Category Archives: Favorite Things

Ham Hocks and Beans

  
Just because I can see the sun doesn’t mean I can feel it.  It’s that time of year!  Well, if it can’t be warm and toasty outside, I can get warm and toasty inside.

This is the kind of soup/stew that puts a fire in your belly.  Not the kind that has you reaching for the Tums, but the kind that warms from your belly to your toes.  The kind that makes me want to sit back, sigh with contentment, and get out a good book.  Or, more realistically, gives me the energy to chase around two toddlers.  

Wishing you warmth and a full belly!

Ham Hocks and Beans

  • 1 lb pinto beans, rinsed well and picked over
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (I used red)
  • 2 jalapeños, cut in half lengthwise 
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Chicken stock (or water)
  • 3 smoked ham hocks
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place rinsed beans in a large bowl or pot and fill with water until it’s about 1 inch above the beans.  Let sit at least overnight.
  2. The next day, drain the beans and set aside.
  3. Add oil, onion, celery, and peppers to a large pot and cook, stirring often, until veggies are translucent (about 5 mins).  Add cumin, baking soda, and enough chicken stock to cover the beans by about an inch.  Nestle in the ham hocks, and bring to a low simmer. 
  4. Cook low and slow, stirring every so often, until beans are soft.  This will take a couple of hours, so add chicken stock as needed.
  5. Once beans are soft, discard jalapeños, and set ham hocks to the side to cool.  Stir in tomatoes and shredded carrot.
  6. Once cool enough to handle, remove meat from the ham hocks and return the meat to the pot.  Cook an additional 10 minutes or until the carrot is soft.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Enjoy with a glass of wine and a good crusty bread.  Cheers!
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Weeknight Mash

weeknight Mash

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods.  We are experiencing a mixture of warm sunny days and cold/windy/rainy days.  When it’s cold, I like having something warm and comforting to eat.  And going outside to grill just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

On days like that, I want a comforting side dish.  The most comforting side dish I can think of is mashed potatoes.  But, I grew up in a small town in Idaho where our high school mascot is a potato.  So, if you don’t know how to make a decent mashed potato and you come from Shelley, Idaho, there is definitely something wrong.  Well, these potatoes are more than decent.  They’re delicious.  And QUICK!

The ingredients are the normal mashed potato ingredients: potatoes, milk, butter, salt and pepper.  It’s the method that makes these potatoes my go-to recipe.  And there’s enough for 6 to eat, with leftovers!

Sure, you can feed your family potatoes from a box.  Or spend close to an hour waiting for the huge pot of water and potatoes on the stove to come to a boil.  But, seriously, boxed potatoes taste kinda funny.  And who has time to wait for water to boil on a glass-top electric stove?  I swear, the stove we have is the SLOWEST thing I’ve ever cooked on.  Ever.

I hope you’re able to try this recipe, and that you love it as much as we do.

Weeknight Mash

  • about 5 lbs russet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 4 quart glass (microwave-safe) casserole dish with lid
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. Place potatoes in the casserole dish with enough water to come half way up the sides.  Put on the lid and microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Check the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork – if they are soft and break easily, then they are ready to mash.  If not, give them a good stir, and microwave on high for another 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain potatoes.
  2. Place milk and butter in a microwave safe dish (I use my pyrex measuring cup) and microwave about a minute.  Watch it to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
  3. Place potatoes back into the casserole dish or in a mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an electric mixer, add about half of the milk/butter mixture, and whip on low speed.  Keep adding the milk until your desired consistency is reached.  If you like thinner mashed potatoes than I do, you might need more milk.
  5. I whip mine in the same dish I use to cook it in, but you could also whip the potatoes in another dish and add back to the casserole dish.  I like to serve in that dish because it’s already warm!

You could also flavor these mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, sour cream and chives, sour cream and cheddar– whatever!  🙂

Jalapeno BACON Cheddar Bread

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Jalapeno

BACON

Cheddar…

Are you drooling yet?  You should be.  If you’re not, you need to get that checked out.  Seriously.

I’m warning you – if you make this bread, it has a tendency to disappear.  I made 8 mini-loaves (really, it should have been 10), and the little loaves grew legs and walked away.  Some even walked into some mayo, tomato, lettuce and bacon slices.  Holy crap.  Good thing I caught that one.  Didn’t want it getting away.  Just think of the accidents if it actually made it down the street.  See?  I really AM a super hero.  🙂

You can make this bread with just about any mix-in you want.  But jalapenos, bacon bits, and diced cheddar are really, really good.  Some people don’t like jalapenos.  That’s cool.  Just leave them out.  Bacon cheddar bread is pretty darn good, too.  Just not AS good.  So, you know.  Choose wisely.

Jalapeno BACON Cheddar Bread

  • 1/2 cup warm water (115°F)
  • 1 packet quick rise yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup bacon bits (the real kind.  Bacos are for weenies)
  • 8 oz can diced jalapenos, drained
  • 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cut in small cubes and frozen.
  1. Preheat oven to lowest possible temp.  For me, that’s 170°F.  When it gets to this temp, turn it off.
  2. Place yeast in a bowl and sprinkle a little of the sugar on top.  Pour in warm water and stir well.  Let sit about 5 minutes.
  3. Place remaining sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.  Whip them up!
  4. Put butter and milk in a microwave safe dish and heat on high until butter melts, about 1 minute 30 seconds.
  5. Pour milk and butter mixture, and foamy yeast mixture into the egg and sugar mixture.  Whip it again!
  6. Add the 3 cups bread flour and mix on low until incorporated.  Add bacon bits and jalapenos.  Then, you know– WHIP IT!
  7. In a medium bowl, mix the all purpose flour and salt. Replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook.  Add the all purpose flour/salt a little at a time until it’s all incorporated.   If needed, you can add a bit of warm water, a teaspoon at a time, to wet the dough a bit and help the last of the flour get incorporated.
  8. Once all the flour is in, turn the mixer on low and let it do the kneading for you – about 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the dough from the bowl, and flatten into a large rectangle.  Sprinkle the cheddar on top, then knead by hand about 3 minutes, or until dough springs back when poked and cheese is distributed evenly.   Freezing helps keep the cheese intact.
  10. Place dough in a large, well oiled bowl, turning once to coat with oil.  Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the oven until doubled, about an hour.  Once rising is done, heat oven to 375°F.
  11. Shape and bake according to options:
    1. Mini Loaves (5-1/2″ x 3″ x 2-1/2″): Divide dough into 10 equal portions.  Shape each into a log, sealing seams on the bottom if needed.  Place in greased loaf pans and let rise until over the top of the pan, 45 minutes to an hour.  Bake 20 minutes, rotate pans, and bake another 15-20 minutes.
    2. Regular Loaves (8″ x 4″ x 3″): Divide dough into 4 equal portions.  Shape each into a log, pinching seams closed on the bottom if needed.  Place in greased loaf pans and let rise until over the top of the pan, 45 minutes to an hour. Bake 25 minutes, rotate pans, and bake another 25 to 35 minutes.
    3. Rolls: Divide dough into balls about the size of a hacky sack.  If you don’t know what a hacky sack is, go hang out on a college campus and ask one of the hipsters. They might roll their eyes, but they’ll tell you.  Anyway… Shape each ball and place in a greased 9″ x 13″ pan.  You should be able to fit 12-15 rolls per pan with about a half an inch around each ball to allow for room to rise.  Grease the top, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise about 45 minutes, then bake 20 minutes.  Rotate pan, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes.
  12. Let cool about 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove from pan to cool completely.  If you have any left over (yeah, right), store in an airtight container in the fridge.

PS: If you REALLY want to be awesome, make rolls but leave out the cheese in step 9.  Put a bit in the middle of each roll instead of incorporating into the dough.  Make sure it’s completely surrounded by dough and sealed.  Don’t want any cheese leak-ers on my watch… Bake and cool as directed.

Pizza Rolls

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Sometimes, life is crazy.  Sometimes, life is BUSY!  And then there are times when things slow down.  When the house is so quiet, you can hear the dog snoring from 3 rooms away.  It gets that way when the kids are at grandma and grandpa’s house 4 hours away.  Sure, you could get caught up on laundry and dishes.  Or you could COOK.  Cooking it is!!

This recipe is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Kind of like a cinnamon roll, but savory.  Salty.  Cheesy.  Yummy!

Sure, this recipe takes a while to put together, but most of the time is rising time.  Promise.  It’s really not that complicated.  If my kids were a bit older, I would let them ‘decorate’ their own section of dough before rolling it all up.  That would be fun.  Can’t wait.  Well, yes I can.  You two can stay small, okay?

Hope you enjoy this recipe.  And if you’re in the mood for something sweet, this dough makes FANTASTIC cinnamon rolls. 🙂

Pizza Rolls

FOR THE DOUGH:

  • 1/4 cup warm water (115°F)
  • 1 envelope (2-1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup warm whole milk (115°F)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2-1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
  • 3 cups all purpose flour

FOR THE FILLING / TOPPING:

  • 2 cups (2-8 oz. cans) tomato sauce with basil, oregano, and garlic
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
  • pizza toppings, cut into very small pieces (1/4″ dice), 1/2 cup each (up to 4)
  • Your favorite marinara sauce for dipping
  1. Place warm water in a small bowl with about 1 tsp sugar.  Sprinkle yeast over the water and stir gently.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the warm milk, 1/4 cup sugar, eggs and salt.  Whisk in the foamy yeast mixture.
  2. With mixer on low, slowly add the 3 cups of bread flour.  Give it a good whirl, then switch the attachment to the dough hook.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the all purpose flour.  The resulting dough should pull away from the sides and bottom of the bowl.  You may need more or less flour depending on the humidity that day.  Once the dough ball forms, let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.  This rest helps the flour to hydrate a bit and will also aid in the formation of gluten while kneading.
  3. Mix on medium speed for 6 minutes, adding flour, a Tbsp at a time, as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a large ball.  Grease a large bowl and place the dough ball inside, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Butter two 9″x13″ pans.  Deflate the dough by gently pushing down and turning it over in the bowl.  Divide in half with a sharp knife.  Return one of the halves to the bowl and recover with plastic wrap.
  5. Roll out the other dough ball into a rectangle that is 1/4″ thick on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper.
  6. Spread tomato sauce over the rectangle of dough, leaving 1″ at the far long end of the dough rectangle.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the sauce.  Top with pizza toppings.
  7. Roll up lengthwise, ending with the 1″ filling-free edge.  Pinch the seams to seal.  Cut into 1″ slices – I like to do this with unflavored dental floss.  Just place the floss under the log of dough and position where you want to cut.  Bring the ends of the floss up over the dough, cross from one side to the other, and pull.  Perfect slice every time!  You should end up with about 12 slices.  Repeat with remaining dough ball.
  8. Place about 12 dough slices in each 9″x13″ pan.  Don’t overcrowd the rolls – they will need room to rise.  Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Bake the rolls one pan at a time, unless you are lucky enough to have a convection oven!
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.  Return to oven and bake another 20 minutes.
  11. Let cool about 15-20 minutes, then dig in!

VARIATION:

Cinnamon Rolls:

Follow directions through step 5.  Butter the rolled out dough with 4 tablespoons of softened butter, then sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Roll up, cut, and place in a greased 9″x13″ pan.  Sprinkle a bit more brown sugar and cinnmon on top, then place a little dollop of butter on top of that.  Bake as directed and serve with cream cheese frosting!  For the cream cheese frosting, blend together 1 block (8 oz. ) cream cheese (I use the 1/3 less fat kind) and 1 stick of softened butter.  Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and 2-4 Tbsp milk (depending on how thin or thick you want it).  Spread over warm rolls and enjoy!

Pesto Rolls:

Follow directions through step 5.  Spread with 1 cup pesto and 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Roll up, cut, and place in buttered dish.  Sprinkle with 1/3 cup parmesan cheese and allow to rise.  Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes, rotating the pan after 20 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy!!

DIY Pin-Board

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We got new furniture here at the office.  Nice stuff!  All the new filing cabinets came on these frames made out of scrap wood to keep them from getting beat up in shipping.  They were going to get thrown away.  I rescued them, and made some AWESOME gifts for my coworkers.  Each one was unique, and each one matches that person’s office.  Here’s how I did it…

Supplies:

  • wood frame made of scrap wood (they would be easy to make, the ones I used were about 18″ by 25″)
  • Styrofoam Insulation
  • Sharpie
  • Glue-all
  • Books
  • Thin batting
  • About 3/4 yard of fabric (depending on how large your frame is). I looked online for clearance fabric and only paid a MAX of $2 a yard.
  • Staple Gun
  • Hammer
  • Utility Knife

 

Workplace and Neighbor Gifts, 2012

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T’was the week before Christmas,

And all through the home,

Not a single gift was wrapped,

Not even the phone!

The stockings weren’t hung by the chimney with care.

Why? I knew St. Nicholas wouldn’t be there.

For Christmas, you see, we must drive away.

So we can spend time with family

On Christmas Day.

As long as we get there,

Everything’s just fine.

So sit back, relax,

Have another glass of wine…

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Well, that explains it all right.  I didn’t have one single gift wrapped prior to Saturday.  Normally, I have cards sent out, the tree up, and gifts wrapped and ready to go by the first week in December.  But this hasn’t been a ‘normal’ year.

It’s funny how this time of year really makes you look back and appreciate all the blessings that have happened.  I am thankful my husband and I are living in the same house again (we spent 18 months living a 5-hour drive apart due to job relocation), and we are thankful for our health and the health of our families.

I am thankful I am in my 30’s and still have a grandma to hug tight when I go home to visit.  And I am also grateful that at 86 years old, she still wears me out!  🙂

I am thankful my mother is my best friend.  She has always been there for me, even when I didn’t deserve it.  It’s funny how when you get older, you realize your parents really DID know what they were talking about.

I am also thankful to have such wonderful coworkers and neighbors.  This year, I put together three gift baskets to hand out.

For those that cook, but don’t love sweets, I made a gift basket that included a large soup mug, dry soup mix, and a cloth napkin.  I got the soup mugs at the craft store for $1, the dry soup mix at World Market, and the napkin at the dollar store.  I wrapped it all in clear cellophane with a bright red tag that said, “Warm Wishes this Holiday Season”.

For those that cook and love sweets, I made a little scone gift basket.  I got wooden spoons and glass bowls from the dollar store, and different flavors of scone mixes from World Market.  I wrapped them in cellophane with the same “Warm Wishes” tag.  We tried out a scone mix over the weekend– had to make sure they were good before we gave them to anyone else, you know.  They were FANTASTIC!  And SO EASY.  All they require is a little water, a brief stir, and a 12 minute bake.  Yum!

For those that don’t cook, I made tiny little baskets that contained a manicure set, Christmas socks, nail polish, and a large emery board.  I got the manicure sets and nail polish at Ulta (on sale), and the socks and emery boards at the dollar store.  I bought the cute baskets at World Market on clearance for $0.50. The baskets were wrapped in cellophane with a tag that read, “For Your Mistle-Toes!”.

I just love giving this time of year.  What creative things do you love to give out to friends and neighbors?

Wishing you and yours the BEST this Christmas!

Being a Food Scientist is cool…

Those of you who have read the ‘About Me’ page know I am a Food Scientist/Technologist.  I work in product development for one of the largest food companies in the U.S.  I work in product development, which means I develop new products that are safe and healthy.  Pretty cool, huh?

Food Science is not just one scientific discipline.  It encompasses chemistry, microbiology, physics, etc.  I had no idea Food Science existed until I was a senior in college with a Chemistry major.  I was lucky enough to get into grad school on a full scholarship, meaning that I was paid to get my Master’s degree.    And now I have my dream job.  🙂

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Recently, I was able to attend the Institute of Food Technologists meeting in Las Vegas.  I love going to this conference.  The keynote speaker this year was Howard Shultz, Starbucks President, CEO and Chairman.  Mr. Shultz talked about how important innovation is to a company, but how the people within the company are absolutely the most important component of success.  He also spoke about what Starbucks is doing to improve the communities around the stores.  They are selling wristbands for $5 where the proceeds are going to community banks to fund small business loans.  I thought that was great!

The convention also included a Scientific Program with several sessions.  I attended sessions that had to do with sustainability, formulating for health, food allergen minimization, and culinology (the combination of Food Science and Culinary Arts).  I was also able to attend an energizing workshop on strategic leadership.

The best feature of the convention is the Food Show.  Here, vendors and suppliers are able to showcase their new products.  I got to taste quite a few new things.  One vendor even brought in a food truck to prep their samples!  top trends on the show floor this year had to do with sodium reduction, gluten free products, probiotics and fiber.  I can’t wait to start playing with all the ingredient samples that will be coming in the next few weeks.

This is just a small peek into being a Food Scientist/Technologist.  For more information, you can visit the Institute of Food Technologists at www.ift.org.  Be sure to check out their fun videos on YouTube!

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.  Have a great week!