Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Heart Cooking Clubs-Lime Cilantro Dressing

Lime Cilantro Dressing--YES IT'S A SAUCE, right? 
Since our theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs,  this week is salsas and sauces, inspired by Rick Bayless,  this does qualify as a sauce... a sauce for salad or, in this case: cucumbers.
And guess what?  It's really good! 

To be honest, I was looking for the fastest and most simple thing to make since just this morning, I  returned home after a  fast  3 day trip to California.   I hesitated on even participating this week, but when I found this  Lime-Cilantro Dressing in Rick Bayless's   Mexican Everyday,  I jumped on it.   It was the perfect thing!   Simple and easy.  (geez, I sould like I don't even like to cook, which is NOT the case, as you know.  In fact,  I would like to  pat myself on the back for joining in, as I have been in the middle of a kitchen redo every week so far, but guess what?  That will all be over on Tuesday!!  A sink, counter tops, a dishwasher--woo hoo.   ~smiles~   I can't wait.  )

I will definitely be making this dressing again and drizzling it on cucumbers for a great  'fresh-mex'  appetizer.  It was light and flavorful, had just the right amount of heat.

I can't wait to have a patio party fiesta and make some of these. There are so many heavy, fried, cream cheese laden   appetizers out there, and while they are all great,  this is a nice change up to something a little lighter.

I have a friend who laughs when I say something tastes fresh and cool.   (she says she would never eat anything that wasn't fresh, but you know what I mean, right?  You're not laughing at me like she does.  Are you?)   But this really does taste that way, I can't think of any other way to describe it...  Fresh and cool, but with the right amount of heat.   Which you can adjust by added or taking away the peppers.

As Rick himself says:  One of the most perfect balances of flavor--lime, cilantro and green chilies.   Mmmmmm  MMMMM  Good!   (for the sake of  full disclosure,   or in case I confuse you, with my brilliant writing style, Rick didn't say  Mmmmm MMMM Good!  I did!!)  (But it's the truth....MMMMmmmmm)

Lime-Cilantro Dressing
from Mexican Everyday

3/4 cup vegetable oil, olive oil, or a mixture of both  (I did a mixture)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (it MUST be fresh)
1/2 tsp grated lime zest
1/2 cup packed, roughly chopped cilantro
Fresh hot green chilies to taste  (I used one jalapeno.  Rick liked 2 serranos), stemmed and roughly chopped.

Combine the oil, lime juice, zest and cilantro and a scant teaspoon of salt in a blender, jar and blend until smooth  (I did not do this because I was in a hurry and didn't read that part.  Oh Man!  and it was still good!)
Taste and add more salt if you think it needs it, keeping in mind that dressings should be highly seasoned. 
Pour into a jar and secure the lid.  Refrigerate until ready to use. 
Shake well immediately before using.

Hurry and  go  check  out the  other  Mexican  Inspired   sauces  and salsa at
 I Heart  Cooking Clubs this week.  

I ♥ Cooking Clubs a stress-free cooking club with a revolving roster of chefs. We feature two chefs (or cooks) a year.

From April 2nd to September 30th, we are Cooking up recipes from featured chef cookbook author - Rick Bayless.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's Monday, What are you reading?

It's Monday....What are you reading, is a great meme hosted by Sheila from  Book Journey.  It's a fun way to see what everybody else is reading, what's hot and what's not!
(at all my book clubs I have a habit of saying---it's all the rage on book blogs right now, or,  'The book bloggers are talking a lot about that one!!"  whenever we talk about books.   Well, this meme is where I get most of my info.
They  (my book club friends) think I'm so smart!  All it takes is to hop around to a few blogs, but I just let them keep thinking I'm  the smart one.

This past week I was a reading fool.   Hmmmm,  I just used the words  'smart one' and 'fool' when talking about myself.  I would say that describes my personality perfectly!!   ~smiles~

I finished "IT" by Stephen King.  
I loved it. I love Stephen King. I love the way he writes.
Okay, there was one weird part at the end, but I won't go into that now. Mostly I loved it.
from Goodreads:
A promise made twenty-eight years ago calls seven adults to reunite in Derry, Maine, where as teenagers they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city's children. Unsure that their Losers Club had vanquished the creature all those years ago, the seven had vowed to return to Derry if IT should ever reappear. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that summer return as they prepare to do battle with the monster lurking in Derry's sewers once more.

I finished  "A Grown Up Kind of Pretty" by Joshilyn Jackson.  I  highly recommend this one.  I think it's one of her best...and I've read them all.
from Goodreads:
A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past--and who will stop at nothing to defend their future. 

I read  "Lone Wolf" by Jodi Picoult, which I also recommend.    Some people criticize her for her 'formula', but I really love how she tries to see different sides of issues thru the eyes of her different characters.
from Goodreads:
Edward Warren, twenty-four, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: His dad lies comatose, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.

With her father’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what lengths will his sister go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision?

Lone Wolf explores the notion of family, and the love, protection and strength it’s meant to offer. But what if the hope that should sustain it, is the very thing that pulls it apart? Another tour de force from Jodi Picoult, Lone Wolf examines the wild and lonely terrain upon which love battles reason

I also read  "The Space Between Us" by Thrity Umigar.  I enjoyed this book. It was a look inside modern day India, a friendship, relationships and how complicated that can be. The caste system lives on, even if it's not supposed to.
from Goodreads:
Poignant, evocative, and unforgettable, The Space Between Us is an intimate portrait of a distant yet familiar world. Set in modern-day India, it is the story of two compelling and achingly real women: Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years. A powerful and perceptive literary masterwork, author Thrity Umrigar's extraordinary novel demonstrates how the lives of the rich and poor are intrinsically connected yet vastly removed from each other, and how the strong bonds of womanhood are eternally opposed by the divisions of class and culture.

What's up for next week?
Tripwire by Lee Child  ( I need me some Jack Reacher!  He's one of my favorite characters in a series.)
Defending Jacob by  William Landay  (Lit Wits book club choice)
Out Stealing Horses by Per Pederson  (Library Book club choice--will read it/listen to it on Audio )
and.... (I can't wait)
11-22-63 by Stephen King  (4 of my Goodreads friends have given this
5 stars!! )

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pineapple Skillet Upside-Down Cake

In my search for something to satisfy my sweet tooth, (which happens to be the theme for  I Heart Cooking Clubs this week) in my Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday cookbook,  I was having trouble finding something that called to me.   There were a few ice-cream desserts and  a cookie or two, but  I finally settled on this skillet pineapple upside down cake. 

I'm down to the wire for my entry into I Heart Cooking Clubs this week, and it started out as   kind of a lazy day.
It's rainy out. And dark and gloomy and cold.   How much work was I ready to put into a dessert?    I wanted something quick and easy and I wanted to use ingredients that I had on hand.  I did not want to go out into the downpour that was going on.  WAL-LAH!  Pineapple Upside down cake---Mexican style!!

 What could be more comforting than a hot, dense, fruit cake?  (and I'm not about the kind of  fruitcake you get at Christmas time. That's an entirely different post ) 

As Rick himself says, this fruity cake is good for breakfast too.   (It really was)  It's best warm from the oven, and if you don't like pineapple, you can substitute a variety of different fruits. 
 I wanted to try the pineapple  upside down cake because it's so classic.  And I wanted to see if I liked it.  YES, I am one of those people who has never tired Pineapple upside-down cake.  When I was a kid, it just didn't appeal to me. 

My opinion now?   I liked it...I liked this one, warm, right out of the oven for breakfast,  and the browned butter gave the batter, as well as the finished cake,  a nutty flavor that I've never tasted in a before in a baked good.   The brown sugar coated pineapple chunks gave a hint of a  caramel flavor. It went well with the nutty flavor from the browned butter.  I liked it a lot.
Having said all that tho, I would probably use a different fruit next time... because while I liked the pineapple, I didn't love it....but that has nothing to do with this recipe, only my preference.  I might try some blueberries or blackberries next time.  Rick Bayless suggested apples too....that sounds great.

This is what it looked liked before I turned it upside down!

Pineapple Skillet Upside-down Cake
source:  Rick Bayless,   Mexican Everyday

3 oz (6 tbls) butter, preferably unsalted
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 cups  1/2 inch cubed pineapple
(or other fruit such as: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, pitted cherries, apple, pear)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour  (or additional all-purpose)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

Turn on the oven to 375 degrees and position rack in the middle.  Melt the butter in a large 10-inch skillet with an ovenproof handle  (preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Swirl the butter in the skillet until it turns nut-brown, then pour it into a medium bowl.  Without wiping out the skillet, sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom.  Top with fruit in an even layer.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
Add the sugar to the butter and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in the egg, then the buttermilk or yogurt.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk thoroughly to combine.
Pour the batter evenly over the fruit in the skillet.  Slide the skillet into the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springy to the touch at the center.  Remove and let sit for 10 minutes.
Invert a plate over the skillet, then holding plate and skillet firmly together with towels or potholders, invert the two in one swift motion.  Remove the skillet and the cake is ready to serve.  It's best right out of the oven.

Saturday Snapshot

It's time for Saturday Snapshot!
Hosted by Alyce from At Home With Books.
Check out her blog for all rules, regulations and links to other great snapshot posts.

I am running a bit behind today, so here is  a quick snapshot...
yesterday at work, I received a nice delivery from my oldest son.  He lives 800 miles away from me, but found out, via Facebook,  that a friend of his from high school is selling cupcakes for Relay for Life.

So, he sent me one!

It's cute....the cupcake is in a small plastic cup and wrapped in cellophane.
Very cute... and special delivery.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stuffed Crust--Strawberry Cream Pie

I love strawberry pie.   I always fix a strawberry pie for Easter  (that and Oreo cheesecake), but this year I hesitated because I have no sink--(no worries tho, they made a template for our new counter tops yesterday and in 10 short days I will be back in business!!)

I hesitated to make an Easter dinner because I am sick and tired of doing dishes in a teeny tiny bathroom sink.
I paused  for only a moment tho, and forged ahead and went for it.
  Dirty dishes be damned!!

I'm so glad I did too, because I made this  'new to me' strawberry pie, that my friend Brenda made last spring.  Yes, it's been bookmarked for a year and I just finally got around to it.

It is a stuffed-crust Strawberry pie.
I was in heaven.  It's so good.  So, so, very good.

I really think you should try it.
If you like strawberry pie, if you like the flavor of almond, if you feel like something fresh and something that shouts out SPRING to you, you should really try this pie.
That's all I have to say, but Brenda said this:
The almond paste sandwiched between the two pie crusts adds so much flavour and was such a wonderful addition to this pie. And no, the crust doesn't end up too thick. I thought it might, but it was just perfect.

I couldn't agree more.

Stuffed-Crust Strawberry Cream Pie
from Brenda's Canadian Kitchen
1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

1 package (7 oz) almond paste
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 egg white

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 T cornstarch
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries*

1 cup whipping cream
2 T powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
8 fresh whole strawberries, if desired

*1 bag (1 lb) frozen unsweetened strawberries, sliced and thawed, can be used instead of the fresh.

Heat oven to 400F. Unroll 1 crust on work surface. Into medium bowl or food processor, crumble almond paste. Add 1 teaspoon cornstarch and the egg white. Mix or cover and process until smooth. Spread on crust to within 1 1/4 inches of edge. Unroll second crust; place on top and pat together gently. Place stuffed crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Seal edges; flute. Cover edge with foil; fit second pie plate inside first pie plate on top of crust.

Bake 10 minutes. Remove top pie plate; gently prick crust surface over filling about 15 times with fork. Bake uncovered about 15 minutes longer or until crust is light golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, mix granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons cornstarch. Stir in strawberries. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until filling thickens. Refrigerate about 30 minutes, stirring once, until cool.
Just before serving, spread strawberry filling in crust. In medium bowl, beat whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Spread on top of pie. Garnish with strawberries.

If you don't own two pie plates, purchase a disposable foil pie pan to place on top of the crust.

Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Call me crazy

Last night I went to  the "Library Book Club".

If you know me at all, you know that I belong to two book clubs already  (and the Literary Guild which is a lunch meeting where members give a  book report) Totally Lit and the Lit Wits.  
They are both different.  One is supper/cooking club also and one is not (desserts only),  one makes a plan a 3-6 months in advance, one  unveils the next book at the monthly meeting, but in each group, everyone gets a chance to pick a book.
I love them both and have made great friends in each group.  My friend Gini is in Totally Lit  and she also facilitates the  "Library Book club", which I went to last night.  I thought I would show my support for her.
It's so funny how different they all can be. 

The Library Book club,  meets at the library, not in a members home, in a meeting room where we all sit around a conference table.  There is no small talk, no snacks, no desserts and it last only an hour.   And at the end of the book discussion we all have to say if we:  recommend,  recommend with reservations or not recommend.   And it's recorded in a notebook.

I liked it.  I decided to continue to go---but that I would listen on audio to all the books  for that club.  They choose a year in advance, so that the library can order the books they use.

Call me crazy.

I have finished 2 books in the past couple of days....

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty  (very, very good)  (  I will recommend!!)

Lone Wolf (very good.)   (I will also recommend!!)

In other news, they come to make a template for my new counter top tomorrow!  and then it should be a week to 10 days.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

It's Monday

It's Monday, What are you Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey, where we share what we have read, are reading and what we hope to read.

I don't know about you, but I love sharing the books I am reading, so this is a great way for me to do just that!

This past week for me:

 I'm so excited... I am just about done with "IT" by Stephen King.  I will be doing a blog post about it for the  Stephen King Challenge later on in the week.  As I said before, I had forgotten how  much I love Stephen King.   As soon as I'm done with this post, I'm off to finish up this book.

I finished  "Explosive Eighteen" by Janet Evonovich.  Loved it.  But I love the Stephanie Plumb series anyway.  It's just an easy, fun, quick read.

And I just started  "A  Grown Up Kind of  Pretty" on audio.  I am  love, Love, LOVING it.

Goodreads says:
A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it's there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey's strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women's shared past--and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.

That's it for me this past week.  Now...I'm off to finish IT.
What are YOU reading?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

(Mexican) Cowboy Beans with Rick Bayless

I have to be honest, I've never seen Rick Bayless or his TV shows.  His name sounds very familiar tho and when I looked on-line to purchase a cookbook,  he looks familiar too.
Anyway,  I'm excited to get to know him, which I hope to be doing with 

There have been some really dedicated followers of  I Heart Cooking Clubs. Me?  I always have good intentions but I get sidetracked  (by a bird, a butterfly, a good book, a glass of wine) however,   since Mexican food is my favorite...I mean, real homemade Mexican food....I thought I should try to join in with 
This does not mean I am going back on my word to not join any challenge, BECAUSE with I Heart Cooking Clubs, one can participate whenever they want.

Which brings me to this:

I have no sink... what the heck am I doing participating in a cooking meme this week!!!??
I have no counter top either.... we just laid the old one back on until the new ones are installed, a week to 10 days from TUESDAY.  (as you can probably tell  by the cracks, cuts and pieces of counter top just lying there)
I cook, I take stuff to the  bathroom sink to wash off.   We've mostly been eating off of paper plates and having sandwiches or microwave meals.  It really sucks.
But--I managed to make a Rick Bayless meal last night!
(it felt so good to actually cook something again!!)

I orderd this cookbook, when I knew I wanted to join in with IHCC again and I was very excited to begin to cook some Bayless!

We like beans.   Whole beans/frijoles  better than refried, so when I found this quick easy recipe for  'Cowboy Beans' in  Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, I thought I'd give it a try.  To be honest, even tho I want to do this challenge, or cook along, a one pot dish sounded fantastic since I don't have a sink or dishwasher right now.

The beans were  phenomenal!! They had bacon and fire roasted tomotaoes and some pickeled jalepenos,  sprinkled with cilantro.  Mmmmm...they were smokey and spicey and  just really good.
I would definately make these as a side dish for any mexican meal.
This is what Rick writes about them
This is a quick version of the beans that are typically served in taquerias (and northern Mexican-sytle restaurants).  Think of them as smoky-spicy  (didn't I just say that??)
spicy-as-you-want, super satisfying version of plain-Jane brothy beans--they're perfect with tacos or grilled meat, really anything that's not cooked with a sauce.

I liked them with BBQ'd chicken. I mean grilled--GRILLED chicken.  Perfect with grilled chicken.
I can't wait to make them again for a 'themed'  party! 

Quick Cowboy Beans
Rick Bayless
Mexican Everyday

4 slices thick bacon, cut into small pieces
2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped or crushed thru a garlic press
Half a  15oz can of diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire roasted)
I used a whole can of Rotel tomatoes
3 1/2 cups home-cooked pinto beans with enough cooking liquid to cover
2 15oz cans of pinto beans
1 or 2 canned pickled jalapenos--or more if you like spicy beans
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

In a large 4-qt saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring regularly, until crisp, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir for a minute, then add the tomatoes with their juice.  Cook, stirring regularly for  3-4 minutes to blend the flavors.  Add the beans, with their liquid and simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.
While the beans are simmering, stem the chilies, cut in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Chop into small pieces and add to the beans.
Taste and season with salt if necessary.
Ladle into small bowls, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.

It's been fun....and I'm happy to be back to IHCC!

I'm also adding this as cookbook #52 in my own personal cookbook countdown goal.

Saturday Snapshot--March for Babies!

When I was a kid, we went from house to house asking for dimes (literally dimes!  We had a little box to put them in and we liked to shake it when asking for donations) to help children who had polio.  Later it evolved....

  • The March of Dimes was established by FDR to fight polio.
  • The mission focus was shifted to premature birth and birth defects.
  • Research breakthroughs have helped save thousands of babies.

  • The name was also changed to  "March for Babies."  You can read all about the history here,  but I just wanted to remind you that the MARCH FOR BABIES takes place in April at a park (or walking trail) near you, so if you know of anyone who could benefit from your kind donation, don't hesitate to contact them and volunteer to sponsor them with a monetary gift of your choosing.  Or better yet... do the walk yourself!
    When you walk in March for Babies, you give hope to the more than half a million babies born too soon each year. The money you raise supports programs in your community that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies. And it funds research to find answers to the problems that threaten our babies.

    I did the walk last year with my youngest son, his wife, and their 2 year old (then) twins.   The twins were born 8 weeks premature.  

    Here are some pictures from the walk  ( I did a post last year, but just want to remind you how important it is) last year.

    She doesn't look like a very happy miracle, but she really had a great time.

    We walked around the marina.  It was a gorgeous day!

    I'm linking this to Saturday Snapshot, hosted by Alyce from "At Home With Books."    I love this weekly meme.  For all the details, check out her site.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    First Chapter, first paragraph, Tuesday intros

    Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea asks us to share the first paragraph of a book we are reading. As you can see it’s called First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros. As readers we are often captivated or turned away by that first paragraph or two. Let’s see what you think about the first paragraph of my current read.Although it is dawn, inside Bhima's  heart it is dusk.

    Rolling onto her left side on the thin, cotton mattress on the floor, she sits up abruptly, as she does every morning.  She lifts one bony hand over her head in a  yawn and a stretch, and a strong mildewy smell wafts from her armpit and assails her nostrils.  For an idle moment she sits at the edge of the mattress with her callused feet flat on the mud floor, her knees bent and her head resting on her folded arms.  In that time she is almost at rest, her mind thankfully blank and empty of the trials that await her today and the next day and the next... to prolong this state of mindless grace, she reaches absently for the tin of chewing tobacco that she keeps by her bedside.  She pushes a wad into her mouth, so that it protrudes out of her fleshless face like a cricket ball.

    What do you think?   Would you read on?  
    I have  to,  we are reading it for  Book club this month, BUT I also want to read it.  It sounds intriguing.

    What book is it you ask, dear reader?


    The Space Between Us by  Thrity Umrigar.

    I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Friday friend recipe number 274 and 275-Grapefurit Shrimp Salad and Crispy Potato Chicken

      My Friday Friend Cookbook Countdown #274 and 275 My Mother-in-law's Grapefruit Shrimp Salad and Crispy potatoes . and you know all th...