Category Archives: Cooking With Love

Sunday Waffles


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Back when I was 16, I lived in Tacoma for a few months with my Dad. There was a little dive cafe (Dive cases always have the best food!) down the street from our apartment called Lu Lu’s. Every Sunday, we would walk down there and have breakfast. And every Sunday I would have Strawberry Waffles. Even on the Sunday when we showed up late, they turned the waffle iron back on and I still got my Strawberry Waffles. I have many fond memories of those months, many of them centered in that cafe. There is another cafe that brings fond memories of childhood as well…but that will be stories for another day…

Now I have teenagers of my own. We don’t eat out much, but we have our own dive kitchen where we cook some pretty awesome food ourselves. My oldest has taken a liking to waffles recently and is perfecting the craft of fluffy Belgian waffles. And with any luck, this will become our new Sunday tradition. If not a weekly tradition, at least I’ve been served waffles homemade with love by my teen, and I know we’re making memories that I hope my teens will look back on as fondly as I do my memories of those Sunday Waffles…

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Cheesy Goodness


Cheesy Goodness | www.ThatCookGirl.com/CheesyGoodness | Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Cheesy Goodness | www.ThatCookGirl.com/CheesyGoodness | Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

 Years ago I had a pretty amazing boss and work “family”. Our boss’s wife was really amazing too. And a pretty darn amazing cook! When we were having a potluck lunch she would almost always bring macaroni and cheese. I wanted to make it and I decided I had to have the recipe! So during a lunch celebration at our boss’s home in which his wife again served up the cheesy goodness, several of us were swooning over the amazing flavor and I declared “I’m going to ask her for the recipe.” Everyone looked at me in shock. They had for years wanted the recipe but none of them dared to ask. Here I was, fairly new to the office, and unafraid to ask! As I always say, “If you don’t ask, it’s already a no”.

I stood up from the table, found our gracious hostess and gushed to her about how much I love her macaroni and cheese and what a wonderful cook she is. Then I asked. I simply looked at her and asked: “Would you perhaps be willing to share your recipe?” She was so happy to pull out her cookbook and share the recipe with me, and all the girls were looking at me, completely astonished at my immense bravery. Ha! Us Cooks have no fear about asking for a recipe. Really, the worst that could have happened is she could have said “I’m sorry, it’s an old family secret” (which I have heard more than once) or she could have provided me with a different recipe than what she actually uses. Either way, no harm done. And I got an awesome recipe!

I have now made this, many years later, only a handful of times. And I usually use different cheeses than what the recipe calls for. I really like adding in some smoked cheese, sometimes even a creamier cheese like brie. Once even a small handful of bleu cheese crumbles got added in. The important thing is to use cheese that you like. And to make plenty for everyone. Oh and if by some chance you happen to have leftovers, please do yourself a favor in reheating them and do so in the oven. I promise you, the flavor of reheating in the oven vs microwave is well worth the time you wait!
Today I am making this most amazing cheesy goodness for a friend’s family. Her children have declared “what’s wrong with Kraft Mac and Cheese”. Well, nothing, I suppose, unless you want actual cheese in your macaroni and cheese. I have the blue boxes sitting here too, just in case I am unable to sway their tastes on this one. But really, it’s cheese, butter, and pasta! How can they not like it? Love it, even? These children are for sure my toughest critics. Since I have known them, I have cooked many meals for them. Most a hit, some are eaten, but I’m not sure enjoyed as much, and when they don’t like something, they speak up about it. (I don’t think I’ll ever be allowed to forget the caramelized carrots fiasco… apparently “caramelized” means something entirely different to a 9-year-old girl than to a 30-something woman who has an immense love of food!)

To make this cheesy goodness for yourself and your faves, you’ll need about 2# of cheese a pound of pasta, plus some butter, flour, milk, spices…oh, and maybe a recipe… please don’t be intimidated. Read through the whole recipe before you start and then just relax and let the process work.

The reviews from my critics have come back and here’s what my toughest critics have to say:
1. I was so stoked to eat it! (14 yr old)
2. So stoked on this macaroni, it’s so dialed! (15 yr old)
3. It was very scrumptious, but very hot (like heat hot) (11 yr old)
4. I thought that it was awesome. (13 yr old)
5. It tasted good. I mean, I ate all of it… (17 yr old…who seemed a little confused that I was asking)
6. It’s ****ing amazing (17 yr old [yes, there was swearing…very excited swearing…] )

Next time I make this, hopefully some adults will be around to enjoy it. Until then, I am pleased that I was able to share this cheesy goodness with a houseful of teens and tweens. :)

The Great American Macaroni and Cheese
This recipe is from the Pasta & Co. Cookbook

They say not to substitute a smooth tube dried pasta but to always use rigatoni for the best results. They also make a note that it is not a fiery dish, even though it calls for Tabasco and chili powder. The spiciness of the sauce and powder enhance the cheddar flavor.

INGREDIENTS

1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
3 cups milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1⁄4 cup romano cheese, grated
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1⁄3 teaspoon white pepper
1 lb rigatoni pasta
3⁄4 teaspoon chili powder
3⁄4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS

Combine grated Cheddar and mozzarella and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat milk until near boiling. Turn off heat. Melt butter in a heavy pan large enough to hold the pasta after it is cooked. (It will take at least a 14-inch saute pan or a large casserole that can take direct heat.) When foam from butter recedes, remove from heat, add flour, and mix well. Return to medium-low heat, and, stirring occasionally, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook, but not brown, the flour. Gradually stir in hot milk. Raise heat to medium-high and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and thick (about 5 minutes). Add Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Whisk until smooth. Add Tabasco and white pepper and blend.
Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water about 4 minutes. (It will be underdone, but will finish cooking later.) Thoroughly drain rigatoni and fold it into the cheese mixture.
If cooking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Layer one-half the rigatoni mixture into a 9×13 pan. Top with one-half of the Cheddar and mozzarella. Repeat layers. Top with chili powder, sprinkled evenly over top.
If not baking immediately, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze. When ready to bake, drizzle the 3/4 cup milk over the dish. Bake for approximately one hour. If frozen, add at least 20 minutes to baking time. The dish should be rusty brown on top. Should it appear to be browning too fast, cover with foil for part of cooking time. Be sure to check for doneness in the very center of the dish.

 

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Kitchen Tree


I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that I love Christmas. I love, love, love decorating our tree. I always try to convince my kids that I should leave it up year-round. Last year I even planned on seeing just how long I’d last with it up. I probably could have kept it all the way into summer if not longer. But, we moved and it had to come down. But out of pure stubbornness, on moving day, it was the last thing standing. And we moved in mid-February! Everything else was packed and loaded into cars and there stood my tree, still as beautiful as the day it went up.

ThatCookGirl.com/Kitchen-Tree

ThatCookGirl.com
Kitchen Tree
What? Doesn’t everyone put a Christmas Tree in their kitchen?

But I digress… This year we are in a beautiful house with a big kitchen. And so I got to put up a (small) Kitchen Tree! What? Doesn’t everyone put a Christmas tree in their kitchen?  I added my coffee ornaments, my cooking-themed ornaments, and some favorite childhood ornaments and I found a home for it on my kitchen counter. I will enjoy this tree every morning as I pour my coffee, every evening as I cook dinner (or watch the kids cook dinner, whatever the case may be), and I will enjoy it every time I walk into or through the kitchen.

Who knows. Maybe it will find a permanent home atop my stack of favorite cookbooks in the corner. One just never knows.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Do you do anything unique?

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Confessions of a Childhood Cook


I grew out of a lot of things I liked to do as a child, as most people do. One thing I never outgrew was liking food and cooking. One of my confessions from my days as a young cook involves multiple confessions. So I might as well just get right to it. Mom? Dad? I’m sorry. I was not the angelic child you believed me t….sorry, I can’t finish that sentence with a straight face, even typing it instead of speaking it. Angelic? Middle child of 6 girls? Not likely. I’m sure these confessions won’t even raise an eyebrow from my folks.

Confession #1: The recipe I’m about to share has always been my guilty pleasure. From the moment I discovered it… I would sneak out of bed many nights to make it after everyone else was long asleep (or at least I assumed they were asleep)

Confession #2: After making the recipe, I plopped down in front of the TV to watch late night Nick at Nite shows like Donna Reed and Mr.Ed (such a rebel)

Confession #3: I ate the recipe straight out of the pan and drank 2 big glasses of milk along with it.

So, what is this glorious recipe? I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I’m sure you’ve even made it many times yourself. And I’m sure you even have eaten it straight from the pan. Perhaps not the entire pan of it like I did, though (please, do confess if you did, though! I’d love to not be alone on this one….)

NO BAKE CHOCOLATE MOUNDS (a.k.a No Bake Cookies)

Your Ingredients:

1/4 lb butter, 2 c sugar, 1/2 c milk, 1/4 c peanut butter, 6 Tbl cocoa powder, 3 c quick oats, 1 tsp vanilla

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In a large saucepan, mix together butter, sugar, and milk. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Imagine a child waiting for 2 minutes for sugar to boil. I think that kind of torture should be enough that no punishment for the crime of sneaking out of bed to make this yummy treat is necessary. Wouldn’t you agree?

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Add the remaining ingredients to the pan.

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Stir until well combined. And then, if you’re like a normal person, you’ll want to work fast to drop the mix onto wax paper before it begins to harden. (The cooler it is in your house, the faster they will harden.) [Note, mine are on foil instead of wax paper…because I don’t have wax paper. This is the only recipe I have that needs it, and well, I usually eat the dang things right out of the pan and never make it to this step!]

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Oh, don’t worry. I saved some for myself. I have it sitting right here next to me while I type. So, Mom and Dad? Now I guess you know why you seemed to always run out of oatmeal (and sugar, and cocoa powder, oh and milk….) quicker than expected. Loves! xx

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As I was remembering my late-night snacking adventures this morning on the way to work, it reminded me of other recipes from my childhood that I am now officially on the hunt for! Children’s books with recipes in them! There is one out there somewhere with cranberry cookies and I am determined to find it, along with many others I remember from my childhood. I will keep you updated on what I find. What are your favorite childhood food memories?

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Better Butter


First, I’ll allow you a moment to recover from the shock of me posting two days in a row. When I get the chance to “steal” my girl child’s computer to do some blogging, and I actually have something to blog about, I take the opportunity. And this is a post I’ve been wanting to make for a couple years now.

It’s no secret that I love butter. I’ve mentioned fresh butter several times in my postings. I’ve even talked family members who were over for dinner into helping  to make butter (once, even a sister’s ex who only dropped in to see their daughter and wasn’t even staying for dinner helped to make the butter). I don’t always make my own butter, but if I’m making a nice dinner or yummy bread, I like to have really great butter to go with it. More than once, people have said things to me along the lines of “You know they sell that at the store, right?” and “There are easier ways to make butter than that”. “I know” is pretty much my response to all of the comments. So, would you like to make your own fresh butter? You just need one ingredient, one “tool”, and a little muscle (or several little muscles with the help of some kids)

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Pour 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream into a chilled 1 quart jar with a tight fitting lid. If you have access to fresh, raw milk and the cream that comes from that…well, I’m jealous if you do, but… it will make an even creamier, sweet, beautiful butter! Screw the lid onto your jar. Make sure it’s tight. It is important to not fill the jar all the way. Half-filled is perfect. The cream needs room to move around and do its thing to become butter.

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You can shake the jar yourself, or if you have some bored teenagers roaming around like I do, you can hand them the jar. It’s a tiring job, so usually more than one person and some turn-taking will make the task a little easier. I’ve set kids up in a circle on the floor and let them roll the jar around between them, but that takes longer (although, it keeps little ones entertained for awhile, if you need an easy activity for them!).

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You will know when the cream is turning into butter because it will start to kind of “thud” against the side of the jar. And once that starts to happen, keep shaking, as hard as you can (I almost always have taken over the task from the teenagers with tired arms by this point and finish it off myself), until there is a mass of butter and the liquid has separated. That’s buttermilk, by the way. Save it and use it in some pancakes, or Breakfast Cookies.

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Pour the liquid off into a bowl (or into a clean jar to store for later use, in the fridge of course), and spoon the butter into your favorite butter dish. Mine is a French Butter Dish I got from a friend’s shop last year.

There you have it, fresh butter. One ingredient, and a wonderful treat for topping for your favorite breads, and anything else you love topping with butter!

And now, my dear friends, family, and blog-readers… I must go. The battery on the girl child’s computer is near the end, and Red Widow is on. Have you started watching this show? Oh, you should! You really should!!!

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Live; You Might Like It


Live; You Might Like It

So there’s this life I love. And in this jumbled, imperfect life, I try to find time to do all the things I love and, well, I just can’t fit it all in. So when it comes to choosing which things are priority, it’s the living of life that wins. The enjoying everyday, ordinary moments.
Of course, this means my blogging suffers, as does my housekeeping. But the thing that doesn’t suffer is life.
In a kitchen conversation with my girl child several months ago, we were talking about how I have done things I never would have dreamed of doing even just 2 years ago (things like accepting an invitation to go out on a boat with people I did not know…taking on new adventures…quitting my job…finding new joys in this crazy world), and how much more fun life is when you decide to live it. It was a “lightbulb moment” for both of us, especially for her. She excitedly yelled “Live; you might like it.”, and then ran out of the room. She returned, proud of herself, and apologizing for running out like that, but she said she wanted to write it down before she forgot.
And that night when I was getting ready for bed, I found this sticky note on my bathroom mirror. And there it stayed until moving day a few weeks ago, as a daily reminder to Live.
Oh, that’s right. You don’t know… After working 2 jobs to barely make ends meet for awhile, I was offered a new job. This new job allowed us to move out of our tiny apartment and into a nearly-perfect house, complete with garage, yard, garden, and an amazing kitchen! If we didn’t know any better, we’d think this house was built just for us. And maybe it was. And it’s just been waiting for us to be ready for it.
I have so many things to share with all of you, so many recipes, moments, new adventures, LIFE! I hope you’ll forgive me for Living Life and my delays in sharing about that amazingly imperfect perfect life!
Now, please do me a favor. Go. Live! You might like it, too!

 

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Colorful Taste


I haven’t posted in awhile, and I have so many posts running through my mind, so many fun things to share with you… But my alarm is set to start beeping at me in, oh, about 7ish hours (at 2:30am!) because the fine folks of my town need their coffee, and I don’t want to deprive them of that. So, I will share 2 pictures with you. A colorful bounty

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from my local Farmers Market and a hidden treasure waiting to be oncovered (or RE-covered as the case may be…..more on that soon.)

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Honey Tea


Honey Tea

A friend shared a picture on facebook today that included a link for a “honey tea” useful as a sore throat remedy. I can’t begin to tell you how exciting this was to me. I see these “tea” concoctions all the time. Elaborate, time consuming concoctions that taste awful but are supposed to contain amazing healing properties. I’m sorry. I’m all about natural remedies, homecooking, and all that jazz… but if it tastes awful, I’ll just never use the remedy, so it’s pointless.

This “tea” is so easy, I don’t think it can be messed up.

3 ingredients, 2 preparation “tools”
Honey (preferably raw, local honey)
Lemon
Gingerroot
Knife
Jar with lid

I found my honey at a local place called Bees in the Burbs. I know the owner of the place from my “day job”, and my daughter is friends with his daughter at school, too. So I was thrilled to go in search of their shop that they recently opened, where they were happy to show us around, even taking the boy child outside to show him a swarm of bees that were gathering around an area where some syrup had spilled.

I chose the wildflower honey at his suggestion, and as you can see from the pictures, the honey is crystallizing a bit. That’s a good thing. That means the honey is raw, not pasteurized, a process that cooks out all the good healing properties. At room temperature, raw honey will do this. It has not gone bad (honey is a natural preservative). If you want to be able to pour it into your drinks or cooking at home, you need only warm it lightly.

Thinly slice 1 lemon. This should be enough to almost fill a pint jar.

Peel the outer skin from about an inch-long piece of ginger root. Thinly slice it and add it to the top of the lemons in the jar.

Add the honey to the jar with the lemons and ginger. My 12 oz honey bear filled it to the top. Just the right amount. I stirred it a bit to get the honey mixed in with the lemons and ginger, and that was it. Throw the lid on that baby and put it in your fridge. When someone in your home starts to feel a tingle of a sore throat coming on, pull out your honey tea, place a spoonful in a mug, and mix it with a cup of hot water. Drink and feel the magic of nature go to work!

 

For once, I am actually going to use a “tea concoction”. I’m almost looking forward to that first winter cold now, just so I can pull my honey jar from the back of the fridge and put it to use. (Ok, not really. I actually hope we stay healthy and don’t have to use it, but it’s there if we need it.)

For information on the health benefits of honey, lemons, and ginger, check out the links below. And for goodness sake, find yourself a local, raw honey supplier! You’ll thank me later. (Especially if you’re an allergy sufferer! Local raw honey has been shown to reduce or even eliminate pollen allergies. Why? Because you are ingesting the local pollens and this helps build up the body’s immunity to those pollens.)

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/health-benefits-of-organic-locally-grown-raw-honey/

http://www.amritaveda.com/learning/articles/ginger.asp

http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/Physical-Health/Hidden-Health-Secrets-of-Lemons.aspx

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My Bacon Story


There was a time in my life when making bacon was a chore. But bacon is worth the chore, right? So I would get out the shirt aptly named “The Bacon Cooking Shirt”, courtesy of all the bacon grease splatters it was stained with, and get the bacon started on its way to sizzling, crispy perfection on the stove, jumping every now and then to try (and fail) to avoid the bacon grease splatters. We would enjoy the bacon, it would make us smile..and then we would walk into the kitchen and slide across the grease-covered floor and start the cleanup of bacon grease from the stove, counters, and floor. We didn’t eat bacon very often in those days. Too much work.

It pains me to learn of the number of people who still cook bacon this way. There is an easier way, people. Easy! And no babysitting of the pan, or flipping of the bacon is necessary. Yes, really. It’s true!

All you need is your favorite bacon (mine comes from a local farmer I used to buy my pork from in my hometown. I’m hoping to find a new local farmer in my new town soon, since my freezer is starting to get quite low on meats!), an oven set to 425 degrees, and a bar pan (jelly roll pan, whatever you call it, as long as it has sides. You do NOT want to use a pan with no sides. You need the pan to be able to hold the bacon grease.) Line the bacon in a single layer across the pan. You can put it pretty close together, but don’t overlap it. Put the pan of bacon in the oven, and set your timer for 15 minutes. (Please, please, please set the timer. Don’t believe that you will remember, because you won’t, and you’ll forget about it, that is, until your smoke alarm reminds you that you were cooking bacon. And then you have a pan of burnt nothingness and that is just wrong, on so many levels.)

Don’t worry. The 15 minutes is just a starting point. I always set it for 15 minutes and check it then, but usually end up re-setting the time for another 5-10 minutes. Personally, I think bacon is done just before it burns. My kids, sadly, do not tend to agree with me. But, I’m the one cooking, and when they decide to cook, they can make it how they like it. But, once in awhile I’m feeling generous and will take a few pieces off the pan early for them.

Tonight’s bacon cooking is serving multiple purposes. BLTs on the menu for the night, paired with oven fries, which I cooked on the same pan (after removing the bacon and most of the bacon grease). The bacon grease gave a great extra bit of flavor to the oven fries tonight. MMMMMMMM!!!!!! And the remaining bacon grease? Well, it now sits in a jar, on a shelf in my fridge, awaiting its turn at flavoring some fresh green beans we got in our Bountiful Baskets produce pickup this past weekend. And it will get to flavor some other things over the next couple weeks as well, I just don’t know what those things are quite yet.

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Worth the Drive!


After working 8 hours yesterday, I took a little (hour long) drive with my kiddos to my baby sis’s house. Why would I do that to myself, after working all day? It was for the tacos. But we’re not talking just any run-of-the-mill, Americanized tacos. Oh no. We’re talking authentic Mexican tacos, with pork so tender the pieces melt in your mouth, onions, fresh guacamole, warm, soft corn tortillas, queso fresco, and oh my word, this time there was a special treat of a cactus salad. I know my sis and brother-in-law were laughing at me as I excitedly asked what it was, but in the instant I asked, I also answered, knowing it must be cactus. Excitement!

But let’s back up  a minute. When I arrived at their house, sis and I took off for the auto parts store and left  brother-in-law to clean the kitchen. Me being the girl that I am, and perfectly willing to play the “girl card” (much to my sister, Frances‘s annoyance), I found this quite hilarious. But, we went, and we bought supplies for him to give my car a tune-up, which he happily did (well, maybe not *happily*, but he did it, none-the-less) after making dinner for us, while sis and I enjoyed some of Mom’s homemade Kahlua with milk over ice. (And then we enjoyed some more with dinner, and some more after dinner…and decided we need to get Mom’s recipe and we need to make more!)

When my brother-in-law makes tacos, I always come prepared to eat, and eat a lot. And this time was no different. I started with 5 tacos on my first plate. (Because that was all that would fit.) And by the end of the night, I had gone back for 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, and been given tacos that others did not eat. I lost count after eating taco #12. And I am not ashamed. Don’t come between the skinny girl and her food!

My kids and I stayed overnight, and baby sis was even kind enough to set up the coffee pot so I would have coffee when I got up in the morning. It wasn’t nearly enough to repay their kindness and generosity, but my kiddos and I helped my nephews with their chores before we left today, so my sis and brother-in-law would (hopefully) arrive home after work to a clean house. I hope the boys managed to keep it that way after we left.

Thanks baby sis and brother-in-law!!! I hope you know how much I appreciate all that you do for me. Love you guys! xoxo

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