Sunday, October 2, 2011

And the winner is.....

Earlene C who said: My favorite soup is Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli."

The winner will receive one soup ladle from Crate & Barrel and four tasting certificates for Bertolli Meal Soups.  The ladle is gorgeous!  I got mine last week.

The winner was chosen using

Thank you to all FOUR of you who participated in the drawing.  I wish I could give each and every one of you a prize.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Bertolli® Giveaway!

I am SO excited to tell you all that I am hosting a giveaway!  As a matter of fact, it's my very first one.  As a double matter of fact, I initially thought the email asking me to participate was spam and deleted it...oops!  I am pretty sure I even replied with something to the effect of "ummm are you sure you have the right person? I only have like 5 readers and haven't even posted in months" haha!  Then, get this....a REAL live person emailed me back!  Of course I'll do it!

The scoop on the soup:
Bertolli® offers authentic Italian meals and was founded more than 150 years ago.

  • The soups are packed-full of fresh vegetables, perfectly-cooked chicken or beef, and hearty pasta
  • These restaurant-quality meals can be conveniently prepared at home
  • The meal, ready in minutes, comes in four delicious varieties: Chicken and Rotini Pasta, Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken, Chicken Minestrone and Tuscan Beef & Vegetables.
  • Bertolli® soups can be found in the freezer section of your local grocery store
The scoop on the prize:

One winner will be chosen at random and will receive a SOUPerb kit that will include:
  • One Stainless Steel Ladle
  • Four Tasting Certificates
I will also be receiving an identical kit for hosting the giveaway.  Cool huh?

To enter:

In the comments section of this post, please tell me all about your favorite soup!  Drawing will end at 9pm PST on Friday, September 30, 2011.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mud Hen Bars

A photographer I am not haha with my paper plate and multiple items in one shot LOL!  Ok so the bar on the right is called a Mud Hen Bar.  I have been digging and have no FREAKING idea why it is called that.  There is a baseball team, a duck, a jet, a lake...all called Mud Hen...and I still have no idea where this bar came from.  

The taste is outta this world.  Why?  Because to me, and to my friend, it is not like anything else.  We had nothing we could compare it to.  It had a cookie like base, with a chewy "smore" like center and a brown sugar CRISPY meringue on the top.  It is indescribable...but believe this:  if I am posting about it, it is so worth trying!

Mud Hen Bars
(Adapted from

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, divided (1 egg, 2 yolks, and 2 egg whites)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I added this)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used a mixture of dark and semi-sweet baking chocolate bars, chopped)
1 cup mini marshmallows (pretty sure I went over on this measurement)
1 cup chopped nuts (I left these out)
1 cup light brown sugar (lightly packed)
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan.  Beat sugar and butter until creamy.  Beat in 1 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks (set whites aside).  In a separate bowl mix together flour, salt and baking powder.  Add to the butter mixture and mix well.  Spread into your prepared pan (mixture is thick).  Sprinkle nuts, chocolate chips and marshmallows on top.  

With the 2 remaining egg whites, beat until stiff peaks form (you are making meringue).  Fold in the brown sugar.  Spread this in top of the cake.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

This is VERY sticky to cut.  Maybe (I haven't tried this) run your knife under hot water first.  Let me know if it works lol 

Oodles Of Noodles

This is one of my ALL time favorite recipes.  It is also one of my closest friends all time favorite recipes and she just happened to hint around how she was craving it.  So I do what I love to do and invited her over for dinner, dessert and a movie.  For me, it was an early birthday gathering.  I must give a shout out to her new man though for not inviting him.  The steroids have left me a different person, well, practically 2 of me lol...I will have you over SOON and cook you up something wonderful!

So this dish is originally a catfish recipe.  I cannot even tell you where I got it so I can't reference the original recipe, that's how long I have been making this dish.  I switched it up and added baby portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts and chicken.....mmmmmmmmmm lawd have mercy!  It also didn't have a name and I offered it to one of my meat eating friends and he laughed at me and said he didn't want any of my "oodles of noodles".  The name stuck.  

This is a SUPER quick meal.  So for your cheap butts out there here's what I did:  I bought a deli chicken from Costco (they are about 1lb larger than other places) and split the meat between this dish and my creamy white chicken chili.  The chili made 3 containers which I froze.  Hmmmm side track:  maybe I should label dishes that I can make ahead and freeze? Hmmmmm ok ok I'm focusing now lol.  There was PLENTY of chicken in this dish!  

Oodles Of Noodles
(I adapted it from an unknown source)

1 deli chicken, skin removed, cut into pieces
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 - 1 whole lemon (depending on your taste)
1 pkg sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 minced garlic clove
Parsley, salt and pepper to taste
16 oz angel hair, spaghetti or linguine

Melt butter in a skillet.  Add mushrooms and saute for 5  minutes or until soft.  Add the remaining ingredients except the pasta.  Saute over low heat while the pasta is cooking.  At this point I usually add a little more wine and lemon juice to make extra sauce.  Make sure when cooking with wine to cook at least 5 minutes after adding so the alcohol will cook out.  Serve over cooked pasta, topping with shredded Parmesan Cheese.  *Note:  I always make this with Angel Hair pasta except for last night I used was SO good with the bigger, meatier noodle.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

IVIG & SubQ Side Effects

As promised to my CVID support group, here is the completed form for IVIG and SubQ side effects as well as suggestions for people at the end of the form. I personally went through HELL with my first doctor and side effects from IVIG. I do believe I had one of the longest running posts on What I wouldn't have given to have somewhere to read about the side effects that were not published, that my doctor could have read before she stopped all treatment because she couldn't "risk" it. I really hope this helps people in some way.

*NOTE: You can scroll to the bottom of the form and there are bars that will allow you to center it so you can read the entire series of questions.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fruit Tartletts with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

Do I have your complete, undivided attention? Hmmm?  Go ahead, look at it again.  I am.  I still cannot believe I made that let alone took such a stunning picture lol Well ok, for ME the picture is stunning.  No it's not how you are "supposed" to photograph food I KNOW I KNOW BUT man I'm lucky just to remember to take a dang picture let alone blog about it hehe.

Ok so I saw this tart crust on Joy of Baking and it looked so good.  It was called a "sweet" crust, not a typical pie crust, but not a shortbread crust either.  I also saw a recipe for pastry cream which made me want to lick the screen and THEN I remembered I had 2 vanilla beans I needed to use!  EEK! A plan was born.

Let me say this is probably one of the best things I have ever made.  I know, strong statement.  I say this because it was THAT good PLUS factoring in the variability of this recipe.  I can picture the pastry cream in my  homemade crepes and in cupcakes and cakes.  I can also picture this crust filled with my homemade lemon curd.  So many different uses.  

A small warning about the pastry cream which is not in the recipe.  Actually a warning across the board - this is not for a beginning baker.  Not the cream nor the crust.  While I had the pastry cream on the stove over extremely low heat whisking away it SUDDENLY seized up.  I found myself screaming NOOOOOOOOOO NO NO PLEASE DON'T hahahahaha This is true, I was begging it not to be mean.  Yes it is supposed to thicken but thats not what the recipe says will happen.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.  Do not freak out and yell at your cream as I did.  It's not its fault honestly.  Just be prepared :)

Fruit Tartlett with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
(Adapted from Joy of Baking)

Sweet Pastry Crust:
(this is for a full size tart although I used mini tart pans)
1 1/2 cups AP Flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg lightly beaten

Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk (whole or 2%)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (honestly I will use a whole vanilla bean next time)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)

Apricot Glaze: (optional) (I did not do this step as we inhaled them immediately upon completion)
1/2 cup (120 grams) apricot jam or preserves
1 tablespoon water

Sweet Pastry Crust:  
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Place the butter in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes or just until firm (can place in freezer for about 10-15 minutes.)

Lightly butter and flour, or spray with a non-stick vegetable/flour cooking spray, an 8 - 9 inch (20 - 23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. Evenly pat the chilled pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Lightly prick bottom of pastry crust with the tines of a fork (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Place tart pan on a larger baking pan and bake crust for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and continue to bake the crust for about 15 minutesor until dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before filling. Can be covered and stored for a few days.

Pastry Cream:
In a medium heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together.  Do NOT let the mixture sit too long or you will get little pieces of egg yolks form.  Ew gross.  Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.  

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. (The vanilla bean can be washed and dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the sugar a vanilla flavor.) Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). (Stir in vanilla extract is using instead of a vanilla bean.) Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat or whisk before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Apricot Glaze:  
Heat the apricot jam or preserves and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid (melted). (Can also heat in the microwave.) Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps.

To Assemble Tart:
To remove the tart from the fluted sides of the pan, place your hand under the pan, touching only the removable bottom not the sides. Gently push the tart straight up, away from the sides. The fluted tart ring will fall away and slide down your arm. If you want to remove the bottom of the pan, run a knife or thin metal spatula between the crust and metal bottom, then slide the tart onto your platter.  Spread a thin layer of apricot glaze over the bottom and sides of the baked tart shell to prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry (about 20 minutes). Then spread the pastry cream onto the bottom of the tart shell. Place fruit randomly on top of cream or in concentric overlapping circles, starting at the outside edge. After arranging the fruit, rewarm the glaze, if using, and gently brush a light coat on the fruit. If not serving immediately, refrigerate but bring to room temperature before serving. This fruit tart is best eaten the same day as it is assembled. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
Serves about 6-8 people.

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies with Lemon Icicng

Let me start by saying this is OFFICIALLY my "go to" sugar cookie.  I have tried several different recipes from several really well known blogs and sites and these were the tastiest and held up the best.  They can run on the delicate side BUT this also lends to how long they stay good.  I even forced (yes FORCED) a co-worker who doesn't like cream cheese to try one and he loved it.  The cookies do NOT taste like cream cheese at all but boy it does WONDERS for their texture.  The icing made them out of this world good.  I always half the recipe and still get probably 2 dozen large cookies.

So you may notice this post is a little short.  Thats because I have a FREAKING AWESOME recipe (and photo) I am going to post. That and the fact I have so many stinking things to do this weekend which is really REALLY getting in the way of my huge baking weekend.  This is the weekend I was going to tackle yeast dang it!  Now I have birthday parties and that stupid Easter Holiday is here haha!  So, I will start my poolish tonight (bread starter) and hopefully get my my No Knead Bread done, plus the homemade quiche's I'm going to take a stab at.  WHEW!  

White Velvet Sugar Cookies
(Courtesy of My Kitchen Cafe)

2 cups butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ¾ cups flour

Lemon Zinger Icing

Powdered Sugar (I didn't measure so maybe 1-2 cups for half a batch of sugar cookies)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (at least one lemon - add until you get a glaze consistency)
Zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add flour. The dough will be VERY soft; don’t worry, it gets firmer after chilling. Cover and chill two hours or until firm. Roll out on floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into shapes; place on greased baking sheets (or use parchment paper). Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until set (but not browned). Cool 5 minutes. Place on wire racks to cool. Using a spoon, drizzle on the sugar cookies.  Let stay on rack until set.  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Worlds Best Pancakes

Because I am blogging from my new cell phone and because these really are the worlds best pancakes and because I haven't blogged in months and because I love you, I am going to share this recipe! How's that for proper sentence structure?

*Disclaimer - I have never in my life used an app from a phone to blog so if it eds up looking horrible please forgive me and just move on to the dang recipe and trust me ha!

Ok this is the easiest homemade pancake recipe I have ever tried.  The fact that it is the only homemade pancake recipe I have ever tried means nothing hehe.  I will never, EVER buy pancake mix again....these are THAT good and THAT easy.  Scouts honor.  They are light and fluffy and ohhhhh so filling.  I fed these to two teenage boys who could only eat three each.  I swear these rival ihop.  To top it off they are foolproof.  How do I know you ask? Because I have screwed up the recipe three times and they still came out amazing lol

Worlds Best Pancakes
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 1/8 cup buttermilk

Ok It also calls for melted butter but I tried it once and I messed up the batter.  I also cut the salt waaaaaay down.  This also only will make 4 pancakes really.  If you double or triple the recipe, don't add all the butermilk at once.  Instead watch the consistency.  You want it slightly lumpy and pretty thick.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes and it will get sort of foamy.  This is good.  Once your pour on the pan, spread slightly but not too much or the won't puff up.  Cook as you would a normal pancake and enjoy!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pretzel Bites

Due to my recent tragedies with yeast, I have taken a much needed hiatus from the production of all things yeast:  breads, rolls, loaves and the like.  I was wounded by all of my yeast failures.  I have no idea what the problem is really.  My yeast products are not turning out correctly.  Maybe its the type of yeast I am using? Is it due to the fact I am trying to substitute one type of yeast when the recipe calls for another? Am I over-kneading?  I may never know.  Thank God for Wal-mart brand flour being so cost effective lol.  It allows me to continue to screw things up haha!

Yesterday, I decided to go ahead and try my hand at the Pretzel Bites from Mels Kitchen Cafe.  She posted these a while back but I was honestly still too traumatized from my French Bread disaster that I wasn't emotionally prepared.

Let me go way out in left field for a moment here.  Being emotionally prepared is a big phrase and it is very important for some major things in life.  Like pap smears and mammograms.  Also for skin biopsies of the scalp which I discussed here.  Being emotionally ready means you need to totally psych yourself out for the impending shocker.  I think the previous three examples qualify don't you?  So does baking with yeast!

If you are still reading...guess what?  I DID IT!  LOL

Admittedly, these are a skosh too dark.  But I swear at 6 minutes they had white on them and at 6 minutes and 30 seconds they looked like this!  These could have used more butter, possibly even dunking them in melted butter rather than brushing on the tops.  They were a tad bland.  Although, could this be because of the type of yeast I used?  Not enough salt in the actual dough? See I need a yeast master people....a Mr. Miyagi of the yeast kingdom to teach me, his grasshopper, what the hell I am doing wrong! Other than being a bit bland they were also lacking that chewy factor.  So picture this:  If you bite one in half, the remaining bit should be stuck together - thats what I mean by "chewy" factor.  Mine didn't have that.  Again, it could be the yeast, a tad over baked or a tad over-kneaded.  

Lets get to the good stuff, because there is plenty of that.  These things are a CINCH!  Gosh I love my KitchenAid Stand Mixer!  I did not follow the directions as far as how to cut into the bite sized pieces.  I really didn't want to roll and over work the dough. I was being thoughtful to the dough ok?  I just made, what I considered, bite size pieces and I achieved this with a pizza cutter.  I don't own one of those big ol square pastry chopper/scrapper things.  I need one.  I'm new so I have to improvise.  The pizza cutter worked fine.  The single most important step...ok there are two most important steps...the first is this:  dipping the bites in a bath of baking soda and water before baking...OMG'SH!  It gives these pieces such a unique crunch that was extremely addicting.  Yes, even Jalen got in trouble several times for sneaking in there and eating more...and more...and more...all the way up until dinner.  ADDICTING crunch people.  The second most important step is the bathing of the butter.  Like I said earlier the dough was a tad bland and could have used some more butter.  The result?  Fattening and delicious.  I WILL be trying these babies again.  I could see them dipped in a marinara or nacho know that big giant blue container of it you can get from Costco?  Gawd I love that stuff.  I can't eat it right now because of the salt content BUT when I am off the roids...BRING IT ON!

*NOTE:  As I was making breakfast this morning, it was with sheer horror I realized I had forgotten to post the recipe to this lol...Its the steroids and lack of sleep I swear :)

*Makes about 2 dozen pretzel bites
Courtesy of Mel's Kitchen Cafe
2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) very warm water
1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt (optional)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix to just combine. Add the water and mix well, adding more flour, as needed, a bit at a time to form a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it is soft, smooth and quite slack. The goal is to get a really soft dough that isn’t overly sticky. Lightly flour the dough and place it in a plastic bag; close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest for 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 500°F. Don’t be afraid of the high heat! This is what will help those pretzels to brown up perfectly and stay soft on the inside. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or lightly greasing them.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into about four strips of equal length. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda in a liquid measuring cup (deep enough to dip the pretzel bites into). Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved. Sometimes I have a hard time getting the baking soda completely dissolved, so I just lightly stir up the mixture right before adding each pretzel.
Cut each strip of dough into about 6-8 pieces, about 1 to 1 ½ inches in width. You don’t have to be completely exact, just eyeball it. Dip each pretzel bite in the baking soda solution (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Bake the pretzels for 7-8 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Bake one sheet at a time – it won’t hurt the other pretzels to chill out for a little longer.
Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that’s what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave on low heat.

Hello Cupcake!

More like Hello Retard!  Yep that's me...absolutely no piping skills what-so-ever and apparently no direction reading skills either.  Ok ok you're right, I am my own worst critic.  So let me back up...

I have been wanting this book from Amazon for awhile now:

So while at Lowe's I eyeballed the book and wanted some instant gratification and paid double for it.  I immediately poured over each and every page, strategically skimming over the detailed instructions at the beginning of the book.  I laid my eyes on the Sunflower Cupcakes and hatched a plan.  That plan was carried out yesterday.  Here are the results:

Do you immediately notice there are only FOUR cupcakes?  I made a half a batch which are twelve for those who don't know lol.  Jalen got three.  These are the only one's that were presentable.

So here is what I noticed throughout the process.  Don't use generic cookies in your recipes if you need them to be whole.  They shed...crumble, get all over the place.  BOO!  So every time I touched the bag to the cookie to make a petal it would literally fall off because the cookie crumbled.  

Another problem was the method used for tinting the frosting took FOREVER!  So I got all A.D.D. and left the cupcake base as light green instead of a deep grass green.  You literally dip a toothpick in the gel coloring then in the frosting, back and forth until you achieve the desired color.  WHATEVER GAWD that took forever.  Again, please keep in mind I am more of an instant gratification girl.  

Also, I couldn't find green fruit roll ups ANYWHERE.  If you have a stunted imagination like me, you will have a hard time finding a substitute.  I used some sour flat candy and cut it with tiny scissors into leaves.  

Lastly, I did go back at one point and read the directions on how to cut the tip of the bag to make beautiful little leaves and petals and I think I personally needed on more photo of how to do it.  It showed a little V in the baggie....I tried, maybe I cut the hole too big? Maybe I shoulda opted for the M cut out instead of the V? OH AND the frosting was very thin :(  Maybe a different brand or I could have tried to stick in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm it back up duh lol

All in all I am not sorry I paid double for the book or bought a 100 different items in order to make these four cupcakes.  It was great practice.  Which I needed.  And fun even if it only resulted in four beautifully imperfect sunflower cupcakes.


Special K

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Easy Slice & Bake Cookies

I have been slightly reluctant to post this next recipe.  You see, I have been looking for that PERFECT sugar cookie.  Considering I am still learning quite a bit, I didn't recognize that the recipe I am about to post is more of a shortbread cookie and not a sugar cookie.  DUH lol!  Because I was so unimpressed by their "sugar cookie quality" I only baked up a few and only took one picture of them.  I baked them up next to a new sugar cookie recipe and ate them again only to realize, hey these really melt in your mouth!

Here is the absolute beauty of these cookies...Its one recipe that can be adapted to numerous amounts of flavor combinations.  Seriously.  These are cran-pistachio.  The other flavor I made was lemon poppyseed.  Then I drizzled those with lemon icing.

These are a breeze to whip up.  Now getting them into said "log" shape with exact measurements for me was the challenge.  My cookies came out half dollar size, a skosh small.  The texture was melt in your mouth, light and buttery.  These would be great to keep on hand in the freezer in different combo's for a quick coffee with friends.  They would even fair well on the yearly Christmas platters.  

Slice-and-Bake Cookies
(Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)
Makes about 50 cookies

2 sticks (8 ounces; 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour

  • Mix in grated zest of 2 lemons; coat with or mix in 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  • Mix in grated zest of 2 oranges and 1/2 cup dried cranberries 
  • Mix in grated zest of 2 limes; coat with 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • Mix in 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots; mix in 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
  • Mix in 1/2 cup mini chocolate or peanut-butter chips
  • Mix in 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger; coat with or mix in 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • Swap 1/4 cup of flour for unsweetened cocoa
  • Swap 1/2 to 1 cup of flour for ground almonds, pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts
1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the salt and any dried fruits, zest, nuts or seeds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn't fully incorporated, that’s okay just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. 

 2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month). 

 3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  (I used a silpat). 

 4. While the oven is preheating, roll cookie logs in any coatings of your choice. Then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch (10 mm) thick. (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them. 

 5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature. 

Do ahead: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for a month. Unbaked logs can be frozen for longer.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


About 8 months ago my life suddenly got...difficult.  Saying that is sort of funny because I am a single mom, I work full time and I have a Primary Immune Deficiency.  So, for me to say that it got hard enough to be considered difficult must be bad right? Right.  In June of 2010 I got sick.  Ok ok I know I have been talking about it but not really sure if I have covered how long I have been sick.  Since June people....of 2010! It started as fatigue, like choose to brush your hair or your teeth before you go to work fatigue.  I kept going to work, shaking it off.  June 18, 2010 after a meeting at work, I left saying I would be back in a day or two.  It is now almost March of 2011.  I went out for 6 weeks with supposed Valley Fever and went back to work.  I got sicker, and sicker and sicker.  During these few months I was back at work, my hair fell out, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I lost weight, couldn't remember things.  It. Was. Bad.  I went out again in the end of October.  Then in January, well I finally received my diagnosis and talk about it here and a little more in depth here.

Here's the thing...last week I was sitting in my daughters counselors office ranting...yes I admit I was ranting, about HOW I HAD to get Jalen lined out and listening NOW because I was getting ready to start taking mass amounts of steroids and I didn't want to freak out on her.  It was at this moment that I was given perhaps some of the best advice I could have ever been given at that VERY moment. The counselor told me to just...get through it.  Huh? Can you repeat that? He said sure, let me break it down: If lil Miss Jalen wants to go to school with her hair all GHETTO, then let her.  Don't lose your mind over it.  If she wants to be mismatched, paddy whacked, dressed like a FOO...then let her.  Just. Get. Through. This.

Could it really be so easy?  Its kind of like the "fake it till ya make it" theory that I used to apply to smoking.  I quit smoking no less than 10 times.  When I would start slipping I would..."fib".  Not really lie, just, with hold. I was faking it damit until I could make it!  No one needed to know each time I failed because if anyone knows me they know I already beat myself up way worse than anyone else ever could!  This could be the key to get through the hell of the steroids, the Devil Drug, Satan's Substance.  If I could feel like I was actively participating in getting through this, like I was DOING may work.  All I have to do is remember to breathe.

So what may have started my fractured, nonsense, venting little blog tonight you may ask? I was watching a movie called The Backup Plan with Jennifer Lopez.  It was SO funny!  On a side note, I have NO FREAKING idea who is rating these movies PG-13 but they should be fired.  Oh and side note 2 I had to explain what artificial insemination was to my 7 year old mister person who USED to rate movies! Gawd! Reeling back into the the end...I was crying.  It's a comedy.  Errrrr so I guess thats the steroids?

The crying got me to thinking "hey what the hell am I crying for"?  Because I needed to laugh.  I needed to relate.  I needed to connect.  I NEED to connect.  I need to have some drinks and let my hair down and laugh.  I need to laugh.  I need to breathe.  I just have to remember to breathe and just get through this.

If this post has helped one person retain their sanity then my work on earth is done.  Amen.

Special K

Mini Meatball Sandwiches

I am acutely aware that this picture is covered in SO much mozzarella cheese that you cannot see the delicious marinara I actually made from scratch...please just believe me.  The broken cell phone camera saga STILL continues as well (ugh).  

Let me tell you that this started off as a "quick" meal.  When I say quick think instant.  You can do this one of 3 ways:

1.  Frozen Italian style meatballs & jarred marinara sauce
2.  Make your own meatballs & jarred marinara sauce (thats how the recipe was originally)
3.  Make your own meatballs and marinara sauce (how I decided to go)

I had a pound of 80/20 ground beef and purchased a can of San Marzano style tomatoes.  I followed the directions on the little meatballs precisely HOPING that they wouldn't turn out dry.  HALLELUJAH they did not!  For the sauce I quickly pulsed the tomatoes to a puree (not quite it was a little too chunky actually), added some dried herbs *GASP* yes dried herbs people its all I had (oregano, basil, parsley), minced garlic, salt substitute and pepper.  I simmered until reduced.  Ok here is where I messed up.  When I saw that the marinara was too chunky I should have given it a whirl in the food processor again.  I didn't.  But the taste was delicious.  I know I  know its not a true marinara like I found online, but I didn't have celery and carrots and all that stuff!  This was....kind of sweet.  I just loved the tomatoes! 

Now the bread...omg'sh do I have a pic, let me I don't which is a shame because I am straight addicted to these rolls.  I eat them nearly every day.  There I said it.  I'm a glutton for carbs.  These are little FROZEN artisan style rolls.  Thaw for 5 minutes then throw in your toaster oven for 5 more and you get a deliciously crispy, golden, soft in the middle, rustic roll.  You can get these at Fresh and Easy in the freezer section.  They also have mini loaves too which would work wonderfully I'm assuming.  At first I thought I had made the wrong choice in bread and wondered if a soft, supple potato roll would have been better.  But the more I ate the more I noticed that this bread held its "stuff" wonderfully.  Never getting too soggy to hold or eat.  YUMMY!

Mini Meatball Sandwiches
(courtesy of Pioneer Woman Cooks)
  • 1 pound Ground Chuck Or Ground Beef
  • ½ cups Panko Or Other Bread Crumbs
  • 1 clove Garlic, Minced
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • ½ cups Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ½ whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 1 jar (large) Marinara Sauce (or make your own as I did above)
  • 12 whole Dinner Rolls (or Slider Rolls)
  • 4 slices Provolone Cheese, Cut Into Four Wedges Each (I used mozzarella and it was wonderful)

Preparation Instructions

Mix meat with bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, and milk. Knead together with hands. Roll into heaping tablespoon-sized rolls.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for one minute. Add meatballs between the onions and brown for one minute. (You might have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your skillet.)
Pour in jar of marinara; shake pan gently to mix. Put on lid and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
When ready to serve, cut each dinner roll in half. Place a wedge of Provolone on the top and bottom of each roll. Spoon a meatball with the sauce onto the bottom bun; top with the top bun.
Serve immediately!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Granulomatous Lymphocytic Interstitial Lung Disease (GLILD)

Description courtesy of National Jewish Hospital 

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a broad category of lung diseases that includes more than 130 disorders characterized by scarring (i.e. "fibrosis") and / or inflammation of the lungs. ILD accounts for 15 percent of the cases seen by pulmonologists (lung specialists).
In ILD, the tissue in the lungs becomes inflamed and / or scarred. The interstitium of the lung includes the area in and around the small blood vessels and alveoli (air sacs) where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. Inflammation and scarring of the interstitium disrupts this tissue and leads to a decrease in the ability of the lungs to extract oxygen from the air. 
The progression of ILD varies from disease to disease and from person to person. It is important to determine the specific form of ILD in patients because what happens over time and the treatment may differ depending on the cause. Importantly, each person responds differently to treatment, so close monitoring during treatment is important.

I have a form of ILD called GLILD.  I was told this is a particularly rare form caused by my immune disease - Common Variable Immunodeficiency.  It can kill me.  Crazy huh? Say it again but say it as if it's you:  It can kill me.  Let me expand.  If I get sick - flu, sinus infection, anything - and it goes to my lungs, it can be life threatening.  ISN'T THAT INSANE?  Ok ok ok.  I wanted this to be informative and not all about me lol
Precautions must be taken into consideration with this form of ILD.  You can do one of several things:
  1. Go into hiding from the world so you don't get contaminated and die
  2. Go on living life to the fullest not taking any precautions and get sick and die
  3. Find an equal middle - this mid point will be different for everyone.  
Some precautions can be:  
  • Wiping down carts with antibacterial wipes ( I carry travel size in my purse at all times)
  • Wearing masks in the wind
  • Carrying your own pen around to sign things ( I must sign my child in/out of daycare daily)
  • Hand washing
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Educating your family
  • Avoiding sick people or taking precautions when immediate family members are ill
  • Avoiding crowds - bars, concerts, children's classrooms
This is not by any means an exhaustive list.  I even have suggestions for work environments but am hesitant to post until I live my own situation.

Treatments can vary.  It is important to know that it appears that doing nothing, is the wrong way to go.  This is progressive.  I first became ill in June and was initially diagnosed with Valley Fever.  A biopsy was done and NO Valley Fever spores were found but they kept treating me.  At some point the infectious disease expert told the pulmonologist he did not feel it was VF.  He told us this twice yet the pulmonologist kept treating me for it.  Fast forward.  When I went to National Jewish Hospital they told me that the CT Scans from June 2010, October 2010 and January of 2011 all progressively got worse.  Fabulous right?  Doing NOTHING is the wrong thing to do.  The damage with MY type of ILD is irreversible.  Medications can vary.  Popular among doctors are high doses of steroids.  This drug covers a wide range of illnesses and doesn't need to attack and kill anything particular.  There are some new treatments out there that are also being used such as Rituxan (if you have B Cells causing the chaos in your lungs) and Imuran (for T Cells).  Steroids are KNOWN for being bad bad news.  They cause wild mood swings, significant weight gain, sleeplessness.  This is the treatment approach they are taking for me.  Bummer I know.  I am armed with an arsenal of questions for my family doctor and a long list of additional medications such as Foxomax for osteoporosis, Calcium with Vitamin D for bone loss, multivitamin, Xanax to help me sleep and possibly something stronger as it isn't working so well, Ativan is on standby in case I lose my marbles and go into a rage about something.  Scary huh? Um yeah.  

I think I will be chronicling my experience with the medications and tips and tricks I have for steroid use.  I've already tried to buy food that is lower in sodium.  Man that stuff is in EVERYTHING.  Ridiculous.  I'm starting to exercise everyday.  Weight gain will be my enemy.  Moon face is probably unavoidable but I will be asking doc about Lasix as well.

I also started a support group for people with ILD.  I couldn't find one.  I think its important.  Very important as most people have no idea what it is like to walk around every day wondering if that sneeze you just walked through is the one that will kill you.  You can find the support group here at:

Goodbye for now.  

Much love,


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes

I. AM. IN. LOVE.  No really.  I have been in love with Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes from Gimme Some Sugar Bakery here in town for about two years now.  Tonight, I made something so similar that I am in definite infatuation right now.  Not in love with mine obviously because I am nothing near the master that Stephanie at the bakery is.  BUT, in a pinch, these will do.  If you don't have the money or just have an inclination to get busy in the kitchen you MUST MUST try these babies!

I actually adapted my own recipe (grins from ear to ear).  Yep.  First time ever!  I adapted the famous WASC cake I spoke about, but, er um, totally forgot to post.  I used half of a box of yellow cake mix, added some sour cream, lemon juice, zest, didn't over mix and sure didn't over bake and VOILA!  I also used a lemon cream cheese recipe from  Then for some added flair, I made a very bad attempt at piping.  Oh LAWDY do I need practice.  But hey we tried right?

The cake is dense and very moist.  Not overly lemony, you could actually easily adjust the lemon taste to your liking.  I used zest and juice from one lemon and it gave me about 1/3 cup of juice.  Then I added water to make 2/3 cup of liquid total.

Please, if you love me, pretend that you see little crumbles of graham cracker on the top.

And if you really love me please pretend you haven't noticed that I don't have a new PHONE YET!

Look at my lil pastry chef in the making

Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes
(By Kelli - makes 12 - for beginning bakers)

1/2 box yellow cake mix (approx 1 1/2 cups of mix)
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 325.  Line cupcake pan with liners.  Throw all ingredients into your stand mixer and mix on low-medium with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes.  You don't want to over mix and make the cake tough. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out with moist crumbs.  DO NOT OVER BAKE.  It should not be brown at all.  Let cool completely and top with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
(Courtesy of

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioners' sugar

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Its time to hang up my apron

Boy have I had some epic failures in the kitchen lately.  Bad.  Ok...maybe not EPIC failures...whats a good adjective? Abysmal?  Hmmmm Gargantuan?  Let's go with abysmal failures.  Edible ONLY if it were the last thing on the planet.  I have made Caramel Crumb bars which were quite good but the filling needed an extreme make over.  Salted caramel brownies are the ones I was most looking forward too which turned out the worst.  Oh yeah, then there is the WASC cake.  Apparently I do not like almond extract.  Oops there, I just threw up in my mouth at the thought of it again.  As a matter of fact, it is still sitting on my counter as I can't bring myself close enough to it to actually throw it away.  I did have minor success with my very first Shepherds Pie.  Although Jalen violently heaved with every spoonful.  Yes I made her eat it, half of it to be exact.  She likes ground beef and carrots my GAWD and I thought I was a drama queen.  Sigh.  

I will post recipes for some but lets dissect this a little shall we?  Could it be there was a flaw in the recipes?  The salted caramel brownies for example.  The first time I made the caramel I burnt the TAR out of it!  I had to re-do it.  It was a strange recipe to me to begin with.  I literally re-read the recipe 3 times before starting.  Put the sugar in a pan and melt.  Wha? Huh?  With what liquid?  It must be a misprint.  Nope.  PUT THE SUGAR IN THE PAN TO MELT.  ER um ok.  When it turns a dark amber color melt the butter.  When it turns amber NOT BLACK Kelli.  DANG IT!  Try again.  The second time perfect.  It said to wait 10 minutes and let cool before using in recipe.  Ok.  1 hour later it was still liquid.  I put it in the fridge.  Still very runny.  It says "put 9 dollops of caramel onto brownies".  When something is liquidy, there are no dollops.  I pressed on and baked them bad boys up.  What did I get?  ZERO caramel dollops in my baked brownie.  Not only that, it had a gritty texture, almost chalky.   GROSS! GROSS! GROSS!  I should have used my caramel recipe huh?  The perpetrator is pictured below:

NO that is not caramel behind the brownie I think its bbq sauce ok people! Yes I could have lied and said "ooohhh look at the lovely caramel dripping off of it".  I'm honest to a fault LOL

Next is the famous WASC cake.  White Almond Sour Cream Cake.  Ok little did I know, I do not like Almond Extract.  Had I known, I would have used something different.  This may be better with a vanilla bean, MAY meaning POSSIBLY.  I also think I over baked it for simple fear of under baking it.  I should have listened to my gut.  Stomach.  You get the drift.  The perpetrator is below:

I will post this recipe separately with a slice picture as well so you can see the crumb.  This is a nice buttercream frosting.  Good but I would maybe only use it on cupcakes.  Really not a good pairing with the cake.  Would do better with a cream cheese or whipped frosting which are not a sweet.

I also, in between, didn't feel like going through all of the motions of making Porcupine Meatballs but didn't want to waste the hamburger I took out.  So I came up with this lil guy:

I made this in individual ramekins.  Filled with meat, baby peas, baby carrots and swimming in a mushroom soup base seasoned with thyme and rosemary.  I topped with boxed mashed potatoes, little cheese and some french fried onions.  Very quick and I had everything on hand.  I will be posting this one.

Lastly, Caramel Crumb Bars.  Let me tell you the crumb on this is OUTSTANDING.  Again, I can see infinite possibilities with regards to filling.  A  nice homemade lemon curd, raspberry filling, ohhhh yummy!  The caramel in this was.......odd.  I know not a very grown up adjective but still.  It was colored like peanut butter rather than the see through amber I have come to love.  Good, yet not amazing like the crumb that encased it.  I will post the recipe as well:

With so many failures in a two week time span, shall I hang up my apron? Is it dumb luck? Am I too stressed and not cooking properly?  Am I being too hard on myself?  I think at the very least I will take a break for a day or two :)  

Love you guys,

Special K