Monday, October 10, 2011

Falling for Fall...

 I think a picture is worth a thousand words and a taste is worth a thousand and one.  So take a look at this pic and then go make this cake...dude, NOW!

Luscious Four -Layer Pumpkin Cake
adapted from

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin, divided
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup oil or applesauce
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 (8oz) brick light cream cheese
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups thawed whipped cream
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • Heat oven to 350.  Grease 2 (9 inch) round pans.  Beat cake mix, 1 cup of pumpkin, milk, oil, (or applesauce) and 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice.  Mix until well blended and pour into prepared cake pans.
  • Bake 26-28 minutes or until knife comes out clean.  Cool cakes completely on wire racks.
  • Beat cream cheese.  Add powdered sugar, remaining pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla.  Mix well and then gently fold in whipped cream.
  • Cut each cake layer in half with a serrated knife. Stack on serving plate, spreading cream cheese mixture between each layer.  (Do not frost top layer.)
  • Drizzle cake with caramel sauce just before serving and then sprinkle with nuts.
I promise there will be RAVE reviews!  Eat well this Fall my friends!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Ahhh...warming ya inside and out.  This spicy butternut squash soup was the perfect way to warm up my parents, who are visiting our wet cold WA from the dry heat of AZ.  The bold, spicy flavors are balanced with the creamy coconut milk and sweetness of the apple.  You will finish your bowl filling full, satisfied and most importantly warm and toasty!

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup minced fresh peeled ginger
4 bay leaves
1/2 T crushed red pepper flakes
1 large butternut squash (about 2 1/2 lbs), peeled, seeded and cut into chunks.
1/2 cup apple, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. curry powder
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 T. sugar
1 15 oz. can coconut milk
5 spicy chicken sausage, casings removed and then chopped (I use the ones you can find at Costco)
Freshly chopped cilantro
Extra coconut milk to drizzle...mmmm.

  • Heat oil in large stock pot over meduim heat. Add onion and cook about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger, and continue to stir, cooking for about 3 more minutes.  Add bay leaves and red peppers.  Stir in squash, apple, curry powder and salt, cook for 10 minutes.
  • Raise heat to medium high and add chicken stock.  Cover and bring to boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring and mashing every 5 minutes.  Add sugar and cook another 5 minutes.  Add coconut milk and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove bay leaves (don't need anyone choking on those babies!)  Using an immersion blender, or in batches using a regular blender, puree until smooth.
  • Reheat soup and add sausage.  Season with more salt if necessary, drizzle with extra coconut milk and garnish with cilantro.
  • Eat well and stay warm my friends!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Back to school...

"Back to school, to prove to Dad I'm not a fool..." (Billy Madison, thank you!)

Well, it's back to school time here and one delicious indulgence that I always equate to an "after-school snack" is the notorious NO-BAKE COOKIE.  I know, I know, everyone and their grandma has a recipe for this, but I just could not think of any better way to say "Welcome back to school kiddos!"

Even though this cookie is laden with everything naughty (butter, sugar, peanut butter, etc.) I feel like the best mom EVER giving them to my kids after a hard day's work at school...and I then a shove a carrot down their throats. 
Eat well my friends!

No Bake Cookies
1/2 cup real butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar
3 T. cocoa powder
dash of salt
1/2 cup peanut butter (I prefer creamy, but I suppose chunky would work.)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups oatmeal (you can substitute a cup of oatmeal for coconut, if ya really wanna get exciting!)

On med-high heat, combine butter, milk, sugar, cocoa, and salt. Bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 long minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper and let cool or go ahead and scorch your entire mouth by sneaking spoonfuls of this chocolatey molten lava.  I won't tell.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mc Donald's...

Wanna know what kind week I've had?

We went to McDonald' was bad...done.

Eat better than I have this week my friends!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Holy Ham!  Literally.  The Easter ham dinner was delicious, but my word...what to do with all the leftovers?  Well, this chick is not the most creative one of the bunch, so here's a recipe for a soup that truly received all the leftover goodness .  It's a pretty basic ham and bean soup that was scrumptious on it's own, but then I threw the leftover funeral potatoes and BAM!  Outta sight!  Hope you enjoy!

Ham and White Bean soup
adapted from For the Love of Cooking
2 celery stalks, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups ham, chopped
3 cans white beans, drained and rinsed (Great Northern or Navy works)
1 can diced tomatoes
4 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used a homemade ham stock, but chicken works great.)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste
*Totally optional, but I put in about 1 1/2 cup of leftover funeral potatoes


Prep your veggies.  Try to make your dices on all the veggies uniform.

    Spray a large pot with non-stick cooking spray and begin to heat over medium high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery.  Saute until tender.  

Add garlic, ham and tomatoes. Cook for another minute or so, then add stock, 2 cans of beans, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf.  

 Cook over medium low heat for 1 1/2-2 hours.  Remove bay leaf.  Blend soup with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender, or heck, just use a hand held mixer.  Add remaining beans and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.  You can also add any other "leftovers" at this time.  
Serve this bad boy up with some leftover rolls or a good crusty bread that can sop up all the last little bits.  Mmmm...

Eat well my friends, even if it is leftovers!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicken Shawarma...a pocket full of love.

So as I previously mentioned, I spent part of my childhood growing up in Saudi Arabia.  Some of my earliest memories are of walking the streets of Khobar with my family, having an ancient Arab man, with skin like leather, wanting to touch wisps of my flaxen blond hair.  And the toothless shriveled woman relentlessly insisting that my parents buy a beautiful beaded necklace for each of their 5 daughters.  And the smells...even twenty plus years later, (please, don't do the math!) I can remember the musty, spice infused air.

When we moved bask to the USA my family continued to embrace the Arab culture and cuisine.  It was part of our family...our roots.  Even though I was a very finicky eater growing up, there was something about Arabic food that I loved.  I remember asking my mom to make sambuseks and baklava for special occasions.  Such exquisite memories...I feel kind bad to digress and show this hilarious video, buuuut it just fit too well with the Arab food theme I'm going for.

Hope you get a laugh from the video and enjoy the recipe for Chicken Shawarmas, which is, BY FAR, my most favorite meal ever. 

Chicken Shawarma


1 T ground coriander
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground cardamom
1 T chili powder
1 T. grill seasoning, Montreal recommended
1 tsp. smoked paprika
juice of 1 lemon
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (yes I use the sue me!)

pita bread
tzatziki sauce, recipe as follows


   Preheat outdoor or indoor grill to high.

In bowl, combined all of the spices.  Take a moment and just breath that aroma in.  It is intoxicating!  Add lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.  Stir until paste like.  You can add a little bit of water if necessary.

Take you mixture and slather all over the chicken until it is well coated.

Transfer chicken to the grill and cook on each side 6-7 minutes, 
until it is cooked through.

Remove chicken from grill and let the chicken rest before thinly slicing.

For bell pepper mixture, heat a large skillet pan over medium-high heat.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray or use a little olive oil.  Once pan is heated up, add peppers and onions.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.

Once veggies begin to wilt, add tomatoes and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Place pita bread on grill to warm them and give them a nice light char.  To assemble, place chicken on pita, top with pepper and onion mixture, and then add hummus and tzatziki sauce.

  Oh my, eat well my friends!!

**On a side note, I have also made kabobs out out this recipe and works out great too.  Just omit cooking the veggies and skewer them along with chicken.  Dee-lish!!

Tzatziki Sauce

6 oz Greek style yogurt
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp dill
1 T mayo
1-2 T lemon juice, depending on how much *zing* you want
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up and serve with anything.  Makes a great low fat, high protein veggie dip.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Safura's Mediterranean Cuisine

Have you ever found a pair of shoes that just screams YOU!?  The perfect style, perfect color...everything about them makes you want to like them...maybe even love them.  But alas, there's just one fatal flaw...they don't fit and no matter how hard you try to force your pretty lil' foot in there, it's just not going to happen.  That's, unfortunately how I felt when I dined at Safura's in Lacey, WA this past weekend.  There were so many things to like about this Mediterranean restaurant.  The staff was warm and genuine, the prices were very reasonable, and there was a variety of entrees to choose from.  The fatal flaw...the food just wasn't that good. 

The restaurant itself is clean and inviting.  I loved the Arab teapots and other authentic Middle Eastern pieces that decorated the walls.  Our waitress was extremely kind and was quick to take our orders.  The prices generally ranged around $7-$10 per plate.  Kid's meals were also a good price at $3-$4.

For our appetizers we ordered the dolmas, which are grape leaves stuffed with rice, parsley and other herbs and spices.   The dolmas had a nice bright flavor to them, but they were served on a plate swimming in a pool of some unknown congealed substance.  It was very off putting to say the least.  We also ordered some hummus and pita bread.  The hummus had a super creamy consistency, but I could have used a little bit more lemon juice to liven up the flavor.  My husband loved the quart of olive oil they poured on top, but I thought it was a bit too much.  The pita bread delicious.  Warm and tender and yes, you'll need to order extra.

For our main courses we decided to go with a Gyro combo (pronounced yee-roh) and a Chicken Shawarma platter.  I'll just let my 7 year old do the critiquing of the gyro....

"Mom, this gyro meat tastes like beef jerky.  And mom, my mouth is starting to hurt."

Although the gyro meat flavors were delicious, especially when combined with their cool, creamy tzatziki sauce, the texture of the meat was unforgivable.  At least the french fries served on the side were a little bit more "jaw friendly".  The Chicken Shawarma platter had a really good display of flavors.  The grilled spiced chicken was mixed with chopped bell peppers and onions and served with an overwhelming side of rice.  Again though, the dish had all the inspirational Mediterranean flavors but lacked the succulent, juicy meat.  I seriously had to slather each bite in hummus or tzatziki sauce so I wouldn't choke trying to get it down.

I have a personal love and strong connection to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food because I spent part of my childhood in Saudi Arabia.  Every time I eat it, I feel like I know where my roots started to grow. When I saw that Safura's offered potentially great authentic Mediterranean food I, just like with the shoes, wanted to love this place.  But when it all came down to it, the fit just wasn't right for me.  Maybe it will be good for someone else, but I'm not going to force it.  That would just be painful...EAT WELL MY FRIENDS!
Safura's Mediterranean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Checkered tablecloth is on it's way!!

It's Spring time!  Time for grilling, BBQs, and frolicking in the sun...oh wait, I live in WA.  That won't happen for another 3 months.  Well, even though the weather in WA doesn't seem to want to cooperate with me, I'm going to lure the sun out with the idea of a big family picnic.  Imagine tables lined with red checked table cloths, filled with tantalizing BBQ beef, crisp veggies, chips, dip and an assortment of salads, ranging from the infamous Jell-o salad to a refreshing spinach and strawberry salad.  Kids running through the sprinklers with squeals of laughter.  Ahh, I have seen the light!  Spring is on it's way to WA whether it likes it or not!  Here's a great recipe to get us started on the path to fun in the sun!

BBQ Beef

3 lbs beef or pork roast
1 cup ketchup
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cut the roast in half and place in slow cooker.  Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl.  Pour over the roast.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Remove roast from the sauce, cool slightly.  Trim off fat (no one wants wiggly meat!) Shred meat with two forks.  Pour sauce into separate bowl.  Add shredded meat back into slow cooker.  Slowly coat with sauce until it's as "wet" as you like it.  Cover and cook on high for another 15-30 minutes.  Serve it up on a heavy duty bun with a serving of cool and creamy coleslaw and a side of Spring time lovin'!

Eat well my friends!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Famous Dave's

I'mm baaack!  Geez after this past week of Spring Break madness it's amazing that I still have my head on.  It's not on straight, but at least it is on.  Kuddos for me.  So as I said, this past week was Spring Break so there was a lot of "kid choices" when it came to dining out, but come on, even Chuck E. Cheese tastes pretty good if you don't have to cook it or clean up.  But, alas, towards the end of the week I put my foot down and said, "It's BBQ time!"

Seeing how I haven't found a good BBQ place here in Lacey or Olympia WA (I'll take suggestions, please!) we decided to hit up one of our favorite BBQ places in Tacoma...Famous Dave's.  Okay call me a corporate junkie, but I love Famous Dave's.  They have consistently good food and a great atmosphere.  On our last lunch visit, we were greeted by a lovely hostess.  She was quick to smile and engage in some friendly chit chat with the kiddos.  We were seated and given a few minutes to peruse the menu.  They have some decent lunch specials that have smaller portions, but still all the lip smackin' flavor.  A one meat combo plate was $8.99 and a two meat combo was  $9.99.  A little spendy for lunch, it's worth it to save your pennies up. After we ordered our waitress brought us a bowl of homemade potato chips for dipping and explained what all the different sauces they offered were. There was the Rich & Sassy that has a great blend a tang and sweet.  The Georgia Mustard is obviously a mustard based sauce that gets your mouth watering.  The Texas Pit is great for chicken or brisket.  The Sweet and Zesty has a "right out of the pit" flavor.  And my personal favorite, Devil's Spit has just the right amount of heat.

Yeah it's a lil' sloppy, but hey, it's BBQ!

I decided to go with the Georgia chopped pork with a side of baked beans.  Hubby went with St. Louis style ribs and the brisket with a side of potato salad.  Each meal also came with perfect corn on the cob and a cornbread muffin that was to die for.  They were deliciously moist and you could see the honey baked into them.  Kid meals were your typical chicken fingers, corn dogs, mac and cheese, but my oldest was pretty stoked that they had a Rib meal.  He's a carnivore.  My chopped pork was delicious.  Fork tender and full of flavor.  I doused it with just the right amount of Devil's Spit and was in heaven...hmmm, maybe not with the "Devil's Spit".  Hee hee.  My baked beans were really loaded with chopped pork, brisket, and jalapenos.  I probably could have eaten just those, but I think the fam would have been pretty upset with me.  The ribs my hubby ordered were ultra tender and had a great bark to them.  The meat literally fell right off the bone and may I say, there was a lot of meat to those puppies.  His brisket was a bit dry and lacked in the flavor department. Unfortunately was not on my favorite list. Some how he ended up with an order of wings too.  They were meaty and juicy, but definitely not your tear jerking heat.  I like to glisten when I eat my wings.  (That's a nice way of saying sweat!) Since potato salad and I have a mutual hatred, I can only tell you that the hubby said it was rich and creamy.  Just like Mom use to make.

Great meal and to top it all off, we ordered a bread pudding to share.  Even with the five us eating, it was a huge portion a of mushy goodness slathered with a decadent pecan praline sauce.  Hello sticky fingers!

So I usually try to search out local venues and support them, but even though Famous Dave's in a "chain restaurant" I really enjoy their family friendly atmosphere and consistently good food.  Sometimes that's the benefit of going to a corporate chain.  You always know what you are going to get.
Famous Dave's on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 4, 2011

Food Stories

I love how food tells a story. I believe that's what recipes stories. The sloppy PB and J I made my 2 year old the other day told the story of how absurdly busy the day had been, while the stuffed pork loin I attempted to make last night was the story of culinary inspiration and stepping outside of my cooking comfort zone. Whatever the food is, it always has a story behind it. This past weekend I was able to reflect on my own food heritage as I poured through some old cookbooks. I found my first Disney cookbook, with the page for "Sleeping Beauty's Spinning Wheels" still dog-eared. I pulled out my favorite cookbook devoted only to chocolate (can we say chocoholic?), and then I pulled out the smallest cookbook I have. While it's worn edges tell the story of frequent use and the fact that it automatically falls open to one recipe shows that I have utilized this book for one recipe and one recipe only.

This recipe, or food story, has been past down for generations, as it is a treasured pioneer recipe. I love the fact that the pioneer dishes had to be simple, yet substantial. I can just imagine these rockin' pioneer women making these beauties up after an strenuous day of walking, running, pulling, chasing, etc.  The last thing they probably wanted to do after setting up camp was to make dinner, but they did it, and they did it with love. I'm sure the chorus of appreciation was sung numerous times for those strong pioneer women. Those gals knew how to cook!

Now don't get freaked out by the name of the recipe. No porcupines were harmed in making this dish! I've made a few changes to the original recipe to reduce some calories and fat. Serve it up with a big green salad and you have a great balanced meal!

Porcupine Meatballs

  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
    • 2 lbs lean ground meat (you can use turkey)
    • 2 T flour
    • 1 tsp. crushed rosemary
    • 1 tsp. chopped onion
    • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
    • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 egg, slightly beaten

    Combine all ingredients for sauce in large pot.  Cover and place over low heat to simmer.
    Combine all ingredients for meatballs and form into balls about the size of walnuts.  Spray non-stick spray into pan and brown meatballs evenly.  As they brown, drop them into sauce...try not to splatter sauce everywhere.  I'm totally not speaking from experience.
    Cover tightly and simmer away for about 40 minutes.

    *If you are using ground turkey, be VERY careful when browning.  They tend to fall apart more easily.  Still tastes good though :)

    So now friends, go make you own food stories and eat well in the process!!

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Deep fried what?!!

      Pickles!  Okay I know what you are thinking, that is gross.  Maybe it is, I don't know, but when I had these the other day I HAD to find a recipe for them.  Try 'em out and see what you think!

    Deep Fried Pickles

    adapted from Jennifer Clement of Maggie's Pickle Cafe


    • 12 dill pickle spears, chilled
    • Egg wash, recipe follows
    • Breading, recipe follows
    • Canola oil, for frying
    • Ranch dressing for dippin'


    Using very cold dill pickle spears, dip pickle into egg wash and then coat with breading.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.
    In a deep fryer, heat oil to 375 degrees F. Alternatively, heat oil in a large, heavy pot suitable for deep-frying. Carefully add chilled pickle spears, in batches, to the hot oil and fry for about 3 1/2 minutes or until golden. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve with Ranch dressing.


    Egg Wash:
    1 cups milk
    1 eggs
    Pinch lemon pepper
    Pinch dill weed
    Pickle juice

    1 cup cornmeal
    1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup lemon pepper
    1/4 cup dill weed
    2 teaspoons paprika
    1 teaspoons garlic salt
    Pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste

    For egg wash: In a baking dish, whisk all ingredients together, except pickle juice. Add pickle juice, to taste, and whisk to combine.
    For breading: Combine all ingredients in a baking dish.

    Eat funky well my friends!

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    The family that eats together...eats more together!!

    Do you have a person in your life that just makes you laugh so hard that you literally can't breath some times?  I am lucky enough to have 6 incredible women in my life that leave me in stitches every time I am around them and this past weekend was no exception. My crazy sisters, awesome Mom and I lived, laughed, and of course ATE it up for our "Sneak Attack" getaway.  I'm usually not one for glutenous behavior, but man, it was fun this weekend to enjoy a wide array of culinary tastes that Utah had to offer.

    My sister, who just happens to be 8 months pregnant with her first girl (she already has 3 boys!) and who was had no idea we were coming to visit her (we are sneaky like that) just so happened to meet us all at Siegfried's of Salt Lake City.  Siegfried's is an fantastic German restaurant that offers a huge menu of traditional German entrees, sides and a great "build your own sandwich" option.  It is also has terrific grocery selection that makes you want to hop on the next plane to Berlin.   Between all us gals, who had only eaten a handful of stale airplane pretzels and a swig of flat Diet Coke, ended up ordering a few Reubens, Bratwurst, Knockwurst, warm German potato salad, spaetzle, and rotkhol.  Oh and did I mention that we also piled on a German chocolate cake, cheesecake, and a chocolate hazelnut cake?  We know how to party!  The Reuben was the best I have ever had.  Flavorful, juicy and very filling.  Perfect meat to sauerkraut ratio and was grilled up right before my eyes.  Dee-lish!  The Brats had a great snap to them and seriously were bursting with Germany goodness.  I loved their rotkhol, which is a sweet and sour red cabbage.  It had wonderful texture and fantastic bold zing to it.  Great German food and even more amazing was the company in which it was enjoyed with.
    Siegfried's Deli on Urbanspoon

     The Garden
    The next day of our visit, we collectively decided to skip breakfast.  Usually I advise against this, but considering we spent the entire night prior polishing off 3 bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs, coconut M&M's, and Reese's peanut butter eggs (dang Easter candy!!) it was a necessary action so we could thoroughly enjoy our lunch/baby shower at the Garden Restaurant.  Located in the Joseph Smith Memorial building in Temple Square, this restaurant had an awe-inspiring view of downtown Salt Lake City.  The environment is was so refreshing and light.  Beautiful, vibrant flowers decorated the dining area while a retractable glass roof opened to reveal a brilliant blue sky.  A perfect setting for a group of crazy sisters and their mom to gaggle and laugh the afternoon away.  Oh yes, and the food was divine as well.  I have to admit, after everything was ordered and eaten, I've decided that the BEST thing I had that afternoon was the fried pickle appetizer.  I don't know, maybe it's because it was a freakin' baby shower, but I must have been having sympathy cravings from my sister!  Regardless, these babies were so yummy!  Breaded in panko bread crumbs and deep fried to perfection, this appetizer was a pleasant surprise to my taste buds.  Mmm...

    Here are a few of the entrees that were ordered.  A cool and crisp raspberry salad, which had a beautiful presentation with a crunchy fried plantain crisp.  The dressing was a vividly eye catching color, but was overly sweet for my liking .  Also a classic grilled cheese with tomato soup.  The tomato soup was warm, comforting and had a great depth to it's flavor and the sandwich was buttery and delicious, oozing cheesy goodness.  We also had the Philly cheese steak sandwich, which was good, but needed about twice as much meat for the roll it was served on.  Another deliciously spicy sandwich that graced our plates was the Cajun chicken sandwich.  It had a perfect blend of heat that was balanced with a cool guacamole.  We were provided with a wonderful meal and great service.  Our waiter even brought us a huge bowl of mints after my sister told him they were her favorite! Good man giving the pregnant woman what she wants!

    I truly can not fathom how much food we ingested, and also what an absurd amount of fun we had in such a short amount of time. I also can't believe how hard I am working out this week to pay it off! Every bit worth it! I love my crazy, beautiful, jaw dropping, abundant, joyous, daring, inspiring, big hearted family! Here's to the next party! Until then, eat well my friends.

    The Spaetzle, The Asiago, The Target, The German,
    The Sugar High, Genghis Mom, and The Ruffle

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Ode to camping

    Some people may think that camping is nature's way of promoting the hotel industry, but I love to camp.  It's actually one of those things that my husband and I feel for each other doing.  Our courtship consisted of rock climbing adventures, mountain biking accidents and good ol' camping fun.  One time, a few weeks before we got married, we were sitting around the camp fire and "nature called".  I quietly muttered under my breath, "Dude, I hate peeing in the wilderness."  I went and did my thing and came sat back down next to my honey.  All of the sudden, he got icy cold with me.  We're talking wouldn't even hold my hand!  What had I done?  Was this the end of the dynamic duo?  After about 20 grueling minutes of intense silence I finally asked what on earth his problem was.  He looked me dead in the eyes and said, "I thought you liked camping and all this outdoor stuff.  You just said you hated being in the wilderness!!"   Oh the look of sheer joy and relief that washed across that poor man's face when I told him what I had really said was PRICELESS!  "Peeing Chad...not being!  Geez, man!"  Ah good times.  Here's to more stupendous camping memories to come!!

    Smore's Bars

    3/4 cup butter
    2/3 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    18 whole graham crackers, crushed, about 3 cups
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    8 milk chocolate bars, approximately 1 1/2 ounces each
    3 cups miniature marshmallows

    Heat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in crushed graham crackers, flour, and salt. Reserve 1 cup of the graham cracker mixture and press remaining mixture over the bottom of a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Arrange chocolate bars, in a single layer, over graham cracker crust mixture in the pan. Sprinkle with marshmallows. Crumbled reserved graham cracker mixture over the marshmallows. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely and cut into bars. 

    It's not the best camping weather here in WA just yet, but it's right around the corner...I can feel it!  Hopefully I can bribe the weather gods with these treats!  Eat well my friends!

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Don't call it's KIMBAP!!

    So as I mentioned earlier, when I was pregnant with my first crazy kiddo I was a Korean food fanatic. Something about the garlicky and spicy flavor combinations appeased my overwhelming desire to go....I'm just gonna stop there. We all know what pregnant people want to do most of the day. This is a food blog and I shall refrain from digressing. Moving on...When I was about 8 month pregnant and inhaling everything in sight, my husband and I were invited over for dinner by a group of crazy Korean bachelors.  They thought my hubby was a bit of an oddity being a young white dude and speaking perfectly good Korean. Needless to say, they thought they'd test him out to see how good he REALLY was.   They made us a delicious traditional Korean meal and had, I'm assuming (it was all in Korean), a great conversation with Chad.  I just sat back, ate and listened.  When I saw that they had made kimbap (pronounce khee-bahp) I told them that I LOVED sushi.
    "No, no. This is not sushi! This, is Kimbap!"
    Well, they told me.  They were a great group of guys and gave us a wonderful lil' baby gift that we still have hanging above our son's doorway...and he is 8!  So, here's to you boys of the Korean bachelor pad.  My recipe for KIMBAP!

    Truly, it's not much of a recipe as it is a procedure.  You can really put whatever the heck you want in it. 

    Some things that are traditionally found are:

    fried egg
    pickled radish (takuan)
    imitation crab meat

    The list could go on forever.  You could even do BBQ beef and coleslaw or chicken, spinach and bacon!!

    Some items that you most definitely will need are:

    • Kim (roasted seaweed) - you can find this at any Asian market or I have even seen it at WalMart...if you are desperate.
    • 4 cups cooked rice, short grain.  Make sure the temp is warm.  Not hot, not cold...warm.
    • sesame oil
    • toasted sesame seeds, ok this is optional...but if sure makes it taste and look good!
    • bamboo rolling mat

    First off, you will need to prep all of your fixings.  Try to cut everything about the same length and size.  I'm just nutty like that.  I also like to season my rice by mixing in a little of the sesame oil into it.  Remember, a little goes a long way!

    Next, take your kim and put it on your bamboo mat.  Give about 3/4 of the kim a layer of rice (about 1 cup) leaving a 1/2 in border. 

     Then, at the bottom of you sheet you will want to put your fixings next to and on top of each other.  
    Get them all comfy and cozy with each other.

    Now, just roll with it baby.  You will want to try to tuck and roll to keep everything in. 

    Right before you get to the end of the roll, wet the edge with a tiny bit of water and finish rolling.  Give it a few slight squeezes.  There is nothing too tricky this.  It may take a few attempts, but once you get the hang of it, it's a piece-o-cake.

    To finish these little beauties up, gently slice through the rolls, wiping your knife every so often to prevent it from sticking.  Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds and KIMBAP!

    Your finished product is a super healthy and fun snack.  You can dip them in soy sauce or just eat them plain.  Even my kiddos dig these lil' circles of deliciousness.  Get creative and experiment!  Let me know if you try them out, how it worked, and what you put in them.  Eat well my friends!!

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    #1 Korean BBQ

    Kimchi...oh just the mention of it can make some people's nose hairs curl in disdain. As one of Korea's most well known foods, this funky fermented cabbage is an "acquired taste".   My husband, having immersed himself for 2 years in Korea and the Korean culture, hails himself to be some what of an expert on Korean cuisine.  When he first attempted to get me to eat kimchi, I literally turned my nose up at it.  I had to do some thing to get it away from its pungent fragrance.  But I did soften up and I was hooked on kimchi when I was pregnant with kiddo #1.  Yep, kimchi and cream filled doughnuts kept me content for a whole 9 months.  Don't let my hubby tell you otherwise!! 

    In Lacey and Olympia, there are a few Korean restaurants.  One that my family and I have grown to really enjoy is the #1 Korean BBQ.  Family owned and operated, we are always greeted with a warm smile and seated quickly.  You have the option of eating at a regular table or, if you chose to, you can BBQ your own meat at one of their special  tables that has a grill in the middle of it.  You cook, they'll be happy with your food.

    Their menu offers many authentic Korean dishes such as, Doenjang Jigae (a soybean paste soup), Bulgolgi (thinly sliced meat that has been marinated in a delicious sauce.  Literally means "fire meat" because you grill it up.), and Dolsot Bibimbap (a Korean "stir fry", if you will.  Usually served in a piping hot stone bowl.)

    After ordering your entree  you will be brought 6-8 Korean side dishes called, Banchan.  Some of the most commonly served are kimchi, seasoned bean sprouts, roasted anchovies (don't be intimidated.  They are REALLY good!), spicy cucumbers, and pickled radishes.  I always feel like I am getting a meal before my meal with these.  Bonus!  They are very flavorful and a perfect way to start your meal. 

    Dolsot bibimbap with egg on top.

    On our most recent visit, my husband and I ordered the Dolsot Bibimbap and the Bulgolgi.  Both came out piping hot, one still cooking in a stone bowl (make sure you request that your bibimbap be "dolsot" if you want it in the stone bowl!) and the other sizzling on a cast iron skillet.  My husband always orders his bibimbap with an egg on top.  It may cost you an extra buck, but it makes the dish very tasty.  If you do order any of the different types of bibimbap, let the rice continue to cook on the sides of the bowl.  It becomes a lil' crispy layer of goodness that provides wonderful texture to the dish. A top the rice was various veggies and thinly sliced beef.  It was a little overcooked, but I think that is nature of Korean cuisine.  My hubby mixed everything together and added some gochujang (a chili pepper paste) to kick up the heat a notch.  The different flavors and textures make this dish a winner in my book!  My Bulgolgi was also a very rewarding dish.  The beef is marinated in a soy based sauce to provide an excellent flavor and enhance the tenderness of the meat.  They provide, lettuce leaves, whole cloves of garlic, and an excellent dipping sauce called samjang.  Wrap everything up in a lettuce leaf for little package full of flavor being delivered straightaway to your face!! 
    Dolsot bibimbap all mixed up!

    Even though I wouldn't consider this the best Korean food I have ever had, it is a great place to experience good Korean food.  Always fast, ALWAYS friendly, I feel confident in recommending others to go enjoy some delightful Korean eats there.  They also sell their homemade kimchi if you decide that it's something you just can't live without it. One last  thing that I love about this place is that they do offer a military discount of 10%.  You may leave this place smelling of something fierce, but your bellies will be full and satisfied.  Eat well my friends!
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