Saturday, January 24, 2015

#3 - CROCKPOT BRAISED BEEF RAGU WITH POLENTA

Cream of wheat. Grits. Polenta. I love it all! Warm and creamy, the definition of comfort food!  So of course I would be all over a recipe that involves one of my favorites!

If you’ve never had polenta, it’s like cream of wheat but it’s made with cornmeal. Water, salt, cornmeal and a little bit of butter… easy peasy! Some people prefer a firm polenta “cake” which you’ll get by pouring the cooked polenta into a pan and letting it sit. I’ll eat it just about any way! When we go to Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria (my guys’ favorite pizzeria), I always order a side of creamy polenta (with a little marinara sauce).  They eat pizza and I eat polenta! Mmmm….. Enough about me, you’re here for the recipe!
  
It sounds fancier and like you spent all day slaving over the stove if you leave off the “crockpot” part... braised beef ragu with polenta.  It’s up to you.  I do have to give the crock its props though, because it smells delicious while the beef is slow-cooking to perfection and I barely work up a sweat in the prep.  That’s my kind of recipe, simple!

Have I mentioned how seriously yummy it was yet? Really! While I was eating it I kept thinking, “I actually made this”!  I was also thinking, “Take it easy, you don’t have to eat the whole pot”!  The Hubs and my son that didn’t leave me yet for higher learning ate heartily too.  “Mmmm, good,” and “Thanks Mom,” were the reviews given.  I served it with a salad and warm bread.  The ragu was even tastier the next day.  Ladies and gentlemen, this one is DEFINITELY a keeper!

Manga!  I'm off to find the next recipe….



CROCKPOT BRAISED BEEF RAGU WITH POLENTA
Adapted from: Pinch of Yum
Serves: 10

INGREDIENTS
For the Braised Beef Ragu
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         3 lbs. beef rump roast or round roast
·         half a yellow or white onion, minced
·         3 cloves garlic, minced
·         1 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes
·         ½ cup red wine
·         3 tablespoons tomato paste
·         1 teaspoon basil
·         1 teaspoon oregano
·         2 bay leaves
·         2 teaspoons salt
·         black pepper to taste

For the Polenta
·         6 cups water
·         1-2 teaspoons salt
·         1¾ cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
·         3 tablespoons butter
·         ¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
1.    Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the roast and fry on each side for about 5 minutes, turning until the whole exterior is golden brown. If you’re short on time you can skip this step, but searing the meat really keeps the yummy flavor in!

2.    Place all remaining ingredients with the beef in a crockpot or slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when the beef falls apart easily when pulled at with two forks. I put the beef in a pyrex pan to shred it into pieces.  Then add it back to the crockpot and give it a good stir.  I pulled the bay leaves out at this point – nobody likes to chomp down on a bay leaf, well I don’t!

3.    For the polenta, bring salted water to a boil. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. The polenta will start to thicken quickly. Continue whisking or stirring for 2-3 minutes before removing from heat. Stir in the butter until melted. Stir in the parmesan now if you’re using it, but why wouldn’t you?  For solid and chewy polenta, pour into a rectangular dish, let cool for 15-20 minutes, and cut into pieces. For softer, creamy polenta (so good), serve immediately topped with a big ol’ scoop of beef ragu.  Sprinkle on some parmesan or chopped parsley if you want.

Recipe #3 of 52

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#2 - Chocolate Chip Shortbread



I have my 3-month check up with my oncologist tomorrow (Doc Onc) and I almost always take him a treat.  I guess you could call it a bribe… a clean bill of health in exchange for some baked goods.  It’s worked so far!

This time I decided to make shortbread – chocolate chip shortbread.  It’s probably not a great time of year to bring sweets to the office with people being on their New Year’s diets and all, but oh well! It’s not like I’m in there all the time with sweets (thank the Lord!!).

Anyway, after a quick search on Pinterest, I went with a recipe from Delishhh .  I pretty much stayed with the original recipe.  The only thing I did different is that I used 1 cup of mini chocolate chips instead of the 1 ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips called for.  I wanted chocolate in every nibble of cookie. 


They turned out pretty tasty.  Not real sweet.  Crispy.  Chocolaty.  Hope Doc Onc likes ‘em!


Chocolate Chip Shortbread

Yield: 30-2" cookies
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
ingredients:
12 tbsp (1 & 1/2 sticks) butter, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips
directions:
Make sure the butter is room temperature and then cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour and salt.
Add the flour and salt to the butter mixture. Mix on low speed until it comes together into a dough. Add the chocolate chips and mix in.
Roll the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter (roll it wider or skinnier depending on how big you want your cookies). Roll the log in some wax paper.
Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Slice the log into 1/4 inch slices. Place the slices on the sheet. They don't spread much, so they can be pretty close together.
Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to brown.
Remove from the pan and cool to room temp.

Recipe #2 of 52
 (keeping up so far!)


Monday, January 5, 2015

Egg Strata Cups

Happy New Year!!

This is usually the time that people resolve to start a diet, exercise, eat healthier, give up sweets… Sounds great! I plan on keeping up with my morning walks, drinking more water, and snaking less. That doesn’t mean that I’m giving up eating yummy things! Moderation (maybe I should have picked that for my “word” of 2015!).

Anyway, that being said, I’ve also decided that I would like to try at least one new recipe every week this year.  Not just sweets.  All kinds of recipes.  That’s 52 recipes in a year.  Can’t be that difficult, right?  We’ll see!

I came up with the first recipe while wanting to use up some of the stuff we had left over from New Year’s… a French baguette, fontina cheese, and Canadian bacon.  It’s one of those “put together the night before” recipes so you have to plan ahead a little, but I think I’m off to a strong start with this one!

I give you Recipe #1, EGG STRATA CUPS!!





Egg Strata Cups
(makes 6)

Ingredients
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups cubed bread (my baguette was a few days old and it was perfect!)
1 small tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup Canadian bacon, diced
1/2 cup fontina cheese, diced (left over from our cheese plate, so I just cut the slices into smaller chunks)
2 T chives, chopped

Instructions
In a bowl, whisk milk and dry mustard together until well blended. Add eggs, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, combine bread, Canadian bacon, tomato, cheese and chives (I used my hands to mix it all up. Get in there and get messy!).  Spray a non-stick large muffin tin with cooking spray and load with the bread mixture. If you’re fancy-schmancy and have a pop-over pan, that would work too! Pour egg mixture over bread mixture until eggs are evenly distributed. Cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-30 minutes until eggs are set. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before serving.  They’re great at room temperature and they’ll keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, if you can keep from eating them all at once!  We couldn’t (so much for “moderation”)!

You could add just about anything to your stratas… bacon, sausage, veg, any kind of cheese.  They’re SUPER easy and SUPER yummy!!  This one’s a keeper!  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

J.O.Y. - 2015


I’m sure you’ve heard of people choosing a “word” at the start of each New Year. The word usually has something to do with what you hope for or want to be.  I had always wanted to pick a word, but would usually forget or decide the word I had chosen wasn’t good enough, or some other excuse. The same thing happens when I decide I’m going to start a journal, a diet, a cleaning/organizing plan…

A few months into 2013, I got my first word… BRAVE.  I had breast cancer.  I was going to need to be brave and hold onto my faith to get through it.  I soon learned that being brave had very little to do with what I could do, and had everything to do with what God could do.  God gave me unexpected strength.  He made me brave.

As 2014 rolled in, I was finishing my radiation treatments.  No more cancer!  My next word… SHINE.  I wanted to shine with the victory God had given me over breast cancer.  I wanted to shine with all that He had done in my life.  Matthew 5:14 in The Message says,

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world,”

                                  and that’s just what I was going to do.

It’s hard to shine all the time.  I sometimes wondered if I was really shinning at all.  Did my flaws and mistakes and short-comings dim that light?  I realized again that my “word” had very little to do with me and had everything to do with what God was doing in me.  He shines.  He is working and moving in my life and that light can’t be put out.  It doesn’t matter what stupid things I do, He’ll shine through.  That’s another word… GRACE.

With 2015 waiting in the wings, it’s time to pick another “word”.  Several words have come up in recent months and definitely have meaning to me for this time in my life…. HOPE, FAITH, PEACE, LOVE, BEAUTIFUL.  I went to The Word (aka. The Bible) to help narrow it down and I found this passage (emphasis mine):

“Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haulnot the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into JOY, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” -Colossians 1:9-12, MSG

JOY.  God had given me strength to endure (be brave). He let me shine his God-colors to the world and much more.  You can be sure that all of that spills over into JOY.

Each day I want to choose JOY.  I want to remember everything God has done for me and look forward with joy to all that he has in store.

“when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 NLT

And it’s not just about my joy.  I want to share joy and bring joy to the people around me.

“Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness                         
    they will sing with joy about your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7 NLT

Bottom line, I want my life to point back to Christ.  I want it to be undeniable whose I am and where my JOY comes from. So in 2015, I’m all about the JOY and I’m wishing the same for you!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Italian Cream Soda


We’re on a TOTAL Italian Cream Soda kick at our house right now!!  They are SO easy to make and you can make them in pretty much any flavor! (Skip adding the cream for a “regular” Italian Soda.)
 
If you haven’t had one before, you’re gonna thank me when you try it!

 
 


Ingredients

2 ounces Italian syrup, any flavor (Vanilla, Cherry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Peach, etc. – I like cherry or blackberry!)

2 Tbsp half-and-half (we always have heavy cream in the fridge, so that’s what we use and I pretty much eyeball it.)

6 ounces club soda
 
Ice

 

Directions

Fill glass half to ¾ full with crushed ice.

Pour in flavored syrup.

Add club soda.

Finish with cream and stir.


Enjoy and you're welcome! ♥

Friday, February 21, 2014

She Gave Her Children Wings

I’m teaching a class!!!!  Here are the details:

She gave her children wings
(mixed media assemblage class)


Learn to make this bird’s nest/shadowbox.
A perfect way to display your favorite photograph of mom or grandma.

The class is $45.00
(includes instruction and kit).

Kit includes:
2 canvases
vintage paper
bird’s nest
vintage photo
feathers, buttons, lace, etc.
wire & nails
vintage hardware
(exact supplies may vary from sample)

You’ll bring:
a glue gun
wire snips
scissors
a hammer
optional: photo, buttons, bits, etc.

Saturday, April 12th, 2014
10:00AM – Noon
(possible second class at 12:30PM)

Madam Palooza
29980 Technology Drive #4, Murrieta, CA

Click the button below to register!




There are two other wonderful classes being offered that day too:



Hope to see you all there!!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The BEST Granola EVER!!!

Last August, I went to a Bra-Vo Art Bra Workshop and our wonderful hostess, Pam Ingersoll, made us the most DELICIOUS granola I have EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!! I'm not kidding, it was SOOOOO GOOD!! I have been dreaming about that granola ever since, so I finally asked Pam for the recipe.  Turns out that her TOP SECRET recipe is actually Alton Brown's recipe.  That may be true, but this AMAZING, WONDERFUL, OH-SO-YUMMY granola will forever be known in my heart as "Pam's Granola"!

It's really easy to make! The hardest part is going into the kitchen to stir it every 15 minutes!  Pam bakes her granola a little longer than the recipe and she says she adds a little bit more of everything! Oh, and REAL maple syrup is a MUST!

Go ahead!  Make some for yourself!! You're gonna LOVE it!!

PAM'S GRANOLA

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup cashews (I used Trader Joe's Raw Cashew Pieces.)
  • 3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (I may have added a bit more.)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup (I used real maple syrup!)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins (I used chopped, dried cherries instead.)

Directions
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.
Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins (or whatever dried fruit you want) and mix until evenly distributed.

Enjoy!!!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Salted Caramel-Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Tuesdays have become "baking day" for me, mostly due to the fact that I was baking treats to take to chemo every week.  Now that chemo is over, I'm still trying to keep up the baking.  This week I tried a recipe I found on Pinterest.  The original recipe can be found here.  I made a few modifications, the main one being that the original recipe is made in an 8x8 pan, which is much too small! I adjusted the recipe for a 9x11 pan - plenty of bars for everyone!  I also used an 11oz. bag of Kraft Caramel Bits instead of unwrapping all of those caramel squares - my chemo fingers just couldn't do it!  Finally, I sprinkled a little sea salt over the caramel layer before baking.

Well, that's about it!  Let me know if you try them. Hope you like 'em!!  Enjoy!!

Salted Caramel-Chocolate Chip Oat Bars
Adapted from the original recipe at LuLu the Baker.

32 caramel squares, unwrapped (or 1-11oz. bag of Caramel Bits)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups butter, melted
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
2  teaspoons baking soda
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, coarse

Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 9x11" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips and sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

*If you try cutting the bars before they are completely cooled, they will fall apart.  Put them in the fridge if you can't wait for the molten caramel to cool down. They should however, be stored and served at room temperature (although warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream wouldn't be a bad idea either).
**If you want to use homemade or store-bought caramel sauce in place of the caramel/cream mixture, use 1 1/4 cups of caramel sauce, and omit the caramel squares and heavy cream.