Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bo's Famous Sangria

I decided to pretend that I was spending Spring Break on a warm and beautiful island, with nothing to do but read fluff books while balancing a delicious and fruity drink in my hand.  I also pretended to be ultra thin and tan and wearing the most flattering bikini ever.  Alas, I was only able to make the drink part a reality.  Sigh.

Ok, back to earth and this recipe - What's important to know is that while I do not like red wine, I love this Sangria.  You also need to know that it makes a lot - about 2 gallons' worth.  We like to make it in a cooler with a spout, so that it's portable, stays chilled, and doesn't make a mess when poured.  You can also mess with the amounts and kinds of fruit, and you'll pretty much never go wrong.


Bo's Famous Sangria
1 1/3 c. Apricot Brandy
2 L. cheap Merlot (yes, cheap)
1 1/3 c.Triple Sec
12 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
1/2 c. lemon juice
3/4 c. orange juice
2/3 c. sugar
2 lemons, sliced
2 oranges, sliced
2 limes, sliced
2 nectarines or apricots, sliced
1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
5 c. 7-Up or Sprite

Combine all ingredients except 7-Up and stir to dissolve sugar. Refrigerate overnight.  Stir in 7-Up just before serving.  Makes ~2 gallons.

It doesn't look as pretty in a plastic cooler, but it's so
much more convenient to haul around.


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Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Spring Break

We're taking a little break this week here at the Blah Blog.  Mellisa will be out doing fun things with her family, and Sara will be wishing she were on some tropical beach instead of sitting in a gray cubicle, wearing cardigans and uncomfortable shoes.


Wish you I were here!

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  I decided to venture out and make something Irish and festive for you.  The funny thing is  - and I realized this as I pulled the bread out of the oven - I've never actually had soda bread.  I have no idea what it even tastes like.  Hmmmmm... I'm not sure what the thought process behind my choice was other than, "Ooh!  Something to bake!  I have all the ingredients!"  Lucky for me (get it? lucky?), Bo is actually half Irish, so he's had soda bread made by his Irish mom.  Phew!  A resident expert at my beck and call!  Ok, so Bo claims that this bread is good, and I agree.  It does have great flavor.  It's kind of like a biscuit in texture, and definitely crumbly.  I don't know that I'll be making it again, but it was fun and now I have something yummy to toast for breakfast tomorrow.


Easy Irish Soda Bread
adapted from Allrecipes

4 c. all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 c. raisins
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a large baking sheet.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in the butter with a knife or a pastry blender. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk, the egg, and the raisins. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round  and flatten a little, and then place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf.  Brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.  Bake 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let's talk about this butter for a moment.  It's Honey Browned Butter.  Have you ever made browned butter?  It's one of the most amazing smells on the planet, trust me.  And then you add in honey - yum.  And then a sprinkle of sea salt - yum.  I'm pretty sure that you could slather this stuff on brussel sprouts and they'd be better than dessert.  Ok, almost.  Dessert is pretty sacred with me.  The recipe for the butter is here on Smitten Kitchen.

Also?  Please tell me that I'm not the only one who's made a recipe for something she's never even tasted?  What have you done that was completely unknown?  Was it amazing or did it bomb on ya?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Breakfast Cookies

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When my kids aren't looking I've been known to make cookies breakfast for myself (or my favorite breakfast, brownies).  However, with this recipe, everyone can have cookies for breakfast!  This is perfect for those rushed mornings on the go. 

1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dried mixed fruit bits, dried cranberries, or cherries; rasins; or snipped dried apricots (I used a dried fruit mix plus some raisins)
1/2 cup dried banana chips, broken up
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, peanuts, pecans or almonds (I forgot to pick up nuts so I left these out)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a cookie sheet with shortening.  Cut up the butter.

2.  Put butter in a large mixing bowl.  Beat with the electric mixer on medium speed about 30 seconds or until butter is creamy.  Stop mixer and add brown sugar.  Beat on medium speed until combined, occasionally scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.


3.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed until combined.  Put the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the small bowl.  Stir with the wooden spoon.  Stir flour mixture into egg mixture.  Stir in oats, mixed fruit, banana chips and nuts.


4.  Scoop the dough with a 1/4 cup measuring cup.  Drop the dough in mounds 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheet.  Slightly flatten dough on cookie sheet.


5.  Put the cookie sheet in the oven.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookie edges begin to brown.  Let cookies remain on cookie sheet for 1 minute.  Move cookies to cooling rack to let finish cooling.



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

To Die For Pot Roast

We just had a Sunday Supper kind of dinner on a busy week night and I couldn't have put less effort into it if I tried. It literally took about 5 minutes to throw this together and that included taking pictures so that I could share this To Die For Pot Roast with you!


You will need:

4 -5 lb beef roast, any kind
1 package brown gravy mix, dry
1 package ranch dressing mix, dry
1 package Italian dressing mix,dry


Place roast in crock pot, mix dry ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over top. Pour 1/2 cup water around roast. Cover and cook on Low for 7-9 hours.


2-4 hours before you are ready to eat cut up an onion, 5-6 carrots and 4-5 potatoes.


Compare your roast to mine...if you think it looks as good or even's time for some veggie action.


Not sure that it is completely necessary but I took a spoon and bathed my veggies in gravy a bit before replacing the lid. If not necessary - it certainly made them look more appetizing for this picture.



Or if you don't like pot roast...let your family enjoy it. I am not a big fan. I did eat a bit of everything but I have never been a big fan. As a kid I would pick out the veggies and eat them with crackers. But when I told Hubby my crock pot plan to make sure that we stayed out of the drive thru - He was quick to request this meal. Every Single person in my family had seconds...except me.

I hope they really enjoyed it since I won't be making it again for at least a year.


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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sampling Sunday

I love Whole Foods. This would be no surprise to those that know me. I really like to cook. I like to try new foods. I like fresh veggies. But none of these are the reason that that Whole Foods makes my heart pitter patter.

For me it's all about the cheese counter. The amazing variety of cheeses has me so wrapped around this store's finger that when ever I am in the area...I make time to stop by and pay my respect. 

3 Reasons I love Whole Foods for their cheese:

1. You can sample it all. Each and everyone of them. This, I tell you is a way better way to decide which ones you should actually buy. I used to buy just from the look of cheese which doesn't tell you anything.

2. The cheeses are broken up into small packages. By breaking them up into smallish sampling size packages - even the most expensive cheeses can still make it to your cheese board.

3. In my store, samples are served on my favorite cracker. If you haven't had a chance to try out 34 degrees crisp bread...give them a try.


They are so light and delicate. But they are also strong enough to with stand not only cheese - but a few toppings as well.


This week we are trying out Derby Sage and Capricho de Cabra Pepper. While both have a greenish hue (Happy St. Patrick's Day) they are very different cheeses. One is a young goat's cheese and the other a semi-hard cheddar.


A creamy, flavorful goat cheese produced from Murciana goats, which produce milk high in fat and protein to give the cheese its amazing creaminess. The Capricho is dense and gives a burst of flavor with a sweet finish.  Available in plain, green peppercorn and herb.


According to wikipedia - Murciana goats are from the Mediterranean coast of South Eastern Spain. 

According to the gal at the Whole Foods cheese counter:

This a very new goat's cheese as in it was only aged for a month or so. This is what create the creamy texture. It is available at Whole Foods in plain, pepper and herb varieties.



Sage Derby (pronounced Darby) is a semi-hard cheese from Derbyshire, England. It is flavored with sage leaves (or sage extract in some versions), giving it somewhat of a minty flavor. Sage Derby often has a green, marbled look to it. It is made from cow's milk and is matured 3 to 6 months.

Sage Derby was first made in the 17th century. It was eaten most often during special times of the year such as Christmas, though now it is available year-round.

There is a very wide variety of quality in different Sage Derby cheeses. Originally fresh sage was added to the curds during production. Today, many manufacturers add sage extract or dried sage leaves, and color their cheeses with spinach juice. The flavor will vary depending on what process has been used.

Information Source


What cheese should we try next?


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Friday, March 11, 2011

No Golden Arches for Us This Week

I have officially taken on 2 more roles in my life. Soccer Mom (complete with a mini van, but have already been rocking it since we have 4 kids) and Mom Taxi. Up til now the kids have shown no interest in sports. They were the kids on the team whose parents had to shoo and/or bribe to get them back onto the field. They complained about every aspect of being on the team. So we gave up a couple of years ago thinking it wasn't worth the effort since they didn't seem to be having fun. 
A couple of weeks ago friends of ours asked if the kids liked soccer...that their was a soccer league starting up and suggested that we bring the kids by. It was funny really - we showed up just to get out of the house...but the kids - they were out there practicing with the team for 2 hours straight. I was amazed that they didn't even look up or walk over to us once. 

We were so unprepared for that first night....

The kids didn't bring their soccer balls. 

They didn't have cleats or shin guards.

And I didn't give a thought to dinner until 2 hours later. I had 4 kids that had been basically running for 2 hours, 2 on the field and 2 off the field and it was almost bed time. There was nothing else to do by drive-thru. While sitting under the golden arches my kids kept asking me why we were eating there when I had clearly told them that we eat at home. <--it's what we do. But there was nothing that I could have done. I didn't have anything ready at home and wasn't up to the marathon of cooking, eating, 4 baths and bedtime. 

So this week I made a plan. I would come home from work and get supper ready in the crock pot, make sides and set the table so that we could walk in the door and be ready to eat within 10 minutes. 


Chicken Tacos - Before hand I shredded cheese. When we walked in the door I flipped the oven to 375 to toast taco shells, wrapped soft tortillas in a kitchen towel and heated them for 1 minute in the microwave, shredded chicken and took crock pot straight to the table with shredded lettuce and sour cream. Chip and salsa and dinner was done. 


Lasagna- Before hand I sliced loaf of bread in half length wise and added butter, garlic salt and Mozzarella cheese. Wrapped in foil and stuck in the fridge with a simple salad of romaine and more cheese. When we walked in the door I took crock pot straight to the table. Toasted bread under broiler and dressed the salad. 

I was able to get dinner and my family to the table in under 10 minutes both night with way less calories and money. I will be trying new crock pot recipes each week since this was such a success. 

If you have any tried and true crock pot recipes that you would like to share, please leave a link below. 

Have a great weekend!


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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hoppin' John Soup

Happy New Yearrrrr!!!

Oh wait.  This is March, isn't it.  Whoops.  Well, count me belated in my New Year's wishes and count me belated in posting this recipe.  You'll forgive me, right?  Please?  Can I buy your forgiveness with a toasty warm batch of Best Friend Makers?

So, the tradition behind this soup is that black-eyed peas are considered good luck if you eat them first thing on New Year's Day.  The peas are a symbol of coins; the collards represent the green of money; the pork represents having plenty; and the cornbread's color represents gold.  It's pretty much a lottery ticket in a bowl, am I right?  There are more interesting tidbits about the history here and here.

Hoppin' John soup is very, very new to me.  I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (insert dreamy sigh here), so I'd never seen a collard green in real life until I moved to Georgia last year.  Also, if I'm being completely honest - Southern cooking isn't known for being healthy, so I'm sometimes hesitant to try the ingredients and dishes that are traditional here.  But, I kept seeing recipes for Hoppin John this and Hoppin John that for New Year's, and they actually seemed fairly healthy, so I thought I'd give it a try.

And boy!  Am I ever glad I gave it a try.  We love, love, love this soup.  Seriously, we love it.  It's basically one big pot of cozy, which is perfection on a blustery day.  Bo is over the moon when I start cooking it, and then pretty much dies on the spot when I start baking cornbread to go with it.  (Did I mention that he's from the South?)  If you can get your hands on some kind of green (collards, kale, mustard greens, etc), I highly recommend trying this recipe out.  I've read that you can substitute white beans for the black-eyed peas, but don't come crying to me if you don't get rich, ok?


Hoppin' John Soup
recipe adapted from Steamy Kitchen

12 oz. quick-cook or canned black-eyed peas
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. carrots, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 c. water
1 ham bone (with meat attached)
3 c. diced ham
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
5 handfuls torn collard leaves (tough stems removed)

Prepare black-eyed peas according to package, or drain the can.  In large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.  Saute carrots, celery, and onion for 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute additional 2 minutes.  Add the ham bone, drained peas, and water to the pot.  Bring to a low boil and then simmer for 1 hour.

Add the diced ham and tomatoes and simmer for an additional 30 minutes {Mix up your cornbread now.}  Remove the ham bone and then stir in your collard greens and simmer for an additional 30 minutes {Put your cornbread into the oven now}.  Salt to taste.  But we didn't add a speck of salt because the ham added so much flavor and was salty enough on its own.

Ingredient Lineup.

Carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.

Add in the water and ham bone.

Add in the diced ham and tomatoes.

Remove the ham bone and add in the collards.


I wouldn't lie to ya.

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