Monday, February 27, 2012

The Best Mashed Potatoes, ever!

This is a quick post dedicated to one of my husband's favorite side dishes, mashed potatoes! He was the kind of kid that grew up on chicken nuggets and mountain dew and he and his brother couldn't eat mashed potatoes without smearing ranch all over them. On very few occasions have I made mashed potatoes that weren't immediately drowned in ranch. Myself, I love just regular ol' mashed potatoes with a nice brown gravy on top but this recipe does not need ranch or gravy, it is perfect just the way it is!

The Best Mashed Potatoes, ever!
-4-5 large russet potatoes (you could use yukon gold as well, I just wouldn't recommend red potatoes)
-1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 Tbl butter (1/2 stick and I used salted)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- about a 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped up
- 3 tbl fresh chives (just eye ball it)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt (I could have probably gotten away with just 1 tsp but I like things a little on the salty side)
- 1/2 tsp fresh pepper
Wash and scrub your russet potatoes. Dice and cube up your potatoes. In a large pot, half filled with water, bring your water up to boil and add your potatoes, a long with a generous amount of salt. Reduce your heat to a simmer and cook your potatoes for about 12-15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain into a colander, do not run cold water over your potatoes. In a stand mixer, add your ingredients and mix with the whip attachment until smooth and creamy. Salt and pepper to taste.

The Ingredients-
(You most certainly can substitute milk or half & half for the cream)

After dicing up your potatoes, tackle your parsley. I used flat leaf Italian parsley, which for a MASSIVE bunch is only 69 cents at my local farmers market and you can add it to just about any dish you are cooking. The chives were $2 for a nice handful but I recently bought a little chive plant that I am hoping will make it through the rest of the winter!

I used my kitchenaid mixer to whip the potatoes together but honestly if my husband didn't mind, I would have just done them by hand with a little elbow grease. Unfortunately, Chris loves his whipped potatoes and I have to admit that I do love him and my mixer :)
So- just throw in all your ingredients. I usually put half of my wet ingredients in (sour cream/cream) because I want to be sure that I am not left with potato soup at the end. You can always add more liquid to your potatoes but it's another story if you have too much liquid, same goes for seasoning.

What a beautiful sight!

 Be sure to scrap the sides down with a spatula to get everything well incorporated.

Forget about the chain restaurant gluey potatoes, heck, no ranch or gravy needed here, don't even think about that bag of whipped potatoes you can get in the deli section. These are sooo much better, I promise. Throw some chicken in the oven and you've got yourself a hearty meal!

As Always, 
Happy Eating!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dog Treats

Procrastination runs deep in my veins, I can't help it sometimes! But I am back and this time with a quick and easy recipe for that special person in your life (is today Valentines day? I hadn't noticed) and by person I mean dog. Our house belongs to two sweet pups named Otis and Ramona (and one psycho cat named Cortez but this post isn't about him). Notice how thrilled my husband looks about his picture being taken.

So you may be asking why am I bothering to make dog treats for my dogs when I can just run to the grocery store and by some? Well, again, there isn't any kind of specialty store around here for miles, we have to drive about a half hour to buy dog food. No, the main issue is we don't want to feed our dogs junk. Otis, as a puppy, had a pretty severe food allergy to some of the popular brands that you find your local grocery store and the poor dog would itch until his hair fell out. So, we worked with our vet and I'm sad to say but these dogs eat better than we do! They are on organic/premo dog food but we believe it's for the best. No more dog allergies though! Dog treats, especially the organic or locally made stuff can be pretty expensive so when I came across a recipe, I thought I could easily turn it into something both my dogs would go nuts over and for relatively cheap.
Alright, let's begin!

 BC Doggy Treats!
(adapted from A Muse in My Kitchen)
-2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
-2 eggs
-1 cup canned pumpkin
-3 tbl peanut butter (my dogs LOVE peanut butter so I added a little extra)
-1/3 cup shredded carrots (could use 1/2 cup, whatever you like or omit if your pups don't like carrots)
-1/2 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp cinnamon (dog friendly spice, fine in moderation)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. With a hand mixer/stand mixer or by hand, mix all ingredients together. If the dough is too moist, add a little more wheat flour, if the dough is too dry, add in a tablespoon of water and mix until dough is not too sticky and easy to work with. Cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Let them cool and then be devoured!

(and yes, I have traditional cookie cutters but where is the fun in that?)

With a grater, grate out a 1/3 cup of carrots, If you are doing this by hand, please be careful not to grate off your hand, the carrot can be slippery! I only added 1/3 cup but you may add up to a 1/2 cup of shredded carrots. It is much cheaper to do it by hand than to purchase the already shredded carrots, but whatever you have time for.

The beauty of this recipe is that nothing has to be exact and there is no sifting ingredients, just toss everything into your bowl and mix! (or your brand new kitchen aid mixer that you have been waiting for since you were a teenager, thanks hun).

Don't worry about any kind of mess, someone should be waiting patiently to clean your floor.

Either with a mixer or by hand, mix ingredients well. I mixed on medium with the paddle attachment for about a minute. If the dough comes out too dry, which is what I had an issue with, just pour a little of water (around a tablespoon) and mix some more. If the dough is too soft, add a little more flour. The dough should be a little dry but not brittle and easy to work with.

On a clean work surface, throw down some left over wheat flour for your rolling out and hey, if there happen to be some left over carrot pieces, no biggie!

Throw your dough down and make form it into a rough circle.

Now take a rolling pin and roll it out until the dough it about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. This dough is VERY forgiving, do not worry about over working it at all, get your aggression out and beat it if you didn't get flowers from your valentine!

We aren't very traditional people. I picked up a 101 cookie cutter set for about 15 bucks on amazon and I saw the dog bone cookie cutter and thought 'awe, how cute' and then I saw the T-Rex and thought 'ohhh yeahhh Otis treats'. I thought it might be a little odd to use the cat cookie cutter, although my husband would probably think it would be funny.

For our 6lb papillon Ramona, who struggles to eat even a normal sized french fry, I had something else in mind. I'm currently taking cake decorating classes at the next town over and can't help myself from the wall of cookie cutters that I sit by every week. Last week I saw the mini-pig and lost it. I came home and my husband said 'what the heck can you make out of that?? animal crackers??' No Chris, Mini-Piggy Ramona sized treats!! 

Like I said, I couldn't help myself...

I used a parchment sheet for the little pig cut outs but for the T-Rex cookies I didn't bother and they came out just fine, so it's just up to you and whatever cookie sheet you have. The ultimate goal is to have a crunchy treat, not something soft. My dogs aren't picky eaters, but cater to whatever your dog likes to eat. I loved how you could actually see the carrots in the cookie.


And no, that is not photo shopped :)

As Always, Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes

It's the middle of Janurary here in Michigan and we've had a few 40 degree weather days but we're on a streak of 20 degree days and who knows how cold it is when the wind is blasting against your face. This is the kind of night where you want to curl up on the couch with something warm to put into your belly and since my husband and I live in a culinary wasteland, I am left to come up with something for dinner. So, I've decided to share with you a simple recipe that I have came across on the Pioneer Woman's website. It's a humble dish with few ingredients, the original recipe is a side dish but I thought I'd add some delicious ham to make it even more fat people friendly!

Alright, enough talking-

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes 
(adapted from the Pioneer Woman's Perfect au Gratin Potatoes)
- 2 tbl butter
- 2 tbl flour
- 3-4 gloves of garlic (I used 3 because one was pretty huge, you could use the garlic powder if you aren't a huge fun of chopped garlic but it cooks down and is hardly noticeable)
- 1 tsp salt
-  fresh ground pepper to taste (I used roughly 1/2 tsp, use however much you like and of course, use whatever you have in your pantry but I used fresh ground pepper)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup half and half
- 4 russet potatoes
- 1 1/2 cup cubed ham
- 1 heaping cup of grated sharp cheddar (I say heaping because I very rarely measure cheese, I just eyeball it, probably why I have such a lovely figure)
- few sprigs of chives (if you come across fresh chives in the middle of January and they aren't $$$ then go for it, but you could substitute a small onion, the chives are just less pungent)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Butter a 3qt baking dish, making sure to get all the sides. Chop the ends off the russets and slice them all roughly into the same size and set aside. Finely mince the garlic cloves and set aside. In a medium size bowl, whisk your salt, pepper, flour, half & half and heavy cream. Arrange 1/3 of your potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Add in 1/3 of  cream/flour mixture on top of the potatoes. Also add 1/3 of ham, toss in some cheese and your chives. Repeat once more. After the 2nd layer, add the rest of your potatoes once more and pour the rest of your cream mixture . Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil. Take out and add remainder of ham, cheese and chives and bake for another 15-20 minutes without foil.


I used a 3qt baking dish and rubbed 2 tbl of butter all over it. I scrubbed my 4 russet potatoes and rinsed/dried them off. I do have a mandoline slicer but I thought I would practice my knife skills. It's important to get all your slices about the same size or else the potatoes won't cook at the same time, you'll end up with some perfectly cooked and then under cooked ones.

A lot of people are turned off by raw/under cooked garlic and I am one of them. I hate biting into something and getting a chunk of garlic but I hate replacing garlic powder for fresh garlic in most of my recipes. I only used three garlic cloves but one was decent sized. The easiest way to 'peel' the garlic clove, is to take your knife flat side down and gently smash it down on a board.

The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and a 1/2 cup of whole milk. I used what I had on hand and ended up using 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup half & half and 1/2 cup whole milk. You certainly can use whatever mixture of milk, cream you'd like but the heavy cream really makes this dish. Be sure to mix the flour, cream/milk, salt/pepper and garlic mixture really well.

Place a single layer of potatoes into your buttered baking dish and add in 1/3 (not 1/3 cup) of your cream mixture on top of the potatoes. Toss on 1/3 of your cheese and ham as well and sprinkle some chives over.

Repeat this process once more!

Now add your final layer of potatoes and add the rest of your cream on top. Don't be stupid like me and add the rest of your ham (the ham didn't burn but it would be best left till the end). Foil it up and let it cook 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees.

Remove from the oven and remove the foil and add the rest of the chives, ham and cheese and let it cook for another 10 minutes (or until nice and golden brown).

The end result-

Behold, the best ham and scalloped potatoes, ever. They are creamy and cheesy and there is just the right amount of garlic. The best thing I could come up with around here to compare it to would probably be a bowl of pastey, bland potato soup that's been sitting out that you would find at one of the local places around here. Why bother going out in the cold and be disappointed when you could whip this up at home? Look, I even threw some green on the plate to make it look somewhat healthy! Even better the next day as leftovers (that is if there is anything left to eat!).

-Happy Eating!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

First Post and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies!

For the past few months I have been spending a lot of my time searching through cooking and baking blogs. I first came across the Pioneer Woman a few months ago and immediately indulged myself in every food blog I could come across. I have no culinary training but cooking and baking are very near and dear to my heart. The fact that I can put time and effort and produce a product and present it to a loved one and watch them enjoy the end result is a feeling I can't explain; pure happiness. I am not really expecting anyone to read this blog but wanted to see if I could actually make one on my own and keep photographs of favorite and new recipes that I come across.

So, who am I?
I'm a housewife stuck in a small Michigan town (a culinary wasteland, my husband and I like to call it). I did the college thing and now I'm 25 and I believe I was put on this earth to bake and cook :)

So, shall we begin?

My mother in law is (in my husband's opinion) the super mega awesome baker. My first trip to meet her, she taught me how to make pie crust from scratch. For years my husband has been asking me to make these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that his mom used to make. Well, it took about three years but I finally got a hold of the recipe and managed to get him to hang up some shelves in exchange for cookies! So, if by chance you have a can of pumpkin in your cupboards left over from the holidays, this would be a good time to use it!

-Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies-
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick, I used unsalted)
1 cup cooked or canned pumpkin (I used the kind without any spices in it)
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 all purpose flour
1 cup of chocolate chips (I used just plain milk chocolate)
1 egg
1 tsp of the following ingredients-
baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, cinnamon and yes, a whole teaspoon of nutmeg!
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar till fluffy.
Add egg, pumpkin and vanilla to mixture - mix well.
In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet and then add in chocolate chips.
Bake at 350 for 12-15 or until golden brown. Makes about 30 small cookies.

Ingredients- (minus one egg! oops)
With a hand mixer, cream together your butter and sugar until it becomes fluffy. If you have planned ahead and have a stick of butter that is room temperature then I would skip dirtying the mixer  and just use your muscles and a wooden spoon. Add in your 1 egg pumpkin and vanilla. 

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients, the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Here is where most recipes would say to sift all your dry ingredients but normally I just put all my dry ingredients into a bowl and use a wire whisk and mix them all together.

Slowly incorporate your dry ingredients into your wet bowl mixture. Stir until everything is combined well and then add in your chocolate chips. The original recipe calls for a 1/3 roasted almonds (which you would add now too) but my husband and I aren't huge nut fans so I omitted them.

      I covered my bowl up with some tin foil and threw it in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to let the dough firm up a bit. I used a small sized cookie scoop on my non-stick cookie sheet (sprayed with a little baking NOT cooking spray) and baked them for 12-15 minutes at 350. If I had to endorse a baking utensil, it would definitely be the cookie scoop. All of my cookies are the same size and my hands aren't all messy after having to fuss with spoons and sticky cookie dough. I bought mine at the local grocery store for about $8, definitely worth it. These cookies do not expand/spread out like a normal cookie so you could definitely fit more than your usual amount on a normal sized cookie sheet. They puff up and look like little cute muffin tops!

The end result-

Happy Eating!