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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chew on This | Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

We have lots of wonderful local and national parks around us that we visit often. One, in particular, has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid - and it is now the favorite of my children. It's spectacular! 

There are awesome hiking trails - varying in degree of effort needed to traverse, though none is too laboring. There are picnic areas tucked into private corners. There is a weeping garden full of so many varieties of weeping plants and trees. Hundreds of tree and plant species are marked for your learning convenience (which was so very handy when The Boy was studying for the Science Olympiad Forestry category earlier this year). One of the most unique areas of the park is the herb and flower garden. We are fascinated by it and have learned so much about culinary and medicinal herbs and flowers. And I can't say enough about the Nature Center - holy moly - it is packed to the gills with displays and interactive learning centers. The park rangers and volunteers are the kindest, and they are brimming with information. Wow, can you tell it's a very special place for us?  

This park is always such a joy to visit! And no matter how often we go, it is always an adventure and always, always fun.*


Monday, August 4, 2014

Chew on This | Philly-ish Stuffed Peppers

The Husband was working out of town on business last week. The kids and I were plugging along with our week when suddenly we felt the itch for an adventure. So, we decided to drive up to where The Husband was working and turn his business into our business. 

We packed up and headed off - and had bunches of fun! Which is what we always hope for when we act upon that spontanoius desire to get up and go. We explored and stretched our minds. We indulged, we saw new places, new things, and even some pretty famous people (!!!). You just never know what will happen when you decide to change things up and chase adventure. 

Our spontaneous trip ended yesterday. We are all feeling happy to be home. We are all feeling full, our impromptu trip satisfying our impulse to scout out adventure. And we are all feeling grateful - for everything.


Here's our recipe:

Being spontaneous is wonderful, but can sometimes cramp your return-home dinner preparations. No worries - having seen several recipes for Philly Cheese Steak Peppers on Pinterst, I knew I had what I needed to make something that resembled these tasty looking morsels. And let me tell you - They. Were. Awesome. Do something spontaneous tonight, make these babies for dinner.

Philly-ish Stuffed Peppers

3 sweet bell peppers, sliced in half (top to bottom) seeds and stem removed 
2 T butter, divided
1/2 sweet large onion, chopped
12 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces deli roast beef, sliced into strips
1/2 - 1 t steak seasoning (I used Penzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning)
salt/pepper to taste
6 slices Havarti cheese
1/2 C shredded mozzarella

Preheat your oven to 350℉. Line a baking dish with foil and spray it with cooking spray.

When the oven is ready, place the bell peppers into the baking dish and place into the oven for 10-13 minutes. 

While the peppers are baking, sauté the onions, in a pan over medium heat, in 1 T of butter, until translucent. Add in your mushrooms and allow to cook until softened. Add in your roast beef and another 1 T of butter. Turn the heat up in the pan and sprinkle on your steak seasoning, salt, and pepper. Continue to sauté until the beef begins to curl up a bit.

By this time, the peppers should be done and ready for stuffing. Divide the sautéed beef and vegetables between the six pepper halves. Top each pepper with a slice of Havarti cheese and place the baking dish back into the oven. Once the cheese has melted, pull the dish out and top each pepper with shredded mozzarella. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve and enjoy!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chew on This | Salted Caramel Whiskey Sauce

The Husband had a birthday earlier in the month. We celebrated his happy day several times over the days surrounding his actual birthday and then also on his true birth day. It was delightful! He was loved on by dear family and friends, which is always so precious and kind, and which he appreciates so much.

On one of those celebratory days, I made him all of his favorites for dinner. And for dessert, he specifically asked for a spice cake with cream cheese frosting. No problem - but I wasn't going to just leave it at that. I doctored up the frosting, added sugared pecans, and drizzled the cake with most delicious Salted Caramel Whiskey Sauce. Holy moly! 

Cake and frosting recipes will come later. However, this. This sauce is to kill for. No joke! You really do need to have this recipe in your life right now.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chew on This | Refrigerator Garlic Dill Pickles

My sister and I were having a lengthy discussion the other week about pickles. Surprisingly, we had much to say about the topic as, universally, my family are a bunch of pickle lovers. Funny though, neither one of us had ever attempted to make our own.

I remedied that this week.

Monday morning, while watering, I harvested our first 8 (!) cucumbers from our sweet little garden. Thus, the perfect opportunity to make my inaugural batch of refrigerator pickles presented itself to me. And when I say this process was easy…man, oh man…I could kick myself for waiting this long to make these pickles. 

This recipe is an amalgamation of ideas bounced around between my sister and I during that telephone pickle conversation. It's simple, basic. But the lovely thing about this recipe - and making pickles in general - is that you can certainly add other flavorings/items (onions, jalapeños, clove, coriander…) or even delete some items (garlic, red pepper flakes…). Whatever you do, you just can't go wrong. The pickles will be deliciously divine!

So, if you're like me, stop discussing pickles and just go and make some. You will not regret it!


Here's our recipe:

Refrigerator Garlic Dill Pickles
8-10 pickling cucumbers
4 C water
3/4 C distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 t Kosher salt
1 C fresh dill weed
4 cloves garlic, crushed and divided between the six pint jars
peppercorns (I used five peppercorns per jar)
red pepper flakes (I used just a tiny pinch of flakes per jar)
6 one pint canning jars with lids

In a medium bowl, combine your water, vinegar, and salt. Stir this mixture (brine) until all of the salt dissolves. Set aside.

Divide between your six jars all of your spices - dill weed, garlic, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. Clean and slice the end tips off of your cucumbers. Now slice the cucumbers into spears or chips - which ever you prefer. Stuff the sliced cucumbers into the jars with all of your spices. Pack tightly. Now, pour your brine mixture over the pickles. Fill the jars until the cucumbers are completely covered. Lid each jar and place jars into the refrigerator. 

Allow the cucumbers to pickle for 24 hours before you enjoy! Pickles will keep in the refrigerator for a month. Eat up!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chew on This | Homemade Limoncello

It's the middle of July, right? I ask because the weather over this last week has been cool and pleasant with almost no humidity. Um, weird. Not that I'm complaining - I'm not. I have loved it. Windows open day and night. Grilling, patio lounging, s'mores….all good!

And this. This Limoncello has been good this week too. Really good. And it will probably be even better when the weather returns to the hot, steamy, almost oppressive heat we're accustomed to during July. 

This Limoncello is packed with a sweet and fruity lemon flavor. And it packs a serious punch! Whew - sweet alcoholy liquer! That's why most people serve this yumminess in chilled, small cordial, grappa, or shot glasses. But we're classy over here so we'll serve it in some small stemmed wine glasses. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chew on This | Crepe Cake with Vanilla Pastry Cream and Strawberries

When I was young we had a beautiful Irish Setter named Kassie. She was an incredibly smart and loving dog. And quite the wanderer. Before my parents fenced in our backyard, you would let her out and she would take off for a swim in one of the two lakes in the neighborhood. Often times she would choose to swim in the larger lake that had an overgrown island in the middle of it. This little island was the home of many Canada geese, and I'm sure Kassie was an unwelcomed visitor.  

Being a field dog, one with an inherent hunting instinct, you would think that she was causing all kinds of torture and maddness on that island. No, not exactly. As far as we know, she never chased, caught, or killed any goose on that fine island. However, one spring she did do something suspect. She brought home goose eggs. 

How, you ask? Well, she swam her hairy red body across the lake to the island. She very gingerly picked up an egg from a nest (you know, after frightening the geese away). She carefully held that egg in her mouth and swam back across the lake. She ran down the road, up the hill, onto the front porch, and precisely placed the egg on the top step. And…surprise!!…when Mimi opened the front door to let Kassie in, a perfect, intact egg was presented to her. 

Done once, and this would be considered an amazing feat. Kassie did this 6 times. Six times that pup place a perfect egg on the door stoop for Mimi to discover. We did our best to keep them warm so that they would hatch, unfortunately to no avail. We were all sad about that, though I think Kassie was the most disappointed that none of the eggs hatched. So much so, she never brought another egg home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chew on This | Raspberry Custard Pie

The neighborhood I grew up in was considered semi-rural, back in the day. We didn't have sidewalks or street lamps. Lot sizes were an acre or larger and the land behind the houses was forest that eventually ran into some farm land. We lived on a hill (which was perfect for sled riding) and at the bottom of the hill there was a creek (which was a fun obstical to try to avoid while sledding). The creek ran under the street through a culvert and then finally emptied into a lake. Also along this side of the road were black raspberry brambles, wild roses, Weeping Willow trees, wildflowers, and all sorts of wildlife. 

Summertime exposed the beauty that lived across the street, and it was gorgeous. Those wild roses smelled like no other rose I have whiffed since. The Weeping Willow trees were huge and whimsical with their drooping tendrils. And the black raspberry brambles were always bent to the ground with fruit that tasted like heaven. Wild summer happiness grew around us, but especially across the street.

Riding our bikes up and down the road, or walking the street barefoot, popping tar bubbles with our toes, we would always be on the look out for a black raspberry snack provided by nature. Sometimes we'd have a feeding frenzy on those delectable morsels. Other times we'd just make a quick stop to snag a small handful and be on our way to go build a fort. And then there were times Mimi would send my sister and I out with brown paper lunch bags to collect as many berries as we could find.