Thursday, May 28, 2015

Me, Myselfies, and I


“Have you seen Julie’s pictures on Facebook lately?”
“She takes way too many selfies!”
“Is she having a mid-life crisis?”
“I bet you there’s trouble at home!”
 “She must think she’s all that and a bag of chips!”

No, I’m NOT having a mid-life crisis.  And things are FINE at home.  And I DON’T think I’m “all that”, (well, maybe the bag of chips…). I’m fine. I haven’t gone off the deep end.  Not that I should have to explain myself, but maybe it will quiet some of the chatter. Even so, to quote my nemesis Taylor Swift, “haters gonna hate,” and I know not everyone will appreciate what I have to say. Here goes anyway…

For most of my 44 years on earth I was a wallflower, happy to go unnoticed. When I got old enough to be self-conscious, I didn’t like getting my picture taken anymore (if I remember correctly, that was around 6th grade when I puffed up like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man – before that, I was quite the little ham). I didn’t mind flying under the radar.  I did dabble in dramatic theater in junior high where I played “Jack” in an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”.  I then moved on to musical theater of sorts at church and then singing solos… but that was the extent of my time in the spotlight.  Fast forward to my 42nd year…

Most of you have already heard the story, so I’ll keep it brief. I got breast cancer. I underwent about 7 months of chemo/surgery/radiation.  During that time a few things happened: 1.) I felt a little isolated, so I reached out via social media to share my journey, 2.) unsure of how chemo was going to affect my body, I started taking daily selfies to chronical my “change”, and 3.) I kicked cancer’s ass.  Social media made my world a whole lot smaller and I felt extremely loved and supported.  My “change” didn’t end up being much of a change on the outside (aside from going bald and having no eyebrows or eyelashes), but on the inside I was learning to be comfortable in the skin I was in by posting pics of my face EVERY SINGLE DAY for something like 150 days – talk about stepping out of your comfort zone… but that’s a whole other blog post! I quickly realized that people were watching! Oh, and the ass kicking part! Chemo shrunk the invader down to almost nothing, surgery cleaned things up so the twins got to stay together, and radiation made sure the area was all clear.  Then I was ready to make up for the time I had lost to cancer - “The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts...” (Joel 2:25).  Baby steps at first as I tried to figure out my new “normal” and then at full speed, making up “normal” as I went and pausing for a nap from time to time.

I had chosen the word “shine” as my post-cancer mantra. “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world… shine!” (Matthew 5:14). Whatever I did, even the smallest thing, I wanted to shine with everything God had done in me and through me. With that came more pictures and in 2015 I chose a new mantra, “joy”. With everything I had been through, how could I not find and choose joy? Not just that, I also wanted to share joy. To me, that meant living life to the fullest. Taking advantage of opportunities that came my way. Trying new things. Doing things that made me happy (naps included). Eating things that made me happy. Spending time with family AND friends… all the while posting more pictures.

My posts were never meant to brag or be showy. I’m sure there are some who got tired of seeing me and some who probably “unfriended” me.  Here’s the thing, I can’t go back to being a wallflower! It was my hope that I could make someone smile, share some joy, give some hope, make someone feel better about what they were going through, share faith, share fun, share friendship, share strength and courage, share love. That’s still what I hope for. God has been so good to me! Look deeper than the silly faces, the donuts, the mud covered body (if you don’t know, don’t ask), and see a girl who is thankful.  See a girl who loves life, her family and her friends.  See a girl who loves the Lord. See a girl that has chosen JOY. Don’t judge or jump to conclusions. If that’s just too hard to see or I’m too much for you, I understand… you can “unfriend” me. I won’t think any less of you. For those that stick around, thanks! I hope you enjoy the ride! And to all you wallflowers… it’s time to blossom!!
For more on my breast cancer journey and beyond, check out my other blog: Stupid Cupcake Cancer

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

#17 - Masa Corn Cakes with Chorizo

 
HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!!
 
When I started this 52 recipes in a year thing, I said that I wouldn't just share the great recipes, but that I would even post some of the not-so-great ones... this would be one of those. Fear not amigos, there is still hope for this dish!  It wasn't terrible, it just needs a little tweaking.
 
The original recipe I started with was from Cooking Light .  I chose not to make the pico de gallo included in the recipe. I was more interested in the "pancakes". As I started mixing the ingredients, it was quickly apparent that the 1 cup of warm water called for was way too much! It was the consistency of pancake batter, which would have been fine but I needed to "divide dough into 16 balls; flatten each to form into 2-inch pancakes". That was NOT going to happen! So, I added some more flour, some more masa (corn meal), maybe a little more baking powder, and then I added some corn (those cakes NEEDED corn). I ended up with a sticky batter more than a dough.  I shaped it into about 12 - 3" cakes and started frying.
 
They weren't bad really.  The feedback I got was that they 1. needed more flavor and 2. needed more corn. I'd have to agree on the corn issue. The flavor... well, I'm the only one that ate chorizo with mine and the chorizo added plenty of flavor. The other two in the house have an aversion to chorizo, so they had beans, cheese and salsa.  Like I said, they weren't terrible and we didn't go hungry. I'd probably eat them again, as is.

 
 
Masa Corn Cakes with Chorizo
Yield: About 12 - 3" cakes.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 1/2 cups masa harina (cornmeal)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt   

1 ounce queso fresco, grated (about 1/4 cup)

1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for cooking

1 cup frozen corn, thawed (I used HERDEZ Sonora Blend (fire roasted corn, with red and green bell peppers)

Your favorite chorizo, beans, salsa, sour cream, etc., for toppings

 

Directions:

1. Lightly spoon masa harina and flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine masa harina, flour, baking powder, queso fresco, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over top, and stir to form coarse meal with some pea-size pieces. Add 1 cup warm water, and stir until dough forms. Stir in corn. Divide dough into 12 balls; flatten each to form into 3-inch cakes.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add about 1 teaspoon oil. Place 4 pancakes in pan, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until set and golden brown on bottom; flip and cook 2 to 3 additional minutes (you may need to add more oil). Repeat procedure with remaining pancakes and oil.

3. Meanwhile, heat up your chorizo and beans. Serve cakes warm with desired toppings.


(Recipe #17 of 52)

 

 

 

 



 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

#16 - Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Bean Frosting

It had been a long time since any cupcakes came out of my kitchen. There was a time when that was just about all that came out of my oven. A friend of mine mentioned liking cherry chip cake with vanilla frosting so I figured, what the heck... I'll give that a try! It's fun making something with someone specific in mind and a bonus when they actually like it! I also sent a bunch to work with The Hubs because his co-workers are perfect guinea pigs and the cupcakes were a hit with them too.

 
 

Cherry Chip Cupcakes
with Fluffy Vanilla Bean Frosting


Makes 22-24 cupcakes.

CUPCAKES:
1 package plain white cake mix
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 - 10oz. jar maraschino cherries without stems, drained and finely chopped, juice reserved
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
1 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners and set the pans aside.
  2. Place the cake mix, yogurt, cherries, cherry juice, oil, egg whites, vanilla and almond extract in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl. Beat for 11/2 to 2 minutes longer on medium, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed.
  3. Spoon or scoop a 1/4 cup of cupcake batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two thirds of the way full.
  4. Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Place the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
FROSTING:
1 cup shortening, Crisco
1 - 7oz. jar marshmallow cream
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the frosting, place the shortening and marshmallow cream in a large mixing bowl, and blend with an electric mixer on low until creamy. Add powdered sugar, milk, salt, and vanilla bean paste, and blend until smooth. Add more milk if needed.

When cupcakes are cooled, frost generously. Top with a cherry or cherry candy if desired.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

#15 -Fixin' Floors and Dad's Beef Stroganoff


Fixin' stuff with Dad.
Dad and I spent the better part of the week on a minor remodel of our bathroom. Apparently, the toilet had been leaking for who knows how long and had turned the underlayment to mush. Some of the subfloor was pretty bad too!

Stripped it all down...

...and here's my new floor!
Of course I didn't stop with the floor! We decided to get a new vanity and sink.  I also got the bright idea to install wainscoting! Oh, and we had a stubborn leak under the sink.  I think it's all done now though. It needs some new paint but that's gonna have to be a Summer project 'cuz I'm done!
 
In between all that fixin', Dad offered to cook dinner!! You better believe I took him up on the offer!! He made a super yummy beef stroganoff.  His recipe called for mushrooms, which I am NOT a fan of, but it was really good! I didn't even taste the fungi!

 
 
Dad's Beef Stroganoff
Adapted from Paula Deen.
Yield: 4 servings (although if actually fed 6 of us)

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pounds cubed round steak, cut into thin strips
  •  All-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can beef broth
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Cooked egg noodles

Directions
 
Sprinkle the steak strips with salt and pepper, and then dust with flour. In a large skillet, quickly brown them on both sides in the olive oil and butter. Remove the steak from the pan. Add the onion slices, garlic and mushrooms to the pan drippings. Sauté for a few minutes, until the onion is tender. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon flour. Put the steak back into the pan with the onion and mushrooms. Add the mushroom soup and beef broth. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, covered. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding salt and pepper, as needed. Stir in the sour cream the last few minutes, right before you serve. Serve over cooked noodles.
 
(Recipe #15 of 52)
 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

#14 - Overnight Blueberries & Cream French Toast Casserole

I had the makings of a Happy Easter with my Mom & Dad (The 'Rents) and The One Who Left Me for Higher Learning in town! It was so good to have all of my people under one roof (my other two peeps - The Hubs and The One Still at Home were here too, of course!).  I spent the better part of the weekend in the kitchen cookin' up a storm for The Fam... LOVED IT!!!
 
For Easter breakfast, we had Overnight Blueberries & Cream French Toast Casserole. As usual, I made a few changes to the recipe, like using croissants instead of bread and I added vanilla bean paste to the blueberry syrup. It was SUPER decadent! Dad said that he was pretty sure there was a law in California that stated you were only allowed to make this recipe once a year because it's too good. Tee, hee.... he's silly, but right!
 
Here's the recipe and know that you've been warned!

Overnight Blueberries and Cream French Toast Casserole
Recipe adapted from Cookies & Cups 
Serves 10
Ingredients:
Casserole
  • 18 slices of white bread, day old works best OR 6-8 croissants
  • 2 (8 oz) blocks Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries or 2 cups frozen blueberries (before thawed)
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (OR vanilla bean paste)
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
Blueberry Syrup
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries or 2 cups frozen blueberries (before thawed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 Tbsp butter
Instructions:
  1. Spray a 9x13 pan with baking spray.
  2. Cut all the bread (croissants) into cubes. Spread half the bread in the prepared pan, pressing down slightly.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together. Drop by the spoonful the cream cheese mixture evenly on the bread layer. Top with the blueberries and then the remaining bread.
  4. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and maple syrup. Pour over the entire casserole. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking to take the chill off.
  6. Remove plastic wrap and cover with foil to bake.
  7. Bake covered at 350° for 30 minutes and then remove cover and bake an additional 25-30 minutes until center is set.
  8. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Bluberry Syrup
  1. While the casserole is baking prepare the syrup. IN a medium saucepan combine sugar, corn starch and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it's reached a boil simmer for 3-4 minutes until thickened. Add in blueberries and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.
  3. Pour syrup over entire casserole or individual portions.
Notes:
Serve immediately, or cover and store for up to 2 days, reheating before serving.
 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#13 - Spring Break and Beer, Bacon & Smoked Gouda Risotto

Just got back from 10 days in AZ with The Fam. It was Spring Break for The One Still at Home, so we headed to Mesa for some R&R, to take in some Chicago Cubs Spring Training, and to spend some time with The One Who Left Me for Higher Learning.  We had a great time (except for Still at Home stuck in bed for 3-days with the flu)!  We ate at our favorite restaurants, laid out by the pool, watched a BUNCH of baseball, and celebrated The Hubs' 50th birthday!  I thought about posting all of our trip pictures here like an old school slideshow... remember when people used to do that when they'd return from a trip? ..."and this was Aunt Martha standing next to the giant buffalo.."  Anyway, fear not, I only posted a few pics (the rest are all on Instagram if you're a glutton for punishment).



 



After being away, it was good to get back in the kitchen! This week I came up with Beer, Bacon & Smoked Gouda Risotto.  I hadn't planned on eating much this week to make up for EVERYTHING I did eat last week, but knowing that I needed a recipe to post I just went for it.  I actually made it with stuff I already had in the kitchen... that was just pure dumb luck!  A quick shout-out to our friends Bill & Taffi for buying a case of Shock-Top beer, not loving it and passing it on to us! I don't love it either but I'll definitely use it for cooking!
 
PS. My 'Rents are headed down this week! Looking forward to cooking up a storm for them! Recipes to follow.... for now, here's the risotto:


 
 
Beer, Bacon & Smoked Gouda Risotto
Yield: 8 (1 cup) servings
 

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ a small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 12 oz bottle of beer
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ½ oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 cup shredded Smoked Gouda (I may have used a bit more than that)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
 

Directions:


  1. Cook bacon is a large sauté pan. When bacon is crisp, remove from pan and set aside. 
  2. Place the butter in sauté pan with remaining bacon grease and return to medium-low heat until butter is just melted. Add onions and cook 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until garlic is fragrant. Add the rice and stir to combine. Cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring throughout.
  3. Pour in the beer and turn the heat up to high until the beer begins to simmer. Reduce heat back to medium-low and add ½ cup of the chicken broth. Stir until the liquid dissolves and then add another ½ cup. Repeat until all the broth has been added and the rice is creamy and al dente.
  4. Remove the rice mixture from the heat and add the cheeses, bacon, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Stir until thoroughly combined and serve.

 (Recipe #13 of 52)

Friday, March 20, 2015

#11/#12 Guinness Stew & Irish Soda Bread

It's St. Patrick's Day and I celebrated the way I know best... with Mumford & Son's playing on the iPad, I got busy heating up the kitchen.
 
Irish Soda Bread
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten
Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk*, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup dried currants (I used raisins instead)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk and egg together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants (or raisins) with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
 
*I didn't have any buttermilk, so I made my own.  I used 2 cups whole milk and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Let it sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Stir before using.



Guinness Stew and Irish Mash
Recipe adapted from The Berroness
Ingredients
For Guinness Stew:
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs beef chuck, cut into cubes
  • kosher salt and cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 12 ounces stout beer
  • 2 cups beef broth (or stock)
    1½ cups baby carrots 

For Irish Mash:

  • 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups cabbage, chopped
  • ½ cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • kosher salt and cracked pepper, to taste

 

Directions
In a large pot over medium heat, cook the bacon.
Remove the bacon from the pot. Chop and set aside. Pour off bacon grease until about 2 Tbsp of bacon grease remain in the pot.
Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the pot.
Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper. Add to the pot, sear on all sides until browned, and remove from pot (beef will not be cooked through).
Add the onions. Cook until lightly caramelized, about ten minutes.
Sprinkle with flour, stir until flour has turned brown, about 1 minute.
Add the stout and stir, scraping to deglaze the pan. Pour in the broth.
Add the beef cubes and bacon back into the pot. Throw in carrots. Add the lid at a slight vent and reduce heat to maintain a low simmer. Allow to simmer until beef is fork tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
While the beef is cooking, make the potatoes: Add the potatoes to a pot of salted water, bring to a boil and allow to cook until potatoes are fork tender. Drain, remove potatoes from the pot and return the empty pot to heat. Melt the butter in the pot. Add the cabbage and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the green onions. Remove from heat, and add in the milk and the potatoes. Mash and stir until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

(recipes #11 & #12 of 52)





Thursday, March 5, 2015

#10 - Chicken Pot Pie

“I might be going out on a limb here, but this might be the best chicken pot pie I've ever had!”



That was the review my pot pie got from the Hubs!  The son that doesn't like pot pie loved it too.  They even warned that they were willing to fight over the extra pie sitting in the kitchen!

This was another one of those “experimental” recipes.  I looked up a few different recipes, pulled out things I liked from them and then did my thing.  The problem with that was that I didn't really write down everything as I went.  When it got such great reviews, I knew that I had better figure it out so I could make it again later!  So, here it is (as much as I could remember!):

Chicken Pot Pie
Makes 4 single-serve pies.

4 chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
4 cups chicken stock
4-5 small red potatoes, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 cup chopped carrots
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 sprigs fresh sage
1/3 cup white wine (optional)
Frozen corn (about a cup)
Canned green beans (most of the can)
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
Egg wash (lightly whisk together 1 whole egg and 1 teaspoon water)

Special equipment: 4 (2-cup) individual baking dishes

·        Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
·        In a medium saucepan, cook potatoes in chicken stock until just tender.  Remove from stock and set aside. (You could just cook them in water, but I think it added great flavor to do it this way.)
·        Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté until cooked through. Remove from heat and cut into chunks. (You could always use 2 cups of precooked chicken to save time.)
·        In the same skillet heat the other 2 tbsp. oil and sauté garlic, sage and onion 2-3 minutes. Add white wine, and simmer a minute or two and then add carrots.  Cook until carrots are tender. Remove sage sprigs and add thyme.
·        Add potatoes, corn, green beans and chicken to the carrot mixture.  Salt and pepper to taste.
·        In a large saucepan, melt butter and then slowly add flour, stirring until consistency of peanut butter, but don’t let it brown. Alternating, slowly add cream and milk. Keep stirring.
·        This is where I added some chicken stock.  Start with about ½ and stir well.  You don’t want the filling too thin, so don’t overdo it.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes.
·        When the stock mixture has thickened, add nutmeg, salt & pepper and veg & chicken mixture. Stir well and remove from heat.
·        Cut puff pastry into 4 squares big enough to cover the tops of your baking dishes.
·        Fill 4 individual oven-proof bowls with chicken mixture and top each with puff pastry. Cut a few slits in the top of each pie to vent and brush with egg wash.
·        Place pies on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
·        Cool a few minutes before serving… if you can wait that long!


A couple of notes…
When making the base (butter, flour, milk, cream, chicken stock), I just kinda eyeballed it.  SLOWLY add the liquids in, stirring well in between.  Next time I’ll pay more attention to the amounts I put in!

There will be extra filling left over. YUM!  Eat it tomorrow for lunch!

There was no blood shed for the extra pie.  The Hubs ate it a couple of days later (reheated at 350 degrees for 30 minutes) and it was still super delish!

(Recipe #10 of 52)