Everyday recipes, life and craziness from Jen's house.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

The boys and I are in the Kansas City area this weekend for a big Geocaching picnic.  Since we would be eating many meals out during our time away, we decided to bring our own muffins, yogurt and fruit (our hotel doesn't have a free breakfast.  boo.)  This is the second time I've made these blueberry muffins and this recipe is a "make again." I found the original recipe in King Arthur's Flour 100th Anniversary cookbook, and also on their website. (King Arthur's Flour basic muffin recipe)  I changed it up a little bit (does that surprise you???)  Enjoy~

Blueberry Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup fat free, plain yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg
1 egg white
1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 c. blueberries

Preheat your oven to 500°F.

Blend together the dry ingredients as long and as vigorously as you want.

Beat the liquid ingredients together -- yogurt, oil, vanilla, and eggs -- until they are light. If you have a 2-cup liquid measure (one with a lip above the 2-cup mark) it makes mixing the liquid ingredients very easy.

Spoon the blueberries into the flour mixture and mix until the blueberries are coated with flour.  This will help the blueberries stay afloat in the batter and not sink to the bottom while baking.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Take a fork or wire whisk and blend the two for 20 seconds -- no more! The secret to light and tender muffins lies in this final blending. It's OK if you've left some lumps that look as if they want more stirring; they really don't. So, no matter how hard it is, resist the impulse.

Fill cups of a lightly greased muffin tin two-thirds to three-quarters full. Place muffins in the oven and immediately drop temperature to 400°F*. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until muffins test done. Yield: 12 muffins, 24 mini-muffins, or six "crown" muffins.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


If you've read my blog for any time, you'll have noticed that I use (and talk about) Penzeys spices.  I LOVE PENZEYS!

I remember going home to visit my mum when I was in my mid 20's during the summer.  She wanted me to help her make Bread and Butter Pickles, but she couldn't find enough little jars of mustard seed in the grocery store.  (This was way before Google and the ease of online shopping.)  I had a friend who had ordered spices through a catalog, so I called my friend (who was living in Germany) and asked her for the telephone number for that spice catalog.   I called the number and talked to a very nice lady.  She questioned the amount of mustard seed that I requested...after all, it's not everyday that someone orders 3 pounds of mustard seed to make a batch of pickles.  But I went ahead and ordered 3 pounds...I even contemplated ordering 4 pounds!  I am horrible about estimating, and WAY overestimated how much mustard seed we would need.  My mum was a little surprised a few days later when the package from Penzeys showed up.  Do you know how many mustard seeds are in 3 pounds?  I don't know either, but it is a lot!  You can get an idea of how small mustard seeds are by looking at the necklace below...now just imagine 3 pounds of mustard seed!  WOW! 

After that mishap with the mustard seeds, I became a Penzeys convert.  I started receiving the catalog in the mail.  I experimented with the recipes in the catalog and began ordering different spices to try.  Years later, I'm still a Penzeys convert.  I look forward to the catalogs that I still get in the mail.  I cut out the recipes and have them in my file box.  I have always been impressed with the quality of spices that I get from Penzeys.  They are fresh and taste better than the ones you can buy at the grocery store.  They are a little bit more expensive than what you pick up at Walmart, however, the taste and the over-all result is out of this world!  I often visit their website to see what's new and to order online.  www.penzeys.com  And I even get to visit one of their stores occasionally! 

JP drawing Cayenne Pepper

A few weeks ago, we traveled to Iowa to visit my in-law family.  On the way there, we stopped in Omaha to visit the Penzeys store.  There is something heavenly about walking through the door of a Penzeys store!  A spicy-peppery smell meets you at the door and penetrates your clothing, so when you leave, you get a slight whiff of the store smell throughout the day.  The staff has always been friendly and eager to help.  Even JP loves to go there!  There is a small kids area and JP draws pictures that he can hang on the wall. 
JP next to the Cayenne Pepper display

If you ever have a chance, please visit the store, the website or just browse through the catalog.  You'll be glad you did!
JP and his Cayenne Pepper drawing

Just in case you didn't get it the first time, I LOVE PENZEYS!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pepperoni Dip

This past Friday was Bunco Night.  I play Bunco once a month with 11 other friends.  We get together, laugh, talk, de-stress, gossip, eat great food and even play Bunco!  I was lucky on Friday and walked away with $15 at the end of the night!  If you don't know what Bunco is, don't check out the Wikipedia site.  We are NOT middle-aged suburban women playing a dice game!  Instead, check out this site.  Here's another Bunco site with a lot of items for sale. 

On Friday, I brought Pepperoni Dip to share with my friends.  It's my sister-in-law, Kelly's recipe.  And of course, I changed the recipe up a little bit. 

Pepperoni Dip

2 packages of pepperoni slices, finely diced (I used Turkey pepperoni)
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature (I used neufchatel cheese)
1/3 c. mayonnaise (I used reduced fat)
1/3 c. plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 onion, finely diced
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced

 Mix the cream cheese, mayonnaise and yogurt together.  Add the diced pepperoni, garlic, onion, green and red pepper.  Mix well.  Spoon into a 9x9 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 305 for 20-30 minutes until it's bubbly.  

Serve with chips, cocktail bread, crackers, pretzels, etc.  I used Stacy's Pita Chips. 

I used my Cuisinart Food Processor to dice the ingredients.  It worked like a charm.  The only thing was I diced the green pepper a little too fine.  It was almost mush, but it still worked.  Next time, I'll decrease the time in the food processor for the green pepper. 

Here is my friend Linda.  She was looking at one of Mandy's cookbooks.  Linda had this cookbook when she was growing up.  She was telling us about "Candle Salad," a recipe found in the book.  Mandy swears she'll make Candle Salad for our next Bunco night.  You'll have to make sure you check back for the recipe and pictures.  It'll knock your socks off.  :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Easy-Peasy Ribs

Jeff is in the top right corner walking in
Welcome Home!

Jeff's been home from Iraq for about 10 days...we're slowly getting into the family rhythm again.  For those of you who aren't military spouses, it's kind of a hard period to explain...  it's like you're on vacation, but not really.  You're so glad that he's home and you want to spend all of your time together, but don't want to suffocate him.  It's a honeymoon period, but not really.  You want to go back to the way things were last year before the deployment began, but all 3 of us have grown and changed in 12 months.  I'm not in charge of the remote anymore (which is fine with me) and I have to share my stuff again.  But I wouldn't change it for anything.  It's a time of adjustments, assimilation and re-figuring of roles.  It's also a time of growth, change and adjustment. 
A Welcome Home Hug

Two Happy Boys!

With all the excitement of Jeff being home, life is starting speed up again...my some-what lazy summer is fading away quickly and the busy-craziness is about to begin again.  Jeff is back to work, JP started 3rd grade on Monday and school starts for me next week.  I will be insanely busy again teaching 2 classes, taking 2 classes, studying for my preliminary exams and writing my dissertation proposal.  But I will have Jeff around as my biggest cheerleader. 

And I have crock pot recipes like Easy-Peasy Ribs that will make my life just a little bit easier!

Easy-Peasy Ribs in the Crock Pot

1 rack of baby back ribs
2 T. liquid smoke

1 c. ketchup
1 T. molasses
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. liquid smoke
1 T. BBQ spice mix (Penzey's makes a few nice BBQ mixes...I like BBQ of the Americas)

Prepare the ribs by removing the thin membrane on the back (bone) side of the rack of ribs.  Cut the ribs into 3 or 4 pieces.  Each piece should contain 3-4 ribs.  Place the ribs in a crock pot that has been sprayed by cooking spray.  Pour the liquid smoke in the bottom of the crock pot.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  

Mix the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, liquid smoke and BBQ spice mix together.  Remove the ribs and drain the liquid.  Place the ribs back into the crock pot 1 piece at a time.  Slather each piece with the prepared BBQ sauce.  Continue until all of the ribs are sauced and in the crock pot.  Continue to cook the ribs on high for 30-60 minutes more to "bake" on the sauce.  Remove and enjoy!

You may want to double the BBQ sauce if you like your ribs saucy.  Also, instead of placing the sauced ribs back into the crock pot, you can place the ribs on a heated grill, brush on the sauce and cook for 10-15 minutes. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010


It is hot, hot, hot here.  How hot you may ask?  Hot.  The temperature is 103* and the heat index is 115*.  Hot.  Hot days call for cold drinks.  I wanted an adult beverage that was something fruity and  something that would quench my thirst.  This sangria fit the bill.  I combined several recipes that I found on the internet and came up with this concoction.  Enjoy~

Jen's Sangria

1 bottle red wine
1/2 c. Amaretto
1/2 c. orange flavored liquor (I used tangerine schnapps)
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. lemonade concentrate
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced
10 Marciano cherries

2 liters seltzer or soda water (or Lemon-lime soda)

Mix the bottle of wine, liquor, juices and fruit all together in a large picture.  Refrigerate until cold, the longer the better.  To serve, fill half of a glass with the sangria mix, fill the rest of the glass with the seltzer water.  Garnish with sliced fruit.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Carrot Cake

My cousin, Tina and her husband, Ron
 So a few days ago, I posted that I was going to make Carrot Cake for Jeff, since it is his favorite and he's returning after a year in Iraq.  I looked at my to go-to recipe site (www.allrecipes.com) and found one that had a lot of stars.  Of course, I was going to alter the recipe...cut the butter and sugar.  But then I heard from my cousin, Tina.  She had a tried and true Carrot Cake recipe that didn't have all of the butter and sugar and she said it was Divine.  Here's Tina's original recipe on her blog.  Since Jeff will be home sometime today, I made the cake yesterday, following Tina's recipe.  I did alter it a little.  I halved the recipe, which fit into a 9x9 inch pan and didn't use all whole wheat flour.  However, since I'm a sucker for frosting, I didn't half the frosting recipe. I think it will be wonderful!  We'll see if Jeff gives it two thumbs up...

I took a few pics of the cake this morning and they didn't come out very clear...the cake's been sitting in the refrigerator since it's hot as hades here and I didn't want the cream cheese icing to sour.  The pan has condensation on the outside and it gave the pictures a hazy quality.  Sooo, when we have the cake tonight, I'll take a few photos.  If I can remember! 

Carrot Cake
Serves 9

1/2 cups 100% whole wheat flour 
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon (highest quality you can afford- it will make a difference)
1/8 t ginger
1/8 t nutmeg
3/4 cups crushed canned pineapple, drained (get 1 large can and 1 small can, or 3 small cans minus a little)
1 T drained pineapple juice
2 T olive oil (extra-virgin)
1 large egg
1 cups grated/pureed carrot

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Grate/ puree carrots (about 3-4 med size) in food processor.  You want them to be closer to a pureed consistency for this cake, as seen in above picture.  It makes the cake more moist and more appealing to non-veggie lovers.
3. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.
4. Combine eggs and oil, whip together.
5. Add eggs/oil, carrots, pineapple, and pineapple juice to dry mixture and mix together with large spoon.  Batter will be thick.
6. Spray 9 x 9 inch glass pan and pour batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.
7. Cool before frosting

1 block softened Neufchatel cheese, found next to the cream cheese (you must soften it or the frosting won’t whip)
1 cup powdered sugar (add to taste)
1 1/2 T softened butter (must be soft too)

1. whip together cheese and butter
2. add powdered sugar to taste
3. spread over cake in thin layer (the less sugar you put in the less frosting you get but it tastes creamier so a thin layer is fine)

Review:  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  This cake was so very good.  The cake was moist and the ginger gave it a great flavor.  This is an absolutely great carrot cake!  Jeff did have a few suggestions to make it just a little bit better....raisins and pecans, so next time I make it, I'll add 1/2 c. raisins and 1/4 c. chopped pecans.  After JP tasted the frosting, he said that he's normally not a frosting kid, but this frosting was top notch and didn't make his stomach hurt!  :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

An Apron Give Away


Do you wear an apron when you cook?  Sadly, I've stained some shirts due to my messy cooking ways... and lack of an apron.  But I would love one of these super cute aprons!

Check out Boojiboo's Etsy site for some more fab apron fabrics and styles!  And then head on over to My Dolce Vita and enter a great give away!  (Hint:  It's pictured on my blog, and it's something I'd love to have!)

Carrot Cake


Within the next few days, Jeff will be home from a year-long deployment.  YIPEE!  This has been the longest year.  We've had a lot of changes (grad school) and Murphy's Law has been around our house a little too much (flooded basement several times, new appliances because the old ones quit working, half of a tree blew down, the mango incident ~FYI~ mangos are related to poison ivy and if you're really allergic to PI, you shouldn't touch mango skin and rub your face... I could go on and on... oh, and the garage door stopped working yesterday.)  I am so ready for it to be over and done with!  So JP and I are anxiously awaiting a phone call.  A watched pot never boils, and... well, a watched phone never rings!

Since Jeff is coming home, I'm making Carrot Cake.  It's Jeff's favorite.  And being the wonderful wife I am, I thought I'd whip some up.  I've never made it before (and we've been married for 15 years!)  I don't have a tried and true recipe, so I found one at allrecipes.com.  Carrot Cake III has 5 stars and 2727 reviews...so it must be a pretty good cake. 

I don't know if you've figured this out by now or not...  But I can't follow a recipe exactly.  I'm always modifying recipes as I make them.  Most of the time it works.  However, some of my modifications have ended not so great...  TLS recipes.  Last week JP and I had a tasty honey curry pasta salad.  It was...  well...  a TLS recipe.  Hopefully my changes will work their magic this time!  I'm planning on cutting back on the sugar in the cake and frosting, using half whole wheat flour, half white flour, substituting applesauce for some of the oil, using half the amount of pecans, adding some crushed pineapple, coconut and nutmeg.  So basically, I'm changing the whole recipe.

Here's the original recipe.  I'll post my adaptations and my review (hopefully it won't be branded TLS) after I make it.  It's supposed to cool down to a balmy 95 degrees for the next few days, so I can bake and not worry about my AC bill.  bahhhaahahhhaaaah

Carrot Cake III
Rated: rating
Prep Time: 30 Minutes Ready In: 2 Hours
Submitted By: Tammy Elliott Cook Time: 1 Hour Servings: 18
"I've tried many carrot cakes, and this is my favorite recipe. If you don't like pecans, feel free to leave them out."
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
4. To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in chopped pecans. Frost the cooled cake.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2010 Allrecipes.com Printed from Allrecipes.com 8/3/2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Food Confessions

Windy Poplars

Over at Windy Poplars, Kristin is leading a "Confession Week."  Today is "Food Confessions."  Hmmm, I think I might have one or two... or three...  OK, I might have a few.  So head over to Windy Poplars, grab the linky and post your food confessions! 

We're defining "confession" this week as: something that makes you, YOU! A quirk, a passion, a bad habit, a good habit, etc. It might even be something obvious, but more likely something we'd never guess about you!

  •  When it comes to grocery shopping, I try not to be a label snob.  I know off brand labels are cheaper to buy.  The Walmart or Kroger brand can be so much cheaper, but there are a few things that I will pay extra for. 

      Mayo:  Hellman's or Best Foods (depending on which side of the Mississippi River you live on) Ketchup:  Heinz

    Cooking spray:  Pam
    Toothpaste:  Crest (it doesn't matter what kind, it just has to be Crest!  OK, I know that toothpaste isn't food, but I buy it at the grocery store)  
    Mac and Cheese:  Kraft
    Peanut Butter:  Jif (Choosy Mom's Choose Jif!)
    Tortilla Chips Tostitos
    Cereal:  Cheerios (Toasty O's just don't taste the same!)
    Creamer:  Coffee Mate liquid.  It doesn't matter what flavor, just as long as it's Coffee Mate!
    Orange juice:  Minute Maid
    Chocolate Chips:  Toll House
    There are a few other things, but this is my list offhand!  
    • Another grocery store confession.  I'm a little embarrassed about this one... but... here it goes....  I judge people by what is in their grocery cart.  I do!  Really!  Don't come around me if you see me in the grocery store!  If your cart (or buggy...depending on where you live) has loaves of white Wonder bread, Ramen soup, processed food, more than a 12 pack of soda (or pop...again, depending on where you live) or junk food, I will raise my eyebrows at you.  I'll compare my cart and the goodness of whole wheat bread, whole foods and veggies with your cart of not so healthy junk.  Whew... there, I confessed it.
    • I love leftovers!  A lot of times, food tastes better the second day!  
    •  I love looking at cooking/kitchen magazines and catalogs.  Cooking Light, King Arthur Flour, Penzies, Penzies One, Chef Catalog, William-Sonoma, Sur LA Table, just to name a few.  I also love to look at the kitchens in Home Depot or even in magazines ads and pick out elements of my dream kitchen.
    • I love sharing recipes!  I know people who dread cooking and often eat out, or eat prepackaged meals.  It's easy, cheaper and so much better for you to cook at home...OK, sometimes it's not easy...  But home cooked food usually tastes so much better than prepackaged stuff.  I'm glad to share my recipes with anyone so they can make awesome food at home.
    Ok, that's it!  I could go on and on about food, but I'll stop here...these are my most interesting!  Have a great day, and happy cooking!

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Frozen Fruit Cup

    I had Frozen Fruit Cups the very first time I visited Dunlap, Iowa.

    Jeff and I had been married for almost 6 months, but we had been living in different countries.  He was in Ft. Benning, Georgia and I was in Wiesbaden, Germany.  Early Christmas morning in 1995, I flew from Germany to Omaha, Nebraska.  By the time we finally got to Dunlap, it was evening and we had presents to open!  What a LONG day!  It was a Christmas to remember...a lot of firsts!  A few days later, we had a wedding reception for friends and family who couldn't make it to our wedding, which was in Maine.  My parents even came to the reception!  After spending the holidays in Dunlap, Jeff and I drove to Columbus, Georgia and began our married life in the same country!

    Back to the Frozen Fruit Cup.  After they sit at room temperature, the fruit cups are slushy, refreshing and so good!  They are great for a brunch, a snack, or dessert!

    Frozen Fruit Cups
    1 large can crushed pineapple (undrained)
    1/2 jar Maraschino cherries, cut in half (also add 1/2 of the cherry juice)
    4 bananas, sliced
    2 liters, soda (7-Up, Spite; diet or regular)
    1/4 c. lemon juice
    1-12 ounce can of orange juice concentrate, undiluted
    2 cans Mandarin oranges, undrained

    In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together.  Spoon into small plastic punch cups, making sure the cups are not filled more than 3/4ths full.  Place in the freezer and freeze until solid.  Once the fruit cups are frozen, cover each cup with tin foil.  

    Tip:  Place the cups in an empty 9x13 inch pan or a cup cake tin.  This will contain any spills (in the freezer or on the counter!) and will allow for easier transport!