Friday, January 27, 2012

Snack Mix Roasted Potatoes


If you've ever read my post on homemade Chex Mix, you know that I have a very specific method for eating it.

My friend Natalie was the best person for me to share a pre-made bag with because I only like the Chex & pretzels, and her favorite was the bagel chips & breadsticks.

So when my mom started making her own Chex Mix, I saw no reason for her to put in those silly little pale breadsticks & disgusting rye bagel chips.

And seriously - wheat Chex?  Please.

For the birds, I say.

But she flat out refused, claiming plain corn Chex & pretzels was far too boring.

There had to be variety.

So.... I just continued to pick out the pieces I liked, and left whatever I didn't want.

(I used to do this with other things too.  I was always getting yelled at for picking out all the M&Ms and raisins from a jar of Costco trail mix she kept in our kitchen).

Then my birthday came around.

My mother asked, "What kind of cake do you want?"

"Whatever - something chocolate.  But I also want Chex mix - with only corn Chex.  Not even pretzels."

She shook her head.  "I wouldn't exactly call that a mix, but hey - it's your birthday."

Yep.  Chex 'mix' with just corn Chex.  She and my stepdad never let me live that one down.  (Mr. Vittles eventually joined in on the fun as well, as it became a birthday tradition).

But I ate the entire batch by myself, and loved every second of it.

Only recently did it occur to me that the seasonings of Chex mix would probably transfer well to roasted potatoes.


But these aren't technically a 'mix' either .... I guess if you're feeling crazy you can throw in some bagel chips?

Snack Mix Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 1/2 lb. russet or yukon gold potatoes, skinned & cut in 1" dice
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. onion powder
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. smoked paprika (or regular, is fine)
  • 1/2 t. seasoned salt
  • dash cayenne pepper

Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Combine oil with Worcestershire and spices in a small bowl or measuring cup.  Skin & dice potatoes and place in large bowl.  Cover with oil mixture, and toss to coat.

Spread out potatoes on a baking sheet greased with nonstick spray, and bake in preheated oven 45 minutes to one hour, stirring carefully with a heatproof rubber spatula every 15 minutes until done.  Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve immediately.  Serves 3-4

Original Recipe

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Honey Wheat Pizza Dough


Have you ever wondered what it's like to be married to the weirdest man in the world?

Well, let me tell you.

The weirdest man in the world will go on your Facebook account when you leave it open on your computer. 

Will he look at your emails? 

No way.  That's too boring.  

Because it's much more fun to post ridiculous status updates like "I love turf equipment," and "I have itchy toes."

And you will not realize that he has posted these things until a very confused person comments, "Why don't you scratch 'em?"

(Sooo happy that my 300 some-odd "friends" were thinking I was suffering from some type of pesky foot fungus.)

The weirdest man in the world will also hijack your phone when you're not looking.

Will he read your texts and inspect your missed & outgoing calls?

No way.  That's too boring.

Because it's much more fun to send a text message from 'you' to your sister-in-law that says "I eat boogers."

(And if your sister-in-law happens to have the weirdest man in the world as her brother, then she will simply respond "Me too," and nothing further will need to be said.)

Luckily, I found the one to my dad that said "I LOVE snails" while it was still in Drafts, before I got a concerned phone call asking if I was on drugs or something.

But you know what?  That's ok.  

Because I can play tricks too.

And for my next trick... I will make whole wheat flour into a pizza crust that tastes mighty fine (thanks to a wonderful blog called Budget Bytes.)


Don't believe me? 


You'll just have to try it for yourself.


Honey Wheat Pizza Dough

  • 1 C. warm water
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 pkt. active dry yeast
  • 3 T. olive oil (plus a little more to oil bowl)
  • 1 1/4 t. salt
  • 3/4 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ - 2 C. all-purpose flour, divided

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if you don’t have a mixer) stir together warm water with yeast and honey.  Let sit 3-5 minutes or until frothy on top.

Using paddle attachment in mixer, stir in olive oil and salt, then whole wheat flour.  Stir in 1 3/4 C. all-purpose flour until mixed in evenly.  Then increase speed to medium (reducing speed to add more all-purpose flour by the tablespoon as necessary) and mix until dough is stretchy & soft but not sticking to anything.  (If you do not have a mixer, stir in flour until you can no longer use a spoon, then switch to kneading on a floured surface).

Remove dough and place on lightly floured surface. Oil bowl lightly with olive oil, then replace dough and cover top lightly with more oil.  Drape a towel over bowl, and let rise until doubled in size (about 45 mins).

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and shape into a round of desired size.  Transfer to a pizza stone or greased pan covered in corn meal to prevent sticking, and top as desired.  Bake in 425 degree oven for 16-18 minutes or until edges are golden.  Makes 1 large (about 16-inch) pizza or 2 medium pizzas.

Recipe Adapted from Budget Bytes

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ambrosia Salad


Both my mother and father grew up in Connecticut.  My mother was from Wilton, and my father is from Waterbury.  They met in college (Eastern Connecticut State), got married, bought a house in Cheshire, and we lived there until I was about three.

Then they bought a bed & breakfast in Bay Head, New Jersey.

My parents had never run a bed & breakfast before.  In fact, my dad had a full-time job in New York City so he was only around on weekends.  I'm not sure what possessed them to up & move, and try their hand at something so random, but I'm happy they did.

It makes for a good story.

Most of my memories from the few years they owned the place are pretty fuzzy - but I do recall the house in surprising detail.  It was huge (3 floors, with a basement as well) and we lived in part of the first floor.

image from trulia.com

One of my favorite things about the house is that it had not only a main staircase, but also a "secret" one, connecting our kitchen to the 2nd floor.

I can also vaguely remember my mom cooking breakfast in our kitchen, and the guests sitting at a big table in the main room of the first floor.  (As a teenager, I worked at a bed & breakfast down the street that had individual tables for their guests, like a restaurant - but in our house, it was family-style).

Sometimes I would walk around and talk to the guests.  Most of them thought I was cute.  Some of them thought I was annoying.  My mother explained to me that some people are just cranky, and I shouldn't take it personally.

my mom, working at the B&B, circa 1988

That was a good life lesson.

About 9 months ago, my dad and stepmom noticed that the old house was up for sale - but not as a bed & breakfast, as an actual house.

We decided to go on a tour during an open house, just to see what it looked like.  We never told the real estate agent that we used to own it.

And although they had knocked down walls in our 'apartment', painted some rooms, and closed off my secret staircase, it was mostly the same over 20 years later.

Still 12 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths (!)

Still had the racks my dad built & fastened to the wall of each bedroom.

image from trulia.com

Still had a creepy old basement.

And in the creepy old basement was a sewing table that apparently belonged to my dad's grandmother.

By his reaction to it, it didn't seem like he had meant to leave it at the house.  It was covered in dust and clearly not in use by the current owners, but he went on & on about how he remembered his grandmother using it.

We left a little while later but I couldn't help feeling badly about my great-grandmother's table sitting in that basement.  It had long since had the sewing machine removed and was painted a few times, but it had sentimental value to my dad - which meant it had sentimental value to me.

So I went back.

You would think that the real estate agent of a house listed for $1.5M would not be overly friendly to someone like myself.  But it was a dreary day and she didn't have any other potential buyers, so she listened politely as I told her the story - that we used to live in this house when I was a little girl, and our table was still in the basement, and now I was asking if the current owners would sell it back to me.

She took down all my information and said she would find out.  She seemed so nice, but I wondered if I would ever hear back from her.

About a week later, she called and said the table was mine.  The owners had no use for it and were happy to simply give it to me.  So she met Mr. Vittles and I at the house, and we took it home.

I didn't tell my dad about it, because I wanted him to be surprised.  The next time he came over, he walked by it once without noticing.  Then he came out of the kitchen and stopped dead in his tracks.

"Wait a minute..." he said, and pointed at the table.


I was smiling ear to ear.  "Yep.  That's it," I said.  "We rescued it from the house."

He was so happy, he took my picture next to it to send to my grandmother (it was her mother's).

He even texted me after he left, saying how much he appreciated that we went back for the table.

And after visiting the house, the strangest thing happened to me - I got a hankering for this ambrosia 'salad' my mom used to make at the bed & breakfast, something that I hadn't thought of since I was a kid.

As an incredibly picky child, I didn't appreciate the delicious things that she cooked & baked for breakfast - this recipe included.  But the guests raved about her meals, and although this was a simple but unusual dish for the northeast, ambrosia was among their favorites.

And now I realize why.

Ambrosia Salad

  • 1/2 C. heavy cream
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 1/4 C. sour cream
  • 1 15-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 8-oz. can chunk pineapple, drained
  • 1 C. miniature marshmallows
  • 1 C. shredded sweetened coconut
  • maraschino cherries & toasted, sliced almonds, for garnish (optional)

In a large bowl, beat beat heavy cream and sugar with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form (whipped cream).  Fold in sour cream to combine well.  Add drained oranges & pineapple, marshmallows and shredded coconut.  Mix to combine.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.   Garnish bowls with toasted, sliced almonds & maraschino cherries `(if desired).  Leftovers can be stored in airtight container in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Family Recipe

Saturday, January 7, 2012

“Magic” Peppermint Ice Cream


The time of year after the holidays can get annoying.  Is anyone with me on this?

I hate going back to work after having all this time off (especially in a year like 2011 was, where Christmas & New Years fall on a Sunday and most people get Monday off).

I hate taking down Christmas decorations.

I hate that I always put last year when I write the date.

I hate hearing people's New Year's resolutions, especially when they get all crazy like, "Oh, I resolved not to eat chocolate any more, and run 5 miles a day."

Ummm... good luck with that.

And you know what else I hate (that's actually completely unrelated, but equally annoying)?

When bloggers post incredible-looking recipes that require specialized equipment that I don't own.

And then I have to go out and buy things like a mandoline sliceran ice cream machine, and a donut pan, and then I can't fit all this #%*& into my kitchen anymore, and HOW DARE YOU brainwash me with these delicious treats?

{sigh}

But I am totally guilty of this myself.  Red Velvet Ice Cream.  Apple Chips.  Mini Baked Apple Cider Donuts.  Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream....

...ok ok, I know, sorry!

There's still more that belong on that list - and we all know I probably won't stop there.

Sooo... I will try to make up for it (just a little bit) right now.

This ice cream is magic because you don't need an ice cream maker!

And even if you have an ice cream machine, you may still want to try this because this method is a) way easier and b) pretty cool.  The ice cream comes out rich & creamy, and very scoopable even after days in the freezer.

By the way, for all you white-chocolate haters out there, worry not.  I'm not entirely sure why there is an ounce of white chocolate in the original recipe ... probably to do with the texture or a slight upgrade in taste?  But in no way does this ice cream taste like white chocolate, so don't be deterred by that.

P.S. - the reason why I made peppermint ice cream in the first place is because I saw this 'peppermint punch' on Pinterest and instead of eggnog someone suggested pouring ginger ale and Bailey's over the ice cream! Haven't tried it yet but I am definitely going to :)

“Magic” Peppermint Ice Cream

  • 1/2 C. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 oz. white chocolate, chopped fine (or you can use white chocolate chips)
  • 1 1/2 t. peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt 
  • couple drops of red food coloring (optional)
  • 1/4 C. sour cream
  • 1 1/4 C. cold heavy cream

Microwave sweetened condensed milk and white chocolate in large bowl until chocolate melts, stirring halfway, in 30-second intervals.  Let cool.  Stir in peppermint, vanilla, salt, red food coloring (if using) and sour cream.

With electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip heavy cream to soft peaks, about 2 minutes.  Whisk one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture.  Fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until incorporated.  Mixture will be very light & airy.

Place in airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 2 weeks.  Serve.  Makes about 1 quart.

Recipe Adapted from Cooks Country
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