Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mac and Cheese, Bacon, Onion and Toasted Panko Crumbs

Kary’s take on Chocolate Moosey’s French Onion Macaroni and Cheese

Kary's take Mac and Cheese
Last week a Facebook post by Carla over at Chocolate Moosey caught my eye. Not only did the picture make me hungry but any recipe that mentions French Onions catches my interest, so of course I had to make this recipe.
If you don’t already know this I am inspired by recipes and usually substitute ingredients with what I have in my pantry or fridge. Also what I can find at my local markets. So here is my take on Carla’s yummy recipe. Thank you Carla for sharing!

First I have to admit that I have never made Macaroni and Cheese from scratch, so this is a first for me and thought I would try it for my grandsons last Saturday. We had planned a swim at our Casa and firing up the grill, lamb burgers were on the menu. 

I thought the boys 7 and 9 would love the Mac and cheese; as it turned out the adults, including me devoured this dish; so to say it was a success is putting it mildly. The boys were more interested in the corn on the cob.

A bite of Mac and cheese, bacon, toasted bread crumbs and caramelized onion, Oh my gosh a blending of flavors so delicious…You have to try this! 

I doubled the recipe and we had enough to send home some with Jake and Kitt. Also some left for two lunches this week and I tossed in grilled chicken breast…what can I say yummy!
In preparation for Saturday I stopped by my local Trader Joe’s and as I was staring at the pasta trying to figure out which pasta to buy one of the staff offered to help. I love this store everyone is always happy to help and oh so joyful!
Here’s my take on Carla’s French Onion Macaroni and Cheese, with a dash of bacon!
4 slices of Black Forest Bacon, All Natural Dry Rubbed Bacon (from Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup of butter
1 small sweet yellow onion, sliced
8 ounces Trader Joe’s Italian Pennette
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 2 % milk – My cheese mixture was really thick as I cooked it so I added about an additional ¼ cup of milk
1 cup Gruyere and white Cheddar cheese blend, also found at Trader Joe’s. Shred the cheese
Dash of Salt
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Cut the bacon into bite size pieces and cook in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the bacon from the skillet and retain about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add the sliced onions to the skillet and cook on medium on the stove top for about 20 minutes until caramelized to a golden brown, use a spatula to turn the onion every couple of minutes. Slow cooking the onions really brings out the sweetness of the onions. When the onions are golden brown set aside and keep warm.
Add the remaining bacon fat to the skillet, should be around a tablespoon, melt and stir in the bread crumbs, cook until brown. Watch closely and make sure you don’t burn the bread crumbs. Remove from the skillet and keep warm.
Cook the pasta per the instructions on the package, use a colander to drain the pasta when done.
While the pasta is cooking add 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet you have been using and melt the butter. Once the butter is melted stir in the flour, slowly stir in the milk (I warm the milk for about 15 seconds in the microwave, cold milk will cause the warm butter and flour to be lumpy). Bring to a boil and continue to stir for about 3 to 4 minutes then stir in the cheese. Continue to stir until the cheese is melted and blended in.
In a large serving dish add the drained pasta and stir in the cheese and milk mixture. Top with the bacon and breadcrumbs. I did not have any parsley which was in the original recipe so I omitted it. 
We served the macaroni and cheese and left it to each of us to top with the cooked onions.
I will be making this again and again. My book club buddies are going to love this!
Just cook something! Cheers! Kary~
Do you have a favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipe? I would love to hear about it. Thank you for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Rogue Lawyer, Quiche, Spinach Salad and Book Club

The Rogue Lawyer, John Grisham
This month Lynn was our host and we were greeted with a hug and the heartwarming aroma of something baking in the oven…hmm what it could be…
Lynn’s oh so delicious Quiche!
Menu~Scroll down for the recipes
Hummus with roasted peppers and bagel chips - Purchased

Spinach Salad and Quiche with spinach or broccoli
Lemon cake for desert compliments of Lynn’s favorite bakery

Laughs, fun, great food, a good book and wonderful friends, what more can you ask
for? Elaine and Lynn we are looking forward to your next installment of “Neighborhood Walking Adventures” or maybe”sleuths are us?”

I have to admit I have not read a Grisham novel in awhile. Like many of you I was drawn into Grisham’s world with “The Firm”. After that wild ride I found a copy of his first book “A Time to Kill” which was equally fascinating and disturbing. With every new novel I waited impatiently for the next adventure and was not disappointed. However I have to admit I have not read a Grisham novel in awhile. 

So when Lynn recommend Grisham’s new book “The Rogue Lawyer” I thought ok let’s give it a go. Grisham’s main character Sebastian Rudd is a defense lawyer who takes the cases know one else will take and in typical Grisham style we were all drawn into the story and the dark underworld of the law.

It is a fascinating trip into the underside of the law, law enforcement, cage fighting, serial killers, kidnapping and a world where everyone seems to want Sebastian dead. To borrow a quote from Maureen Corrigan in her book review “he is the defense attorney you want sitting beside you in the courtroom when something unpleasant hits the fan.”

We all recommend “The Rogue Lawyer” with a side of Quiche and maybe bourbon or at least a nice Cabernet. And of course lots of laughs!

Now here’s Lynn’s’ Quiche and Spinach Salad recipe:

Spinach Quiche
1 Premade pie crust
3 Tablespoons of butter
1 medium size sweet yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 lb of fresh spinach, cleaned, dried and chopped
6 eggs
½ cup of milk
Dash of Salt and Pepper
2 cups shredded Swiss, Cheddar, or Gruyere ~ mix in some feta ~ your choice
Lynn does not pre-cook the pie crust and the crust was flaky, not soggy at all

Pre-heat oven 375 to bake the Quiche
Place the pre made pie crust in a pie pan
In a large sauté pan melt the butter, sauté the onions and garlic just until they soften. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 or 2 minutes then add the spinach and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, just to start the cooking process

Spoon the onion, garlic, mushrooms and spinach mixture into the pie crust
Sprinkle the cheese over the filling
In a large bowl whisk the eggs then whisk in the milk, salt and pepper

Pour the egg and milk mixture over the filling and cheese

Bake at 375 for 40 minutes than check the quiche; it should be firm with a little movement. Remember to use your oven mitts!!!

The Quiche will continue to cook when you remove from it from the oven

Spinach Salad
½ cup sugar
½ cup red vinegar
1 cup oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup catsup ~ yes Lynn adds and it is delicious!
Use a mason jar to mix, just shake until well blended~ oh and put the lid on before mixing…

1 lb fresh spinach, cleaned and chopped
1 pound of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 small red or sweet yellow onion sliced
4 hard boiled eggs chopped
6 to 8 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled

In a large bowl add the spinach, mushrooms, onion, eggs and bacon
Toss with dressing and serve!

Keep it Simple and Fresh~

What are you reading? Just Cook Something! Cheers! Kary~

Just cook something! Cheers! Kary~

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Baked Beans, Dad Huff's 85th Birthday Celebration and Memorial Day

Baked Beans compliments of Chuck “Ellen’s Arizona Beans”

Who doesn’t love baked beans? And this Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to try this recipe.
Ellen's Arizona Beans
1 lb hamburger
1/2 lb bacon
1/2 cup diced onion- Brown together then add:
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 can butter beans, drained
1 cup kidney beans, drain half of the juice
1 can baked beans
Mix together and pour into a baking dish - Bake at 350 for 1 hour

Last April we celebrated my Daddy’s 85th birthday and he said it was the best birthday ever! Daddy fought and is winning the battle against colon cancer so the last year has been a challenge for him and my family making this birthday even more special.
In celebration we planned a gathering of friends and family at their home in Northern Idaho. Last year when I was there it snowed, but this year it is as if Mother Nature knew we needed some sunshine for Dad’s birthday weekend. On Friday the sun came out and it was a sunny 70 plus decrees, absolutely beautiful, clear blue skies only experienced in this part of the world. Along with Mom, Dad, Molly, Sissies Deb and Shelley we headed out to lunch at our favorite spot Trinity Restaurant at City Beach on Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho. Molly loves the Salmon burger, Mom and I shared a Hamburger with fries because you have to have the fries right? Sissies enjoyed one of the specialty salad’s and Dad ordered his usual fish and chips. Always great food and service even though they had just opened the patios and were just gearing up for the summer season. We just love this place!
After a long relaxing and fun lunch we headed back to Mom and Dad’s for spring cleaning. Along with my sissies Deb and Shelley, niece Molly, Mom and Dad we cleaned up the porches and pulled out the cushions for the patio furniture. Dad, Molly and I worked on the waterfall in the backyard, cleaning out the winter debris with Daddy’s trusty shop vac, which made the clean up so much easier! Soon water was flowing over the rocks and the birds were enjoying their waterhole, now we just needed to wait for the deer and the moose that lives in the woods surrounding the homestead! I did see Moose tracks, very large Moose tracks…
On the menu for Daddy’s birthday was my pulled pork sandwiches and Ellen’s Arizona Beans complements of Chuck, one of my niece Molly’s granddad’s. We enjoyed Daddy Huff’s potato salad, deviled eggs, chips, dip and of course chocolate birthday cake, all provided by us and our guests.

This weekend in the US we will be celebrating our military and remembering those who have fought and continue to fight so that we can fire up our grills, spend time with friends and family. Let me know if you enjoy these baked beans as much as we did.
Just cook something! Cheers! Kary~

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Hummingbird, CHICKEN au VIN and Book Club

The Hummingbird, Author Stephen P.Kiernan

Book club questions

Katy was our host this month and we were greeted with a mouthwatering aroma; hmm I was wondering “what is Katy cooking up?”  Katy pulled out one of her Mom’s recipes “Chicken au Vin” to prepare for us and served it with a fresh green salad. This is real comfort food and rather fitting for our book this month, and can you say home made cookies! Oh my gosh Katy, I think I am still full!

The Hummingbird shuttles between the past and present day, keeping us wondering if what is written about the past is true. A book that takes us on an emotional ride: World War II secret bombing raids off the Oregon cost, family secrets, pride, warriors, PTSD, history, hospice,
 forgiveness and a little mystery.

We spent most of the evening laughing our tushes off. Elaine continues to teach all of us a thing or two about southern hospitably and along with Ann their wicked humor keeps us giggling all evening. Ann, we can’t wait to hear more lawn mower stories, cone of silence in-tack. 

Oh back to the book, as you know we all love to read but the gathering is also about us spending time together. In the book hospice nurse Deb is struggling with her husband that she loves and is trying to understand the horror that her husband Michael experienced as a sniper after three tours in the Middle East. Deb’s interaction with Barclay, her hospice patient, is a first step in trying to understand what Michael experienced, really just the beginning of their journey to find their way back to each other.

Sometimes it is really challenging to know what path to take, how to even take that first step to relate to someone who is suffering.

I loved the way Stephen Kiernan jumped from past to present day, some of our group did not enjoy that as much as others. One thing we all agreed with is that Michael and Deb refer to each other as “lover”, for some reason we found this rather creepy. We discussed this and thought maybe because Deb and Michael’s relationship was so strained after his third tour and not physical at all, hmmm well just our thoughts.

Having said that we all recommend that you read this book, it truly opened a door to helping us better understand hospice and ptsd, just a crack. But as Leonard Cohen sings in one of my favorite songs Anthem  "There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in".

Cheers! Just Cook Something~ Kary

Now here is Katy’s mom’s recipe: Oh and thank you for the beautiful bookmarks! 

Attack on Pearl Harbor

2016 Selections:
Month       Book                                           Author
February      Garden Spells                                         Sarah Addison Allen           
March           The Hummingbird                                                 Stephen Kiernan      
April              Rogue Lawyer                                                       John Grisham           
May               Maybe in another life                                         Taylor Jenkins Reid 
June~August                         Summer Break                                  
September   Comfort and Joy                                                   Kristen Hannah
October       Marriage of Opposites                                         Alice Hoffman         
November    The Nightingale                                                     Kristen Hannah
December      Christmas Party and Book Selection for 2017            

Monday, May 2, 2016

Cooking with Kary: Cinco De Mayo

Do you know why we celebrate Cinco De Mayo? Read on....

Cooking with Kary: Cinco De Mayo: Viva Cinco De Mayo~ I wrote this post in 2011 and in 2016 it is still one of my favorites which I just updated. Chicken Enchiladas Read...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen, Book Club & Enchilada's

Book Club: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and Elaine's Famous Chicken Enchiladas~

“When you’re happy for yourself, it fills you.
When you’re happy for someone else, it pours over.”

Where did the time go, a year ago Elaine along with adorable Chloe hosted book club and we were back at Elaine’s last March where she whipped up her famous Enchiladas’, served with a tossed green salad and of course chips and salsa! Hey when you have a winning recipe we all agree that you should stick with it!

And for dessert…Lemon Balm Pudding Cake, well not sure if Elaine actually infused the cake with Crushed Violets but it was delicious!

Elaine also greeted us with a surprise, her husband John usually creates a presentation on their TV with great photos of the book and a welcome greeting, which always makes us feel special. Well this month John outdid himself! He created a booklet which included Elaine’s menu for the evening, the book club questions, a list of Sarah’s other books and a description of the magical effect of Claire’s plants, you will just have to read the book to get the list!

I first read Garden Spells back in 2008 and fell in love with the Waverly women; Claire, Sydney, Bay and Evanelle. When Ann suggested this book I thought it would be fun to read it again. Who doesn’t’ love a book about a mysterious apple tree, magical plants and recipes, secrets, love and family. A story of unusual women that are quirky, secretive and just plain fun to spend time with.

Claire and Sydney are sisters who each have a particular gift, some might call it intuition, others hmmm maybe a little magic. Bay is Sydney’s daughter, who has a particular talent for making sure everything has a place and Evanelle is just plain fun and we all agreed she is our favorite character. Toss in a little mystery, a dash of romance, family love, friends lost and found, magic and you have the perfect recipe for a great book.

One of the book club questions asked “If you possessed magical powers what would you do?” My response without even thinking was cure cancer, we all agreed that was a good one. My Mom, Mother-in-law and so many of my friends are breast cancer survivors and we have lost too many to cancer. My Dad is a colon cancer survivor, need I say more.

As always we shared laughs, a little bit of our inner thoughts, opinions, yes we all have those and just had fun!
If you haven’t read any of Sarah Addison Allen’s novels spring is here and a perfect time to spend time with some of Sarah’s great characters. What books are you reading, we love suggestions!

Just cook something! Oh and read something! Cheers! Kary~

 Elaine’s Famously Delicious Enchiladas

4 cups boiled chicken breast cut in cubes
1 can mild enchilada sauce
1 small onion diced
16 oz. sour cream
4 cups four blend shredded Mexican cheeses
1 can minced green chilies
12 tortilla shells, Flour, wheat or corn- My favorite is corn tortillas, that said Elaine's are my favorite with flour!

Pre-heat the oven to 350 decrees.
Place the chicken breasts in a sauce pan and cover with water, about 1-inch-high, bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes. Watch closely, when the chicken is fork tender it is done.

Mix chicken, sour cream, 2 cups of cheese, minced green chilies and onion in a large bowl. Dip the tortilla shells into the enchilada sauce and fill with a spoon full of the chicken/cheese mixture, roll with the seam side down. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the rolled up enchiladas and bake 30 minutes @350 decrees.
It’s that simple, now enjoy!

And for a side dish, a green salad, black beans & corn or Spanish rice well do nicely.  Oh don’t forget the tortilla chips and salsa!

Just cook something! Cheers! Kary~

2016 Selections:
Month       Book                                           Author
February      Garden Spells                                         Sarah Addison Allen           
March           The Hummingbird                                                 Stephen Kiernan      
April              Rogue Lawyer                                                       John Grisham           
May               Maybe in another life                                         Taylor Jenkins Reid 
June~August                         Summer Break                                  
September   Comfort and Joy                                                   Kristen Hannah
October       Marriage of Opposites                                         Alice Hoffman         
November    The Nightingale                                                     Kristen Hannah
December      Christmas Party and Book Selection for 2017 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Raisin Bread Homemade Bread Machine

This one is for my Sissy Deb, finally got around to finishing this post!

Perfection, Finally!
How hard could it be to bake a loaf of Raisin Bread? Everyone in our family loves Raisin Bread and one of my local markets use to sell fresh baked raisin bread, which was delicious!  However, they no longer bake your basic raisin bread, they are offering raisin pecan or some other variation.
Sliced & Perfect!
In my quest to find a great loaf of raisin bread I found fresh baked loafs at my local organic bakery but at $6.50 or more for a loaf of bread I decided to learn how to bake my own raisin bread. How difficult can that be? Well, like anything that is done well practice, practice and more practice produces a good loaf of bread. I searched for healthy raisin bread recipes on the web and I found several that sounded pretty easy to make, however most of the recipes were for bread makers.
Finally Perfection!
I began experimenting with making the bread dough, the first loaf tasted really great but did not rise like it should, I think the water was too warm and the yeast did not react as it should. Ok cooler water next time and I think I punched down the dough too aggressively, it was slow to rise.
Finally after several attempts the dough was rising like I thought it should, still a lot of work and not the perfect loaf but the wonderful aroma of fresh bread baking filled our home, pure heaven and the Raisin Bread was simply yummy! 
The Bread Maker!
Just as I was perfecting my bread baking skills it seems that overnight we went from spring to summer. Ugh, way too warm to heat up the kitchen. I was sharing my story with my friend Patti. Pattie told me she had a bread maker which had traveled the world with her and she was going to loan it to me indefinitely, she had no intention of ever using the bread maker again. I was excited to try out the new to me bread machine.
Hmmm ok so how difficult could it be to make bread in a bread machine…Well it smelled like baked bread but when I opened the bread maker it looked more like a volcano than a perfect loaf of bread. Good news was that it tasted like raisin bread should taste, yum yum come get you some!
Next up was mastering the bread machine, or not……After surfing the web and reading many blogs I learned that it was possible that I was adding too much water. What? I followed the instruction in the booklet that came with the bread maker. As many cooks say “a recipe is a suggestion” however for me baking bread is a chemistry experiment. So many variables to consider; water temperature, weather- yes weather, too hot, too cold, too humid, no humidity, less yeast, more yeast, room temperature yeast…Ugh this is why I so admire bakers, it is a craft and I have more respect than ever for those who bake.
Through trial and error over the last several years here is my mostly perfect Raisin Bread recipe for the Bread Maker, of course depending on the weather:  
For a 1.5 lbs Loaf
My Recipe                                                                  Recipe in the book
10 ounces       Water –Room Temperature                        11 ounces Water
1 and ½ cups  Wheat Flour                                      3 cups Bread Flour
1 and ½ cups  Unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon, sometimes a dash more
1 Tablespoon Sugar                                                  1 ½ tablespoon Sugar
½ Teaspoon    Salt                                                     1 ½ teaspoons Salt
1 ½ Tablespoon Coconut Oil or Butter                   1 ½ tablespoons Butter
Do not use and no substitute for this                              1 ½ tablespoon Dry Skim Milk
½ cup of Raisins                                                        3 ounces of Raisins
1 ½ Teaspoons Yeast                                                            2 teaspoons yeast
Add the ingredients to the bread case in the order it is listed, very important!
Water first, Flour: I add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of each cup of flour.
Next Sugar, Salt, Coconut Oil or Butter, Raisins and finally the yeast.
Plug in Mister Loaf Model HB-210-215, adjust the settings and let it do all the work, about 2 ½ hours. Don’t leave this model alone, it only buzzes once when the bread is ready. Immediacy turn off the bread maker and using hand mitts remove the pan, cool bread on a rack and BE careful not to burn yourself!
Now, smell that wonderful aroma only fresh baked bread has and enjoy!
I would love to hear your baking stories, please share! Just cook something! Cheers~ Kary ~
Additional notes:
Water temperature: no notes in the instruction booklet, it just seemed to make sense that the water should be room temperature.  
Flour notes: I did not taste or see a difference using the following: 3 cups of Bread Flour or 3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour works. I have not tried to make it with 3 cups of Wheat Flour.