving to Seattle, we've gotten hooked on the corn and green chile bisque from the Metropolitan Market. We tried this soup shortly after we moved and now probably go there at least once a week to grab a bowl to go with a side of Macrina bakery potato roll (or olive roll). It's delicious and my favorite take-out meal of all time. That's saying a lot.
But it's also super devastating when we head into the store to find out that they don't have the soup on the daily rotation. This has happened all too often so I decided it was necessary to find the recipe to make in our own kitchen. Nope. The grocer has other ideas. I've searched everywhere online but cannot find this top-secret recipe. So, the last time I was there, Ron grabbed a bowl and I turned over the sign to check out the ingredients and attempt some adapting at home. This recipe isn't the same creamy bisque that is served at the Metropolitan Market (probably because it lacks heavy cream!). But it's quite a delicious substitution to satisfy for the Metropolitan's recipe. The recipe uses a lot of canned ingredients but you can easily use freshly shucked corn, chiles, and tomatoes in lieu of the cans. But the cans save some time to make this a quick meal and absolutely delightful. Enjoy this on your next chilly fall day!

And as the potato roll is an absolute necessity to pair with the soup, I decided to try my hand at baking my own potato loaf from the Macrina Bakery cookbook. This cookbook is incredible, Macrina Bakery is a must-visit, and the bread was amazing! Recipe will follow. . .
Corn and Green Chile Bisque
adapted from Sassy Dining and inspired by Metropolitan Market
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalepeno, minced and seeded (unless you want some heat!)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 x 14 oz cans corn, rinsed and drained
  • 2 small cans diced green chiles
  • 1 x 14 oz can chopped tomatoes with chiles
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, red and green bell peppers, and saute but do not brown. Add 3 Tbsp of flour to the onions and peppers; stir.
  2. Add the corn, green chiles, and tomatoes; stir.
  3. Add the spices, milk, half and half, and broth; stir.
  4. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes until blended together. Taste then season with salt and pepper.
  5. With an immersion blender, pulse the soup but do not puree. Soup should be chunky. (Alternatively, you can transfer soup to a blender or food processor and pulse.