Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Abby's Makin Pizza

In my previous blog, I shared our family's sacred Chicken wing recipe. It is one that my dad lovingly crafted over 20 years and graciously placed in my hands. He was trusting me to carry on his legacy of phenomenal wings. Likewise, my friend Joe, master pizza maker, has crafted his own pizza recipe and has placed this recipe in the palm of my hands allowing me to share the magic of his favorite pizza we call, The Pizza of the Gods.

How could we go through Superbowl or really anything in life without pizza! It is the perfect food and a lot healthier than you think! Let's see; there's fresh baked bread, tomato sauce, and fresh vegetables. Okay, so there is a little cheese, but really the cheese adds to our calcium intake. Joe happens to live right down the street and is really concerned about me ruining his reputation on the internet, never the less he agreed to let me publish his recipe.

Just last week, we were cross country skiing and I was telling him about an old friend of mine who was my "if we aren't married by thirty-whatever" we would marry each other. Well, that dude is married with a kid, so basically I am screwed. I was dismayed and asking Joe for his advice. Did Joe have any? Not really. He actually suggested that I set up something with my current boyfriend. Like say to my new man, "Hey honey, if we don't marry someone better in the next few years, why don't we make it happen with us?" Really romantic right? And the perfect way to get a relationship headed in the right direction. Maybe this is why Joe is single. Hard to say.

When we get back to the house and start making pizza, I start pumping him for information about his former relationships. Did he give flowers? Say I love you? You know the typical stuff. I won't reveal his answers, but these are the kinds of conversations you can get into  when you are cooking with someone. You share, open up, and tell things that you might not if your mind wasn't busy concentrating on other things. Cooking with someone is an intimate experience. It is one of those raw moments where you are wearing a ridiculous apron and your hands are busy slicing, mixing, and dicing. When someone asks you something personal, your guard is let down and you speak the truth. I have gotten to share the kitchen with so many of my friends and relatives and I have always come away feeling closer to them somehow. The kitchen is a great place to get to know someone, hear about a loved ones worries, or just catch up.

I have learned a lot about relationships that were meant to last and ones that weren't from cooking side by side. If you can cook beside someone you can do almost anything. Not to mention if you can laugh over burned souffle, or apple pie where you forgot to add cinnamon (go ahead and ask me about this one - it's a funny story); it's a pretty good sign.

I encourage you to get into the kitchen and start talking. If you don't know what to ask, start sharing a story of your own. Maybe a funny story about cooking with someone else, or a disaster that lead to an emergency call to the pizza delivery guy. Grab your kids, grandparents, friends, strangers, and loved ones and cook these fabulous pizzas. Not only will you get to eat them once it's over, you will have built a stronger relationship. I know you will feel closer together after this experience of creating!

If you find toppings that you really love, feel free to share with us and comment so we can all share new and creative ideas!

Makin' Dough

1 cup hot water
1 packet yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cups flour

Combine hot water and yeast and stir. The yeast should bubble slightly. Add sugar, salt, olive oil, and flour. Caot your hands with olive oil and kneed all ingredients together until well incorporated. The dough shouldn't stick to your hands. Continue kneeding the dough for 5 minutes. Put an additional tsp. of olive oil in the bottom of the bowl and roll the ball of dough in the olive oil coating it completely. Cover the dough and let rise for one hour.

This will make 1 medium crust, or two small thin crusts. We prefer to make this into two thin crusts.

Once it has risen for an hour, make into 2 equal sized balls and roll out flat. The shape doesn't have to be perfect and actually the least perfect the more rustic and real the experience feels! Place the rolled dough on a cookie sheet and now you are ready to top with the sauce. The recipe is below!

Gettin' Saucey

1 can stewed Italian style tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1 can tomato paste (6 oz.)
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder

Mix all of the ingredients listed above in a small sauce pan for 5-7 minutes or until hot and bubbly!

Once the dough and sauce are ready you are now ready to create the pizza of your dreams. The world is your pizzeria! The varieties are limited only by your own imagination. You can do anything with the toppings that you want. I have listed a few  below that are our personal favorites!

Sappy Southern Italian Pizza

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes; diced
1 can artichoke hearts; diced (14.5 oz.)
1/2 cup green olives; diced
1 cup mozzarella cheese; shredded

Add the ingredients listed above, placing the cheese down first, to the rolled out pizza dough that has been covered in the Smyers' Sassy Sauce! Layer the sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, and green olives on top of the sauce and cheese.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. The pizza will come out bubbly and perfect!

Pizza of the God's (or so Joe claims)

1/2 orange pepper; diced
1/2 cup green olives; diced
pepperoni (as much as you want!)
1 cup mozzarella cheese; shredded

Lay the pizza dough down on a cookie sheet, spread Smyers' sauce over the top, add the cheese, then sprinkle the rest of the ingredients listed above on top!

Bake in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes and you will have perfection!

Big Daddy's Pizza

1 lb. italian sausage
3 cloves garlic; minced
1/2 cup black olives; diced
1 bunch fresh basil; chopped
1 cup mozzarella cheese; shredded

Brown the italian sausage and garlic in a medium skillet until the sausage is cooked through; should be 4-7 minutes. Repeat the same process as I have described above and on top of the crust, sauce, and cheese add the browned italian sausage, black olives, and basil.

Bake in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and devouring!

Mental Health Tip: Pizza is one of those magical things that almost everyone loves and you can put anything you want on top. You can make it mexican with jalapenos, corn, and avocados. You can also add a carribean theme and make it with diced chicken, cilantro, and pineapple. When you tranform your kitchen into a pizzeria everyone wants to get involved. It is a great way to get kids, husbands, and wives all in the kitchen together! Just don't forget the aprons. This can get messy folks, but nothing worthwhile isn't messy!

Peace and Love from our pizzeria to yours!

~"Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Game Day Quesadillas, Succotash, and Sweet Lemon Tarts

As the football season winds down, we anxiously get ready for the biggest event of the year. It reminds me of  New Year's Eve. Even if you don't go out, you do on New Year's Eve. Just like the super bowl. Even if you don't watch football, you watch that game. 

I don't watch much football, however my family and friends are huge fans, so I sit idly by pretending to be a fan as I skim magazines and write in my journal. Some of you may relate. If something exciting happens and the room errupts in cheers of celebration, I look up, notice the pretty colors, and look for tight ends. I may even do a little cheering myself before I return my attention to my magazines.
My best friend and I used to go out on Monday Nights to observe this special holiday we call Monday Night football. We would say, "Who doesn't go out on a Monday?!? I mean really?!?" We would each stock up on one or two football trivia highlights about the game that night and see how much we could fake when we got to the bar.

Usually, I wouldn't spend anytime watching the game. We were usually too busy telling stories and trying to get free drinks. What can I say, I was pretty young then. Those nights didn't teach me much about football, but they did teach me how to get a free drink or three.

I might make jokes, but football is one of those universal sports that can be enjoyed by everyone even if there isn't general understanding. It is a great excuse to curl up on the coach with some Steak Quesadillas and really pig out with friends.
This year I am challenging myself to get more into the sport, at least learn a few things. My challenge for you non-chefs out there, is to get your tight ends' into the kitchen. Even if you don't cook or entertain make this the day that you choose to. I have provided simple, delicious, and healthy snacks for you and your guests. I am sharing the delicious Succulent Sucotash, Steak Quesadilla, and our Lemon Cheerleaders (think tarts) recipes.
I hope you accept my challenge to get in the kitchen or out to the grill. Just yesterday, I was talking to my friend, Joe, about going out for Monday night football soon. His response? 

"Babe, Monday night football is WAY over. We are in the playoffs now. Try to keep up." Okay, maybe I better apply myself a little harder and at least learn the schedule of the games... Yes, I think I should start there, don't you?

This is only the beginning. I have many more game day recipes that I will be sharing over the next week and I will also share what I have learned about football so far. Stay tuned and get prepared for some delicious fare on SUPERBOWL SUNDAY!

Steak Quesadillas

12 oz. sirloin steak (or your favorite cut of meat)
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
1/2 cup red onion
1/2 cup cheddar cheese; grated
1/2 cup fresh cilantro; chopped
4 whole wheat tortillas

1. Heat your grill. Salt and pepper your steak and grill for 3 minutes a side or until medium rare. Remove from the grill and place on a plate. Let rest for at least 10 minutes, then slice into thin strips. 

2. Heat a grill pan until medium heat and spray with olive oil. Place one tortilla on the hot grill pan and top with half of the sliced steak, red onion, cheddar cheese, and cilantro. Top with another tortilla and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Then flip the quesadilla and cook on the other side for another 3-5 minutes. The cheese should be all melted and hold the two tortillas and the delicious toppings together.

3. Using a sharp pizza cutter or knife, cut into pizza-like triangles! Enjoy with sour cream, guacamole (I have a great recipe in my previous blog Stay and Celebrate that was posted on 12/8/09), and salsa!

4. This makes two large quesadillas that depending on appetites can feed up to 6 people. If you are expecting more, grill a few more steaks and make as many as you want. These are great left over then next day so don't be afraid to make more than everyone will eat!

Succulent Succotash
1/2 White Onion
2 tbsp. Garlic (approx. 4 cloves chopped)
1 cup Crushed Tomatoes
1 can Black Beans (rinsed to remove excess salt)
1/2 cup Roasted Red Pepper
1 small Tomato; diced
14 oz. Frozen Okra
1/2 cup Red Pepper; diced
1. Heat a large skillet and add 2 tsp of olive oil to the bottom of the pan and swirl. When the pan is hot add the onion, garlic, and fresh red pepper. 

2. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and stir together. Turn the heat to low and allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, however this can simmer on low for up to an hour while you prepare other things too!

This is a great and healthy alternative to a cold salad. This can be paired with almost anything and is a great way to sneak in fiber and vegetables with almost no one noticing! It goes great with the wings!

Bonus Tip: We also mixed this in with eggs the next morning and it made a delicious scramble with a little Canadian bacon and mozzarella cheese added in!

Lemon Cheerleaders (think tarts) ;)
16 ounces Low Fat Cream Cheese
2 Eggs
2 tsp. Ground Ginger
Zest of One Lemon
1/2 cup Lemon Juice
10 packets of Splenda*
Phyllo dough
Olive oil spray

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Mix the cream cheese, eggs, ginger, lemon zest and juice, and spenda together in a medium mixing bowl. I use a whisk to make sure air is incorporated. Whip until smooth and creamy!

3. Lay out the phyllo dough sheets and get our your favorite muffin tin and spray with cooking spray like PAM or olive oil. Grab 3 sheets of phyllo and lay on a flat surface. Spray the top sheet with olive oil spray and, using kitchen sheers, cut the sheets into 4 equal squares. Lay each square in one of the muffin basins. Pour in the lemon cream cheese mixture into the squares until they are filled. Repeat with three more sheets of phyllo until all 12 muffin basins have phyllo and lemon cream cheese mixture in. All of the cream cheese mixture should be used up. To finish, using the kitchen sheers, cut the top of each of the phyllo crusts and fold over the lemon cream cheese mixture making flower like folds. Once all are cut and folded over the cheese cake mix spray the top with olive oil.

4. If the phyllo gets a little dry and flaky, spray with olive oil to continue to moisten as you compile these delicious cheerleaders!

5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Everyone will be cheering when they taste these delicious tarts and you tell them that they are low fat and SUGAR FREE! It is the perfect end to a hearty and heavy football fair!

Mental Health Tip: It doesn't matter what new craft you may be learning about this year. Take one step at a time and set small goals. Whether it is learning more about cooking, football, or Tweeting (I am still trying to figure that one out!) You can climb that mountain or forge that stream one step at a time. Be patient and kind to yourself and remember; you can do anything you put your mind to!

Bon Apetite!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the Kitchen

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Putting myself out there and getting my... Phyll-o

This year is the year I am makin' it happen. I am on the prowl and holding no prisoners. This also means that I am pursuing things that might never have crossed my mind before. Not to say I am lowering my standards, more like seeing everything as an opportunity. Every event is a chance to network, meet new people, and try something different. Just this last Sunday, I modeled for free at a bridal expo. Yes, I volunteered to put on wedding dresses, walk down a runway, and sell 'getting married' as an unmarried 29 year old. I know pretty ironic. I told my mom to come and bring the camera because this may be the closest I get! There I was in a dressing room filled with wedding and prom dresses with girls ten years my junior.

Years before, my best friend (who I lovingly refer to as my wife) and I attended wedding expos where I would 'pretend' to be a bride. We would walk around and fill out free giveaways, eat cake, and hold flowers. My motto was, "Aren't we all 'bride's to be'?" I mean hey, if I wasn't married yet, but was planning on getting hitched some day, couldn't I consider myself a 'bride to be'? So what if I didn't have the man, date, or the lifelong commitment. I was still a bride to be wasn't I? I thought so. This year, I gave myself a promotion and instead of just pretending to be a bride, I decided to dress up like one in public and work the runway.

You would think that at 29, I would feel a little self concious about being ten years older than all the other models. Instead, I had lots of fun with it. The other girls were fantastic and at one point, the bridal dress shop owners announced that if we purchased our prom dresses with them we would be offered a 20% discount. I smiled, wearing my huge poofy wedding dress holding a bouquet of tulips and said aloud, "Do you think anyone will invite me to the prom this year?" We all errupted into laughter and I followed up with, "Probably not old enough to be considered a cougar yet, huh?"

I have bartended on an Indian reservation, am entering numerous writing contests and most recently, mom and I are entering recipes in a phyllo dough competition. Phyllo is the perfect ingredient because you can do ANYTHING with it! If you haven't used phyllo before, it really isn't that hard. Just keep it in the fridge until the last minute, work quickly, and have olive oil spray at the ready.

I have enjoyed all of the paths that I have danced along. I have met new friends and made amazing connections. This is only the begining. I encourage you all to not only pretend to be something, but go ahead and dress up like it too! You never know when make believe will become reality. Nothing is outside the relm of possibility. Stay tuned.... and get your phyll-o adventures too!

Get your Fill-o S'Mores

1 package phyllo dough
2 cup mini marshmallows
1 chocolate bar (43 g) chopped
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup pistachio nuts chopped
Olive Oil spray
Heat oven broiler to 500 degrees.

1. Place mini-marshmallows in a shallow baking dish on a single layer. Place marshmallows under broiler for 33 seconds. Remove from heat and prepare to assemble the s'mores. Reset the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

2. Place 2 sheets of phyllo on a flatwork surface and spray with olive oil. Place 1/4 cup of mini-marshmallows in upper left corner of phyllo dough. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs, chopped chocolate, and pistachios. Fold phyllo dough up and over to cover leaving extra dough to the left. Spray the phyllo again with olive oil. Place another 1/4 cup of marshmellows creating a second layer and sprinkle with the chocolate, graham cracker crumbs, and pistachios. Fold the phyllo dough over the marshmallow again covering the layers of the s'more. Spray with olive oil coating the dough completely. Sprinkle chocolate and pistachios on top.

3. Repeat this process to make more individual s'mores. This recipe will make 4. You can add more ingredients to make as many s'mores as you want!

4. Place the s'mores on a cookie sheet and bake in a 300 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

5. Top with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and whipped cream for added goodness!
This is a delicious alternative to camp fire s'mores and is perfect for stir crazy kids in the winter! We guarantee you will want s'more of these!

Breakfast Baklava

6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 red onion diced
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. Italian seasonings
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
8 slices Canadian bacon
1 package phyllo dough

1. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat until fluffy. Add the milk and dried parsley, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and continue to beat. Slice the Canadian bacon into small bite size pieces and dice the half red onion. Heat a skillet and add the red onion and Canadian bacon and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the egg and cook until the egg is almost done, but slightly runny. Remove the eggs from the heat.

2. Spray a baking dish with olive oil and lay three sheets of phyllo dough on the bottom of the baking dish and spray the phyllo with olive oil. Layer a thin layer of egg mixture and sprinkle with a portion of cheddar cheese. Layer another three sheets of phyllo dough and spray with olive oil and spread another thin layer of egg mixture and cheese. Repeat the layering of the phyllo dough, olive oil spray, egg, and cheese until all egg mixture is used up. Then place one last layer of phyllo dough on top, spray with olive oil and sprinkle with remaining cheese and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Savory Steak and Gorgonzola Pastry

16 oz. sirloin steak
2 cups frozen spinach
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 small white onion diced
1 small jar pre-made pesto
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
phyllo dough
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat grill and place steak on hot grill cooking 3 minutes a side or until medium rare. Place steak on a plate to cool. After 10 minutes, slice the steak into long thin strips.

3. Meanwhile heat a saute pan and cook the onion, garlic, and spinach until heated through. Approx. 7 minutes using low heat.

4. In a small bowl, mix the pesto and the half and half until a thick paste forms.

5. To assemble, lay 4 sheets of phyllo on a clean work surface. Spray the phyllo with olive oil spray. Place 1/2 cup of sauteed spinach in the middle on the phyllo sheets. Top with 4 oz. of steak, then 2 tbsp. pesto cream sauce. Sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese. Then fold the edges of the phyllo wrapping all of the ingredients inside. Spray the phyllo 'package' with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the remaining gorgonzola cheese. Place on a cookie sheet.

6. Repeat this process until all indgredients are used. This will make 4 good sized pastries.

7. Bake in the 300 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

Applicious Phyllo Cheesecake

4 small apples
1 package cream cheese
1 egg
3 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp. cinnamon
phyllo dough
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Wash apples thoroughly and thinly slice leaving the skins on.

3. Mix cream cheese, egg, cinnamon, honey, and brown sugar in a small bowl until smooth.

4. To assemble, lay 5 sheets of phyllo on an oiled baking sheet and spray phyllo with olive oil. Lay the cream cheese mixture in the middle of the phyllo sheets. Lay the thinly sliced apples over the cream cheese. Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon. Place 1/4 cup butter on top of the apples and fold the phyllo dough up around the apple and cream cheese mixture. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with brown sugar and more cinnamon if desired.

5. Cook in the 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Mental Health Tip: These recipes are simple, elegant, and deliciously impressive! On days that seem to be filled with endless chaos, treat yourself to one of these phyllo filled wonders. You deserve to relax and feel pampered. Why not give yourself a present wrapped up in phyllo.

Love from our kitchen to yours,

~"Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ode to Twenty Eight

Well, another year has grabbed hold of me and I am staring down the barrel at 30. Not yet, though. I just celebrated my 29th birthday on 1/10/10. Yep. I am that age when everyone stops aging. I've been told that everyone claims to be 29 forever. I am not sure that I am going to do that, but I do want to reflect on 28. It was a great year for me. It started out with a lot of pain, growth, and change, and has resulted in tremendous joy.

The year started with me slowly ripping myself out of a long relationship. Through that experience I looked inside myself and gave myself the opportunity to ask the question, "What do I really want?" I had never spent that much time on that question. I was really busy asking others what they wanted and trying to make everyone else happy. I sort of forgot to give myself that same gift; the gift of happiness. At the age of 28, I put myself on the front burner and found the answers to what I really wanted.

You want to know the answer? The truth; I want to be a successful writer and surround myself with people who love me unconditionally. This decision was a powerful one and it lead me to hang up my hat as a Data Management Supervisor (a great job with great co-workers and staff) and move across the country. I decided that I didn't want to wait for my real life to begin, I wanted to start creating the life of my dreams now. There is no more waiting. Life is too short and I want too much.

Here I am celebrating 29 years on the planet. I hope I have been a good influence. I hope I have made a difference so far. I am in a very different space than I was a year ago and a much better one at that. I have kept the friends from back home in Illinois and made great new ones in Montana. I gathered my new friends and cooked dinner with the help of my mom and my great new boyfriend, Scott. Cooking for my own birthday? Absolutely, that is how I show all of my friends how much they mean to me. We grilled Luscious London Broil on the grill (me in my flip flops) and had Deceptively Delicious Mashed Cauliflower, Italian Caesar Salad (with my homemade croutons), and garlic bread. My friends came, laughed, and stayed until the wee hours of the morning to help me celebrate.

My life is dramatically different than it was a year ago and I am surrounded by people who support and love me and the feeling is mutual. I always say, if life gives me lemons, I am not doing something right! I want chocolate cake and more specifically Lee’s Special Dark Chocolate Whiskey Cake, which is what we finished the meal off with. I am getting what I want; a rich, sweet, and decadent life. So, let me leave you with this thought... "What do you want?" It is never too late to get it. Make your life what you want it to be and join me in devouring this delicious chocolate cake I call life!

Luscious London Broil

4 lb. london broil steak

1 small white onion finely chopped
4 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine
2 tbsp. worchestershire sauce

London Broil Sauce

 reserved marinade
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup red wine

Place london broil in a baking dish and score crisscross lines into the steak with a sharp knife. Combine the onion and garlic in a small bowl. Press the mixture into the scored whole in the meat. Mix the red wine and worchestershire sauce together and pour over the steak. Let the meat marinate for at least an hour. We marinated the steak overnight in the fridge covered in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

When ready to cook the steak, remove the steak from the marinade, reserving it for the sauce. Heat your grill to 450 degrees. Place the steak on the grill and cook until desired doneness. It is 8 minutes a side for medium steak. Cook less for more rare and a few minutes more for well done. Remove from grill and let sit for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to distribute.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, strain the onions out of the marinade and pour the marinade into a sauce pan. Add another 1/2 cup of red wine and whisk in a half a cup of butter. Continue whisking until all butter is melted and sauce is shiny in consistency.

To serve, thinly slice the beef and spoon the sauce over the beef.

Deceptively Delicious Mashed Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 yukon gold potato, diced
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place cauliflower, potato, and garlic in a large sauce pan and cover with chicken broth. If not entirely covered add water until just covered. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer 15-20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

Drain liquid reserving 2 tbs. of the liquid. Add sour cream and cheddar cheese to the drained cauliflower and mash using a hand held potato masher. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with fresh chives sprinkled over the top if desired.

Italian Cesear Salad

1 head Romain lettuce
1 can artichoke hearts
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 cup black olives diced
1/4 cup ceasar dressing

Slice and clean lettuce and place in bowl. Add sliced artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, and black olives. Toss with cesear dressing (our favorite is Brianna's home style asiago cesear). Top with the home made croutons that are in the 'Transformation' blog entry from 12/21/09.

Lee’s Special Dark Chocolate Whiskey Cake

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour two 8.5 or 9-inch cake pans.

Dry Ingredients

2 C. Organic Flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¾ C. Dark Chocolate Cocoa
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1/3 C. Milk powder

Mix dry ingredients together.

Wet ingredients

2 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
½ C. Irish whiskey
¾ C. agave nectar
½ C. water
½ C. canola oil

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well-about 2 minutes on medium.

Additional ingredients

1 ¼ boiling water
¼ cup honey

Mix together aditional ingredients then add to cake mixture. Batter will be thin.

Cook 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes then remove from pan and cool on rack. When cakes are cool, they are ready to Frost.

Orange Liqueur Chocolate Frosting

6 T. organic butter
2 C. powdered sugar
1/3 C. Orange Liqueur with Cognac
½ C. Cocoa
2 tsp. vanilla (I used Royal Montaine-fairly cheap & good)
2-3 T. half and half as needed

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternate powdered sugar with orange liqueur, half and half and vanilla and beat until desired spreading consistency. Add more liquid of choice as needed.

Mental Health Tip: Every year is a good one, even if it does mean we are getting older. I say, the more years the merrier because each moment keeps getting better and better! So forget about another year older and think of each year as time to gather more friends, share more joy filled moments, and live deliciously. For me, This is what 29 looks like!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the Kitchen

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I notice when I'm cooking, I always ask, "What is missing?" Does it need more salt, garlic, pepper, olive oil? I think this is a common thing. When we are in the kitchen and the meal is near completion some people taste, I like to smell, to figure out if there is something we didn't include that could make this more perfect. It always seems that in cooking, much like life; we're looking for what is absent.

I am having this thought now because for my mom and I what is missing is my dad. He isn't gone; he just isn't here with us. He is a Zen Buddhist priest and has received the distinct honor to serve as a guest abbot at the Zen Center in Atlanta, GA. This will serve to further his teaching ability and status with the Soto Zen affiliation, so he accepted. What this means for him, is that he spends 3 months in Atlanta, GA living in the temple and assisting. For mom and I, that means we are here just the two of us. 

Winter seems to be a good time for longing. It's cold and dark outside and the fire is burning inside and there seems to be space for reflection and yearning. The holidays help too. This year I missed my grandma who has passed and my grandpa who didn't get to be with us this year. We all have times when we long for people that have passed, friendships that are no longer, and relationships that have expired.

While my mom and I miss my dad terribly; we also know there are things to cherish about this. Remember, my glass is always full. My dad is getting to grow as a priest and mom and I have each other and lots of things to do. I remember my dad telling me over the summer that he was planning to do this. He told me that my decision to move out to Montana was the solidifying factor in him making this decision. Moving in with them meant that when he left, he wasn't leaving mom alone and that was important to him. I am glad that I can be here. Despite our many things to do, we still miss him, but longing is part of life. Longing teaches us who we really want in our lives. If someone leaves and we long for them, it means that we love them or at the very least really like having them around.

Now that I have shared my longing, let me fill up my glass and share what I DO have. I DO have a fabulous family and support system. I DO have a wonderful network of women friends who encourage me no matter how crazy my new idea. I DO have my health, I DO have friends who keep me laughing, and most important, I DO have me.

If you are longing for someone too; know that it's okay to have an absence in your life and that there are ways to fill up your glass. My mom and I are busy cooking, writing, entertaining, and supervising our crazy kitty, Frankie. On our first night just the two of us we made Spicy Salmon Patties, Asian Steamed Vegetables, and Steamy Mashed Potatoes. And don't worry there isn't anything missing from these recipes other than my dad here to be the taste tester.

He'll be back soon enough and we will all have grown, learned, and ultimately bring something bigger to the table when we are back together. So mom and I are filling up our glass that seemed empty without my dad and continuing to grow and learn and become better at being us. That is what is the most important thing. To grow into who we are in each moment. That is what I am choosing to use this time for. My mom is creating peace our home and in her heart. Whatever you longing for, may there be pe your owace in your home and heart.

Spicy Salmon Patties

1 can red salmon drained
1 egg
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. worchestershire sauce
2 tsp. teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp. fresh ginger minced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 cup white onion chopped
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper

Mix all ingredients listed above in large mixing bowl using your *clean* hands until all ingredients are incorporated. Then heat a large skillet with olive oil. Form salmon mixture into 4 even sized patties using your hands. Place formed patties into hot skillet and cook on each side for 3 minutes. Flip using a spatula much like you would flip a pancake. Each side should be dark golden brown.

Asian Steamed Vegetables

1/2 a head of fresh cauliflower sliced
1 cup sugar snap peas
3 carrots sliced
4 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. fresh ginger minced
1 tbsp. sesame oil
Pinch each of salt and pepper

Place all vegetables and seasonings in a large microwave safe bowl. A steaming bowl is ideal here, but if you don't have one you can use a regular microwave safe bowl and plastic wrap covering it. Mix all ingredients in a bowl making sure the vegetables are coated with the sauce and garlic. Place in the microwave covering with plastic wrap or with the covering of the steam bowl and microwave for 8 minutes at full power. Stop the microwave and stir halfway through the cooking process. The vegetables will absorb the soy and sesame flavors and be slightly crisp and delicious. This is a great healthy alternative to sauteing vegetables and steaming creates a flavor seal so you will have rich flavor no matter what!

Steamy Mashed Potatoes

2 yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 tbsp. garlic powder

Peirce the potatoes with a fork and season the skin by rubbing olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder on the outside. Place the potato on a plate and microwave for 5 minutes. Once done the potato will be soft. Cut the potato up and mix in the sour cream (you can also add chives, cheese, and bacon if you like). Perfect healthy mashed potatoes in no time at all!

Mental Health Tip: Longing can be a magical feeling if we let it be.  Enjoy the coldness of the winter months and allow yourself to curl up into your feelings no matter what they are. Feelings are the way our hearts communicate what they really want. Let your heart be your guide this winter and cook for comfort!

Health and wealth in this new year from our kitchen to yours!

~"Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the Kitchen

Friday, January 8, 2010

An Evening in Cairo

After the magic and chaos of the holidays, it's easy to slip into a funk. The weather is cold out (for most of us) and the holidays that we look forward to all year round have passed. We find ourselves whimsically putting the holiday decorations away for next year and hoping that spring get's here ASAP. I know this feeling all too well. I call it the "Winter Blahs". I've gotten a case of this winter funk before, but I have also found techniques to keep this feeling at bay. One way, is to create my own personal "dinner vacation".

My family and I recently went to Egypt and spent three amazing weeks touring the country. Everything we came across changed my perspective, opened my eyes to new things, and ultimately led me to a huge life change. I spent the holidays with my aunt Linda and uncle James, who had taken the trip to Egypt with me. I decided that we should all journey back to Egypt together through food. What better way to beat the chill of winter than by re-creating a fabulous vacation!

Everyone was on board. We pulled out the pictures from our trip and set up a slide show to watch while we ate dinner. We found some traditional music that would transport us back to Egypt and played it in the background to set the mood. Then I went to work in the kitchen making a traditional Tomato Curry Tilapia, Lemon Herb Peas, and Egyptian Wild Rice. For an appetizer, I whipped up a batch of my Humdinger Hummus and served it along side fresh vegetables and pita chips.

That night we were all transported back to Cairo and got lost in our memories of the journey. We laughed, reminisced, and let the sunshine of our memories wash over us warming us from the inside out. Oh, and the curry helped keep us warm too. I have also created this meal  in coordination with a toga party with other family that had not been to Egypt. After that toga dinner party they felt like they had been on the journey with us! So it doesn't matter if you have been somewhere or are just longing to go, it is never too expensive or too long a distance to travel to create a "dinner vacation".

So whether you create a new vacation or re-live a favorite trip bring your family and friends together and invite them to come with you. Hey, why not start with taking your friends to Cairo, on me!

Tomato Curry Tilapia

6 filetes of fresh tilapia (it can also be frozen, but thaw in cold water first)
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can garbanzo beans (14.5 oz)

1 can black olives chopped (14.5 oz)
1/2 white onion sliced
8 garlic cloves minced
3 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. cumin powder
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large sauce pot on the stove with the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion becomes transluscent. Then add the curry, paprika, cumin, and chili powder along with the can of crushed tomatoes. Mix well and let all of the spices combine with the tomatoes. After about 5 minutes add the garbanzo beans and black olives. Stir to mix all the ingredients for your sauce and remove from heat.

Place the fish filettes in a large baking dish that has been sprinkles with olive oil. Pour the sauce over the fish and wiggle the baking dish to ensure the fish gets thoroughly wrapped in the sauce. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. The fish will come out tender and flaky and the sauce will be robust and a little spicy!

This sauce can also be poured over pasta so it is great to double the recipe and freeze and use for another meal later in the week.

Lemon Herb Peas

1 package frozen peas (12 oz)
1/2 white onion diced
4 cloves of garlic minced
Juice from 2 lemons
2 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. olive oil

Heat a small sauce pan with olive oil until hot. Then add the onion and garlic and saute until onion becomes transluscent. Add the peas, lemon juice, and parsley and stir gently. Cook only until peas are heated through. The peas should remain bright green and fresh. To cook this side will only take about 10 to 15 minutes. You want to peas to burst in your mouth with the fresh juice.

Wild Egyptian Rice

2 cups wild rice
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. dried basil
Pinch of salt

Cook the rice according to the package directions, however use the vegetable stock instead of water and add the herbs in at the beginning stirring to combine all ingredients. The brightness of the parsley pairs well with the smokiness of the paprika and the sweetness of the basil. Those three flavors combine to give this rice an added kick and pairs well with the spiciness of the fish and the freshness of the peas.

Humdinger Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans drained (14.5 oz)
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp. cumin powder
2 tbsp. curry powder

Add the garbonzo beans, garlic, cumin, and curry to a food processor and puree. Once the beans are broken down, lift the pour spout of the food processor and slowly add the olive oil. The dip should be smooth creamy and light. If it looks too much like a paste, add another few drops of olive oil. If you are wanting to lighten this recipe up, you can substitute half the olive oil for plain or greek yogurt.

Serve with fresh sliced vegetables and pita chips for a sure fire crowd pleasure!

Mental Health Tip: Despite the chill outside, it is never too far to travel to create your own warm memories of vacations gone by or dream trips of the future. Don't wait until tomorrow to go somewhere that you can create in your kitchen today! Take if from us, you deserve a vacation! So take one tonight! Anywhere you want to go is only a recipe away. Why not go to Cairo tonight?

Peace and Love in this new year from our family to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the Kitchen

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Who wants leftovers?!?! They answered with a resounding "We Do!"

Not sure about all of you, but after Thanksgiving, Christmas, the solstice, and all the family gatherings, we have been cooking up a storm. I sort of look like the Tazmanian Devil/ Genie, swirling and creating delicious meals in the wake of the storm. What that means though, is that we also have TONS of leftovers. Our fridge has runeth over. It needs another zip code just to hold all the leftovers. These leftovers have also overflowed into the garage, coolers, etc. You get the point. We are also getting pretty sick of turkey sandwiches and the reheat and repeat routine.

So it's time for a little creativity. It is time to rethink our position on the leftovers. Change our perspective. Much like everything in life if we just alter our thinking slightly we can create something new and exciting out of something that just yesterday seemed like old news. Just as I wrote about transformation earlier, this too is a form of adjustment, however may be less dramatic than dumping your bowl and starting over. This requires a slight shift and using what we have to rethink our position. 

This is the challenge, to rethink things. Change the way we respond to things. That is the challenge in life too. It reminds me of the question, "Is your glass half empty or half full?" I remember telling a friend that she was so positive that even if her glass was empty, she would report that it was full of air! That is the positive attitude that I have adopted. I think she thought I was being funny, but in reality I admired her for her positive outlook. It is the approach that I have applied to these recipes too. Are these leftovers just that? Leftovers? I don't think so. Leftovers sounds so... ugly, doesn't it? Who wants leftovers? It's almost as bad as hand me downs. Remember those? I got hand me downs from my sister, cousin, and strangers. I don't think I owned anything new from the store until I was 15 years old and buying my own things. But to me, these hand me downs were BRAND NEW! I had never seen them and to me it was exciting. What was someone's trash was now my treasure. That is the change in perspective I am talking about. My sister and cousins might have been tired of whatever they handed down to me, but for me it was a brand new exciting gift. That is what we are doing with leftovers. What was yesterday's tired meal we are making into today's flavor explosion! What we created was Turkey Tetrazzini and "Dressed Up"Prime Rib. For these recipes, we put on our new perspective, rooted through the fridge, and found new and innovative ways to create meals with the ingredients that we had on hand, but didn't taste like yesterday's old news.

I hope you and enjoy and we inspire you to think differently, change your perspective, and create something that is new and exciting out of something that was old news just yesterday.

Terrific Turkey Tetrazzini

1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti (reserve 1 cup pasta water for the sauce)
1 green pepper diced
1/2 white onion diced
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 can black olives chopped
4 cups leftover turkey (you can also use chicken)
4 cups frozen peas

Tetrazzini Sauce

1/4 cup smart balance butter
4 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 cup fat free half and half
1 cup pasta water
1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese shredded (for top)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions reserving 1 cup of pasta water. While the pasta is cooking, heat a sauté pan with 2 tbsp. olive oil. Once the pan is hot, throw in the diced green pepper, onion, and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent; about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes add the black olives and turkey and toss just to incorporate all of the ingredients, then remove from heat. Spread the cooked pasta noodles into a baking dish and swirl in the vegetable and turkey mixture along with the frozen peas. My mom loves this technique because she loves to create a swirl in the kitchen, if you know what I mean. If you are worried about creating a swirl you can also combine the pasta and vegetables in a bowl before pouring them into the baking pan.  Now that the pasta is ready, on to the sauce...

Heat a sauce pan and melt the butter. Once the butter is melted whisk in the flour one tablespoon at a time. Cook the flour and butter until the mixture begins to bubble. Next add the one cup of pasta water and continue whisking. Then add the 1 cup of fat free half and half and continue to whisk. The gravy will thicken, once it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon add the shredded cheese and continue to whisk. Yes, there is a lot of whicking involved in this sauce! Once the cheese has melted and incorporated, pour the gravy over the pasta and shake the baking dish to ensure the gravy seeps through all the cracks.

Top with another 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. This dish will be bubbling at the edges and the cheese will be crusty on top! Delicious! This is great served with a salad and fresh veggies and crusty bread! Enjoy!

"Dressed Up" Prime Rib Pie

6 cups stuffing crumbled (we used our fabulous corn bread stuffing)
5 garlic cloves diced
3 cups prime rib cut into cubes (you can also use leftover turkey, ham, or any other meat)
1/2 white onion diced
1/3 cup jarred or canned mixed mushrooms
1 green pepper diced
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire
3 Tbsp. lite sesame ginger dressing (we love Paul Newmans; you can also use low sodium soy sauce)
4 hard boiled eggs sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large backing dish, pan the crumbled stuffing along the bottom and pack down to make a crust. In a skillet, sauté the onion, green pepper, and garlic with a little dap of olive oil. Sauté until the onion becomes transulscent which is about 5 minutes. Then add the prime rib (or meat of your choice), the mushrooms, worcestershire, and sesame ginger dressing. Continue cooking until all flavors combine, about 5 more minutes. Pour the meat and pepper mixture over the corn bread stuffing crust. Then place the boiled egg slices over the meat mixture. Let sit while you make the sauce to pour over!

All "Roomed Up" Sauce

1/2 white onion diced
4 cloves garlic diced
2 tbsp. Smart Balance oil
2 sliced bacon diced
1 Tbsp. parsley
2 Tbsp. oregano
1 can mixed mushrooms
1 Tbsp. worchestershire
1 cup red wine*
*If cooking with turkey or ham use 1 cup white wine instead

4 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese grated
1/2 cup low fat milk

In sauce pan, heat a dap of olive oil and add the white onion, garlic, and bacon. Everything tastes better with a little bacon! Once the onions become fragrant and transluscent mix in the mushrooms, wine, parsley, oregano, and worchestershire sauce. Once this is heated through, whisk in the whole wheat flour one tablespoon at a time. Make sure to whisk continously to avoid lumps. Add milk and white cheddar cheese and stir in until everything is melted.

Pour the sauce over the meat and stuffing pie and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. The corners should be bubbling and the aromas delightful! Serve with cranberry sauce and green beans for a complete meal. You can also add water chestnuts or macadamia nuts to the stuffing "crust" if you so desire!

Mental Health Tip: These recipes are easy and can be pulled together using things already in the house. So don't stress, instead re-evaluate, look at your glass as always full and remember it is all about your perspective. So what is your glass full of today?  Only you get to decide that. Today mine is full of champagne! Take this moment to reassess and create the joy in your life that you deserve. You are the only one who can do it! So turn up the music and get into the kitchen. Have a little fun and don't forget the champagne!

Peace and love from our kitchen to yours!

~ "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen