Tag Archives: kitchen

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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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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Filling Empty

I have 6 half-gallon Ball Canning Jars. When I asked my parents if they would sell me these jars they had sitting around, Mom asked what I was planning to do with them. I told her I planned to fill them. And that is exactly what I plan to do. I have 3 of them in use now, but I’m not going to tell you what I’m using them for, just yet. First, I want you to tell me what you would use them for if they were in your home, and/or tell me what you think I am going to/should use them for. I expect to fill the remaining 3 jars by this weekend and will share with you what kind of fun and/or practical uses I have found.

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Vanilla Beans

How to cut open a vanilla bean: lay bean(s) on cutting board, holding one end with your fingers, use a sharp knife to cut bean lengthwise, exposing seeds

Not too long ago I bought a few vanilla beans for a good price. (I don’t recall what the price was, but I remember not wanting to pass up the good deal.) I finally have gotten around to doing something with them, and I am pleased to say that my first experience in working with vanilla beans has been a good one. They are simple to work with, despite their size, and now my hands smell like vanilla and that makes me smile.

So, what did I do with these fragrant, flavorful little pods of goodness? I made more goodness, of course. It will be ready in about 2 months.

First, I made Vanilla Extract. In my cupboard I had some vodka that I will, in all honesty, never drink. (Sorry, sis. I’ll buy more for your dirty Martinis when you come visit. I promise.) This is the perfect liquor for making vanilla extract. And I am almost out of vanilla extract in my baking supplies, so it seemed a perfect use to me. The process is so simple you’ll question why you’ve never made it yourself, and then you’ll want to rush out and buy some vodka and vanilla beans.

You will need:

— 1 cup vodka, bourbon, or rum (Vodka is my #1 choice here because of its neutral flavor.)

— 2-4 vanilla beans

— clean bottle or jar

Here’s what to do:

Place liquor into a clean bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. I was finishing off a bottle of vodka for this, so I just used that bottle and saved myself the trouble of finding another appropriately sized jar/bottle. Split open vanilla beans to expose the seeds inside the bean pod (as shown in picture). Add vanilla beans to liquor, secure lid, and shake well. Place in a cool, dark cupboard, and give it a little shake a couple times a week. In about 2-3 months, you will have beautiful vanilla extract for all your baking needs. It will become a little darker as it ages, and you can use it as you would any other vanilla, only it will taste way better. To keep it going forever, you can add more vanilla beans and liquor to the bottle.

I couldn’t stop with just Vanilla Extract, though.  I wanted a treat that could be used more frequently, and enjoyed by my awesome kiddos, too. So, now we’re on to Vanilla Sugar.

You will need:

— 1.5 cups white sugar

— 2 vanilla beans

— clean bottle or jar

Here’s what to do:

Place sugar into a clean bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. Split open vanilla beans to expose the seeds inside the bean pod (as shown in picture). Add vanilla beans to sugar, secure lid, and shake well. Place in a cool, dark cupboard, and give it a little shake a couple times a week. In about a month, you will have a flavorful sugar that can be used in baking, in your coffee, or sprinkled on some buttered toast for a sweet treat.

Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar! So easy, you'll wonder why you haven't tried it before now.

———————————————————–

So there we have it. A quick trip into the kitchen this morning, and the results are sweet. 😉

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Bountiful Baskets

Bountiful Baskets

I have discovered (with the help of my Baby Sis) an amazing resource for affordable fresh produce, and I’m wondering what took me so long to participate in the Bountiful Baskets Food Co-Op. I picked up my second basket this morning, and am so excited about all the fresh foods my kids and I will be having this week! Plenty of fruits and veggies to last us all week.

When I say affordable, by the way, I mean that I got all the produce you see in the picture for just $15! That’s right. I got 6 sweet potatoes, 3 small zucchini, a bunch of asparagus, a large head of lettuce, 2 heads of broccoli, 2 bags of brussels sprouts, a pineapple, a bunch of bananas, 3 grapefruit, 5 apples, and 7 oranges! Thatsalottafreshfood! Will we eat it all? You bet! Possibly not all this week, but when stored properly, most of this will be good for 2+ weeks.

I bet you’re wondering how we’ll use all that produce… well, we started out tonight by roasting some in the oven and topping off big bowls of pasta with the vegetables and some fresh grated parmesan cheese. And for dessert? How about some pudding and sliced fresh fruits? Yes, please! And Thank You. 🙂 And of course there will be plenty of snacks with all those fresh foods! (Hint: If you put out a bowl of cut up fresh vegetables and/or fruits while you’re cooking dinner, the kids will have something to snack on when they say “I’m HUNGRY!” Hummus or Ranch Dressing may make those veggies more appealing to the pickier eater.)

(I bet you thought I was going to be talking about a different kind of Bountiful Baskets, huh? Silly… the Easter Bunny hasn’t visited yet… that’s not til tomorrow!)

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Fabulous Friday

Today is not just Good Friday, it is Fabulous Friday! The perfect ending to a perfect week. It was like shipment central around my place all week, with packages arriving from all kinds of places, including one I have been waiting on for many years. Ok, so not the package itself, but the item. I finally purchased something I have been wanting for many, many years. It’s a French Butter Dish (you may have heard it called a Butter Bell). The husband of one of my friends makes handmade pottery and he does an amazing job. I was so happy to get my much-anticipated new piece of pottery for my kitchen, and getting to support a friend’s business just sweetened the deal!

So, what else makes this a Fabulous Friday? Well, it’s FRIDAY! Need I say more? And I got to run the bar at work today, steaming milk to a perfectly creamy, frothy texture with all it’s sweetness, pouring it over caramelly shots of espresso, chatting with customers and wishing them a Fabulous Friday…what’s not amazing about bringing a smile to everyone’s face?

And in case I hadn’t been given enough reasons to smile throughout the week, I did get some good news via email several times this week. Some relating to my kids and school, an email from an old friend I hadn’t heard from in awhile, and then an email from someone who is planning to make my Garlicky Buttery Shrimp Pasta for some family. I am excited to hear how everyone enjoyed it!

Now I get to enjoy the day tomorrow with my favorite kiddos… picking up our produce basket from Bountiful Baskets, dying Easter Eggs, eating candy, and probably planning more menus!

Excitement abounds. New beginnings emerge. What kind of amazingness are you up to this weekend?

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Simply Perfect

Saturday night. What’s a single girl to do, with her kids away for the weekend? Quite obviously, that girl should cook herself an amazing dinner, right? Afterall, if you don’t treat yourself well, who else will?

On Friday afternoon I ventured into town to check out Shawn’s Quality Meats & Smokehouse. I had heard good things about them from fellow good food lovers. I happily ordered a lamb chop from the friendly guys there, letting them know it was my first time having/cooking lamb. They were all-too-happy to give me some tips, including to not overcook it because that’s where you get the gamey flavor.

Simple Perfection

Saturday night rolled around and I had purchased all the ingredients to make a fancy dinner. I was going to make this fabulous-sounding pomegranate marinade and relish for the lamb, and risotto, and then I was going to fancy up the asparagus (generously given to me from Baby Sis’s produce co-op baskets). I stood there, staring at all the ingredients, and promptly decided that in this case, simple would be best. So I pared down my menu to include only the ingredients you see in the picture. That’s right. A lamb chop [seasoned lighly with cracked black pepper and a tiny bit of coarsely ground salt and cooked in my grill pan until medium-rare], asparagus [steamed], and a red potato [wedged, tossed with garlic-infused olive oil, and baked until brown]. Simply Perfect. And I think I enjoyed this simple preparation much more than I would have the more labor-intensive meal I originally planned. I got to really taste the flavor of the lamb, unmasked by fancy sauces. And I must say, I give it a 10!

Some foods are best enjoyed with the simplest preparation. I believe that a good quality cut of meat does not need to be fancied up, and I was pleased to find that to be true with this lamb chop from Shawn’s. I will surely return to their shop. Thanks, guys!

 

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Rhubarb Dessert

I look forward to this every year. Rhubarb brings back memories of childhood. Of going out to the yard and picking a stalk off the plant and eating the tart treat right then and there. I can feel the tingle in the back of my mouth now, just thinking of it.

As quickly as this crop comes in and seems to be over-abundant, it is gone. Not to be seen again until next summer. So I savor it while it’s here, and sometimes, if I’m really lucky, someone will share the extra from their plants and I might even slice some up to freeze for use mid-winter when I’m craving this simple rhubarb dessert.

This recipe comes from my Mom. She and an old neighbor came up with it one summer when there was, apparently, a bumper crop of the tasty, tart treat, and it has been a staple in our kitchens ever since!

Rhubarb Dessert

  • 5 c chopped rhubarb*
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 (3oz) pkg jello (red, preferably raspberry)
  • 3 c miniature marshmallows
  • 1 pkg white or yellow cake mix (plus ingredients to make the cake)

Arrange rhubarb in a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle sugar and jello over rhubarb. Top with marshmallows.

Prepare cake mix as directed on package. Spread evenly over marshmallows. Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes.

If desired, after cooling for 5 minutes, turn it out of pan. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

*You can make this a strawberry-rhubarb dessert by using 1/2 strawberries and 1/2 rhubarb at about 2.5 cups each.

**Yes, this is filled with lots of processed foods. Yes, I am well aware that I talk about eating whole foods, unprocessed foods… but I also know that it is ok to have a treat now and then. And… as a reminder, I am not perfect. Well, I am perfectly *imperfect*. 😉

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