Our Very Bubbly Easter

This year we were chosen to host my brother’s family for Easter. Which meant that we were actually going to have some plans for the day. We usually go to church, have hard-boiled eggs and ham, and have an evening bonfire with some friends. But nothing is structured and it usually turns into all of us kind of going our own separate ways until bonfire time.

A few weeks ago, my brother approached me with the idea of making it a “Kids Cook Easter.” My parents were not to prepare any part of the meal. It was all on us. Which, honestly, didn’t seem like too big of a challenge to me. I mean, there’s nothing complicated about ham and scalloped potatoes.

It turned into him making the “dinner” and me making everything else (brunch and dessert). And I must say, I think my contributions outshined his. I made my now-famous caramel rolls for brunch (served with hard-boiled eggs) and this masterpiece. Speckled Malted Coconut Cake. I am seriously proud of this. My mom was really bragging it up!

(One recipe note: the frosting was giving us all sugar rushes–almost one whole bag of powdered sugar is too much.)

Aside from the food, of course, the main focus of the day was Juliana. She got another day with all of her (hopefully!) favorite people and animals, so she was having a ball. Until she ran right through nap time and finally ended up falling asleep almost 10 hours after she had woken up.

But while she was still up and running, she continued to decorate the windows.

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She also got some presents. First came grandma’s.

My mom saw this while she was killing time between meetings a few days ago and couldn’t pass it up. This girl is a foodie, so it was a slam dunk. She hadn’t opened any presents since Christmas, so she needed a little reminding about how to do it. Once she figured out how the velcro worked, she just sat there and put the candle on the cake and then pulled it off about 20 times.

Then her parents pulled out their present for her.

None of us had any idea how much she would love the bubbles. She started out just wanting to catch them.

Then she wanted to blow her own bubbles!

I don’t know, do you think she liked them? You never know how this girl is feeling…

She loved her “bubbas!”

While she slept, my parents decided to light the fire. I volunteered to stay inside and wait for the girl to wake up. So I watched the fire from inside.

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We don’t do small when it comes to bonfires. (We are very responsible about it, though.)

It was cloudy all day and then, miraculously, the sun came out just in time for the sunset. Those are always the best sunsets. (This was after the peak.)

I hope all who celebrated had a happy Easter!

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My New Hobby!

I’m becoming so domestic! I started a little herb garden a few weeks ago. Since I’ve started cooking more “complex” recipes (aka actually using herbs) I’ve realized how essential herbs really are and how handy it would be to always have access to fresh herbs.

My collection has been steadily growing since I first bought the first four herbs a few weeks ago.

Among the chosen few:

Parsley!

Parsley: perfect for making a dish look super fancy.

Lavender!

Lavender: smells divine and when used sparingly, can make heavenly baked goods.

Thyme!

Thyme: I love to add this to beef roasts, which I will making much more of this fall and winter!

Sage!

Sage: I honestly don’t have much experience cooking with sage, but based on the smell, I think it would be amazing with meat of any kind!

I wanted people who didn’t know what herbs looked like to be able to come down and pick some without having to ask what they look like. That’s where the painted pots came from. I originally wanted clay pots so I could paint them completely and add a little chalk paint area to write the name of each herb. But, I eventually concluded that these pots would most likely outlive the plants inside. So, I found a design that would be suitable now, with the herbs, and in the future, without the herbs.

Then I remembered that we have a big ‘ole chalkboard standing up right next to the plant window, so I wrote the names of the herbs in the corresponding colors.

You may notice cinnamon on the board. While I was doing my initial research, I came across how to grow cinnamon trees inside. Saying I love cinnamon would be an understatement. So, I ordered two cinnamon trees and added those to my little herb garden.

Cinnamon Trees!

I also read that basically anything (natural) can be grown from remnants of an existing plant/harvest. Another thing that I’m completely in love with: peppers. So I scraped out some of the seeds from some sweet peppers we had in the fridge and planted those to see what would happen.

Pepper seeds!

Less than two weeks later, this is what they now look like! I decided to move them to a bigger pot so they could grow more naturally into proper pepper plants. That’s a fun phrase: proper pepper plants!

Peppers in a pot!

I also wanted to see how many herbs would grow simply by cutting a few inches off of an existing plant and letting them grow roots in water.

The water experiment

Unfortunately, only the basil developed roots. I still haven’t given up on parsley and spearmint, but did have to give up on rosemary, chives and dill.

Basil!

I just planted the basil in soil a few days ago and it’s starting to perk up!

Basil in a pot!

I love basil! I could use it everyday if I had enough! I could live on Caprese Salad and Margherita Pizza for a long time!

My next experiment is going to be lemon seeds. The next time I use a lemon for anything, I’m keeping some of the seeds, letting them dry out for a day or two and then planting them!

It’s a fun little hobby! I can completely understand how people can get carried away with it and fill entire greenhouses or, in my mom’s case, fill up almost an acre of land!

I’ll keep you all updated with any new additions!

Incredible Salad with Ginger Dressing

This past weekend was a daddy-daughter weekend while my mom was off being a good person and offering her services to people who can’t afford good dental care. But that’s not what this post is about. Oh, no no no. This post is about the one real meal we had in the three days she was gone.

We like to take advantage of the fact that we can have pizza and takeout every day (and night) that she’s gone so for the most part, that’s what we had. (Although we did make our twice-a-year-favorite spamwiches, but I would hardly call that a real meal!)

I had been craving a good salad with ginger dressing for about a week, so I convinced my dad to go to the grocery store. While we were there, we saw some nice filets on sale. We love filets. It was a perfect combination.

My dad is usually not a “fancy” salad guy, but he had three helpings of this one! It’s that good.


I started by making the dressing. I did this about three to four hours before I threw the rest of the salad together to give the ingredients a chance to combine and form this magical substance.

I started by adding 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a jar.

Then I added 2 tablespoons of soy sauce…

…1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar…

…1 tablespoon of lime juice…

…1-2 cloves of minced garlic (I used 1 large one) and 1-2 tablespoons of the all important ginger (also minced).

I gave it a few shakes and put in the fridge until it was time to assemble the rest of the salad.

When I was ready to assemble the salad, I browned about a cup of bean sprouts…

Then I cut up some lettuce and added 1 green onion, 1 stalk of celery and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds that I had chopped and combined about an hour earlier.

Then I took out the amazing dressing and poured half of it over the greens…

…And added the browned bean sprouts.

I drizzled on the rest of the dressing, mixed it together and topped it with some sliced almonds.

This salad completely rocked my world. It is simply heavenly with beef.

It even won over my simple-salad father!

Mint-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I decided it’s time for a new favorite cookie. We’ve been making the same oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies for more than 10 years now and I feel like it’s time for a change. Not that I don’t love those cookies–I love those cookies. They will always be my classic, baseline cookies. (If I can remember to photograph them the next I make them, I’ll definitely post the recipe!)

But as I’m continuing my cooking journey, I’m learning that cookies are so easy to switch up and experiment with. And I’m loving all of these new concoctions!

Though they may need a little tweaking, these Mint-Chocolate Chip Cookies, based on two of my favorite chocolate chip cookies and my most recent obsession, are definitely finalists in the search for my next favorite cookie.


I started by browning 2 sticks of butter. This isn’t necessary, but I tend to err on the side of caution by constantly swirling the butter over medium-high heat.

There are basically 3 stages to browning butter. The first stage is this lovely foam.

The first stage of browning butter is foam.

The second stage comes very shortly after the foam appears. BUBBLES!

The second stage of browning butter is bubbles.

After a little while, it will become foamy again and when you see this wonderfully golden color appear, it is done.

The third stage of browning butter is the foam turning a wonderfully golden color.

Ahh, browned butter.

You want the butter to be completely cool when you add it in with the other ingredients. If you’re patient, you can take it out of the pot and just let it cool for an hour or so. But I’m not patient. So I put it in this measuring cup, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes (which was still 29 minutes too long for me!).

Ahh, browned (or golden, rather) butter!

As I put the butter in the fridge, I took out yet another stick of butter (mmmmm, buttah buttah!) and set it out to soften.

And watched an episode of Mad Men to distract myself. I am–was–fully obsessed with this show and am in denial now that it’s over. I think I’ll watch the series again from the beginning. And then do it again.

Cookies.

I was making cookies.

I took the butter out of the fridge and let it sit more while I threw together the dry ingredients. I added 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of instant coffee grinds, 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder (will probably be changed to at least 2 teaspoons), 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt to a bowl.

I added the dry ingredients to a bowl.

And mixed them just until they were combined.

And mixed them just until they were combined.

Next I creamed the stick of softened butter, 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of sugar together in a separate bowl.

Next I creamed the softened butter and sugars together.

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Then I poured in the beautifully browned butter and mixed it all in.

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Totally optional, but I love oatmeal in cookies so I added 1/2 cup.

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Then I added 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.

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And mixed until combined.

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I added the dry ingredients in increments, only mixing in about a third of it at a time.

Hey, that looks like cookie dough!

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But there is one crucial ingredient missing: the mint-chocolate chips. I added about 3/4 cup of my latest obsession, Andes baking chips.

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Then I put them on a cookie sheet…

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And baked them in a 375 degree oven for about 9 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Mmmm, fresh cookies!

I left them on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

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Because once they hit that rack, they don’t last long.

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Mmm, I can smell them now!

Grandma’s Rhubarb Crunch

I don’t remember anyone in my family making this recipe before I found out that we had rhubarb growing in our garden. Once I figured that out, I think I went out there everyday and picked some, brought it in, chopped it up and froze it. I’ve always loved that process for some reason. Then I was determined to learn how to make this and it’s been in my top five favorite desserts ever since.

I start by defrosting seven cups of chopped up rhubarb and I add one cup of sliced strawberries for a little extra sweetness. (You can also just add eight cups of rhubarb and be done with it, but I like the addition of the strawberries.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen I start on the sauce by adding 4 tablespoons of corn starch, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, 1-1/2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water to a small saucepan and letting it thicken on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext comes the crumb topping. I dare you not to eat one or two or five spoonfuls of this stuff once it’s all mixed together. I dare you.

Start by mixing 2 cups of brown sugar, 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of uncooked oatmeal and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in a bowl.

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Once that’s mixed together, melt 1 cup of butter and slowly mix it into the dry mixture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you’ve added all of the butter, it will look irresistible and here’s where the dare comes in. I dare you not to eat it at this stage. (Honestly, I used to make a little extra and take some out before the next step so I would have some to eat without feeling guilty and ashamed. But I eventually stopped doing that because I felt guilty and ashamed. Funny how that works.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPress half of the crumb mixture into a greased 9×13″ pan.

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By this time the sauce is smooth and thick and ready for use.

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Throw all of the rhubarb and strawberries on top of that crumbly crumb base and pour all of the sauce over the top.

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And top it off with the rest of the crumbly crumbs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABake it in a 350 degree oven for one hour. One torturous hour.

And then when it’s done, let it cool for at least 30 minutes. But no one’s stopping you from “cleaning up the edges!”

And when it’s done…Oh, my. When it’s done I go to heaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnjoy.

Today.

Please.

The Breakfast to Cure Any Hangover

Okay, so I wasn’t out partying last night. But, I was pretty worn out from watching my sick niece yesterday afternoon and I was in desperate need of a delicious and filling breakfast this morning. I had been dreaming about this all night and couldn’t wait to get up and start cooking this morning!

My dad and I go to this cute little diner for breakfast once or twice a month and their “Hangover Breakfast Sandwich” was my inspiration for this dish.

There are essentially four parts to this dish:

  • Hash browns
  • Meat (I used Italian sausage, but you can use whatever meat you feel like)
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • One or two eggs overeasy

I started with the hash browns, because I prefer to make them from scratch. Nothing against the frozen ones, I just like the process of making my own.

(Keep in mind: I was making this for 3 people)

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I peeled 5 potatoes…
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…Halved them and then shredded them in this here device. If you have a device from this century, feel free to use that. I actually love this one, though.
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This was the beautiful end result.

I then put the meat in the microwave to defrost and started on the Hollandaise, which happens to be the best sauce in the world. I put it on eggs all the time, whether they’re overeasy or scrambled really doesn’t matter to me. It’s just delicious. And then you leave out the cayenne and add tarragon and it’s heavenly on steak. It’s the best.

It’s a little intimidating the first few times, but it’s actually a really simple recipe.

I started by adding 2 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, 2 teaspoons of cream (I use heavy whipping cream, mostly because that’s what we have around most of the time), salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper to the top of a “double boiler.” I use quotes because I just put a little bowl inside a pot with about an inch of water in it.

I whisked it all together and let it thicken over medium-high heat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen it started to thicken, I turned the heat down to low and started adding 8 tablespoons of butter (1 stick) 1 tablespoon at a time only adding the next when the first was completely dissolved.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter I had added all of the butter, I turned the heat off and added a few drops of lemon juice. If you like the spice, now is when you could add another dash or two of cayenne.

When the Hollandaise was finished, I cooked up the hash browns and Italian sausage. When those were almost finished, I cooked the eggs. We each had one, but I wish I’d had two.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen comes the fun part: assembling!

I started with a layer of hash browns on the bottom. I added some sharp cheddar cheese on top of that, but if there’s any layer you want to skip, you can skip the cheese. Then I added the Italian Sausage on top of that followed by the egg. Then the whole thing gets drenched in Hollandaise. Mmmmm! So good!

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