Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Make Homemade Samoas Cookies

I'm not sure we should be sharing this post. Afterall, we're a house of girl scouts (well, not Jason or Miranda. or the dog.). We still have more than 20 cases of Girl Scout cookies stacked in our living rooming, awaiting the next cookie booth (it's Sat. April 9th at Hoover's SuperWalmart, if you're local).

But when I saw BakersRoyale blog about How to Make Homemade Samoas, I couldn't resist.

I mean seriously... who could resist this?

Nom, nom, nom.... get it my belly. Now!

Check out the recipe ...

Also, these:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pretty Darn Perfect Pot Roast

I can't tell you how many times I've put a slab of meat and some veggies into the crockpot, filled with anticipation about the melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness I'd be enjoying hours later. But, by the time I got home from a long day at work I was greeted by meat that's meh and potatoes that're mushy.

That is, until I discovered the recipe for Pretty Darn Perfect Pot Roast.


  • Meat - choose your favorite pot roast cut (2.5 pounds for 6 people)
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1/2 package of onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • veggies of choice (we usually do potatoes and carrots)


1. Mix soup, onion soup mix, water, wine and worcestershire sauce in the crockpot.

2. Add meat. Brush some of the soup mix up onto the meat.

3. Cook on high for 2.5 hours. Add veggies. Cook an additional 2 hours.

Note: If you want/need to cook on low increase cooking time to 6-8 hours. If you can, wait till the last 3-4 hours to add the veggies.

Reviews: Yum!

Denmark: Meatballs, Caraway Cabbage and Fruit Dumplings

Hi, everyone. This is Olivia, and this week we traveled to Denmark for my World of Food series.

I came across Denmark when my Social Studies teacher made us memorize all of the 40 countries in Europe. So now, if you ask me where it is on a map, I can tell you.

I have funny ways of memorizing things. For instance, to remember the capital of Kansas I think " they make tapioca pudding in Topeka, Kansas." To remember where Denmark is on the map I just think of World War 1. During WWI the German soldiers had a point on their hat, and if you look at the map Denmark is the point on top of Germany.

See what I mean!

Here's one thing I didn't learn at school about Denmark: Denmark is the happiest place on earth. The scientists even say so! I learned this on YouTube. If you don't believe me, just watch the video.

So now for some background about Denmark. The capital is Copenhagen. The terrain is low and flat or slightly rolling. The population is about 5,557,700. Ethnic groups include: Scandinavian, Inuit, Faroese, Turkish, German, Polish, Iraqi, Lebanese, Bosnian, Pakistani, Yugoslav (former), Somali, Iranian, Vietnamese, British, and Afghan. If you would like to know more just go to this website.

I did a lot of research on Danish food and decided to make Danish Meatballs a.k.a. Frickadeler, Caraway Cabbage a.k.a. Hvidkål med Kommen, and Fruit Dumplings a.k.a. Frugtboller.

Danish Meatballs (Frickadeler)


  • 1/2 pound ground veal (we don't eat veal, so we just used ground beef)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup milk, or as needed
  • 1/4 cup finely grated onion (we used shallots since we had them)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs, or as needed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup seltzer water (we didn't use this)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup margarine (we used unsalted butter

Oh, onions how you make me cry? Please stop!

Meatballs look like brains!


Mix the veal and pork together in a bowl,

Gosh, this is so cold!

Stir in the milk, onion, and egg. Mix the bread crumbs into the meat. Sprinkle in the flour, and knead well to mix. Stir in the seltzer water, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix well. The mixture should be very moist, but not dripping.

Chill the meat mixture for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator, to make the meatballs easier to form. Heat the margarine in a large skillet over medium heat.

To form meatballs, scoop up about 2 1/2 tablespoons of meat mixture with a large spoon, and form the mixture into a slightly flattened, oval meatball about the size of a small egg. Place the meatballs into the heated skillet, and fry for about 15 minutes per side, until the meatballs are well-browned and no longer pink in the center.

Caraway Cabbage (Hvidkål med Kommen)


  • 1½ pounds shredded cabbage
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • White pepper -- to taste
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed

Dear Caraway seeds,

Why do you look like ants? Also, why do you taste like them too?

Love, Olivia


Cover the cabbage with cold water. Chill 2 hours. Drain. Cover with boiling water and simmer 5 minutes. Drain well.

Combine the rest of the ingredients and milk lightly with the cabbage. Bake in a buttered baking dish 30 to 40 minutes in a preheated 350º oven, or until browned on top.

Fruit Dumplings (Frugtboller)

Makes 12


  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs -- beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • Peaches, black cherries, plums, apricots
  • Flour
  • Melted butter
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sugar
  • Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the beaten eggs to the milk. Add to the flour mixture and blend well. Dough should be stiff enough to handle.

Wash and dry the fresh fruit you have selected. Remove pits. Roll fruit in ehough additional flour to coat each piece thoroughly. Coat your hands with flour and cover each piece of fruit completely with a ¼-inch layer of dough. Pinch the edges firmly together.

Drop dumplings into rapidly boiling salted water. Cover and let cook until fruit is tender when pricked with a toothpick - 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve dumplings with melted butter, cottage cheese and a sprinkling of sugar.

Dear Dumplings,

Don't make my mom have to make you again because you're not perfect. Please! By the way you look like goop.

Love, Olivia

Now drumroll please.....

The finished product:


Grandma Did It -- So Why Does It Seem So Scary?!?

Home canning is enjoying new popularity these days. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's a by-product of the locavore and foodie movements. Maybe it's just some primal need to go back to simpler times. I don't know.

What I do know is that when I hear stories like David Sommerstein's visit to a canning swap in upstate New York, I want to learn how to can!

But I'm scared.

Scared I might invest a lot of money in equipment and only use it once.

Scared I might do something wrong and cause a jar to explode, sending shards of glass flying all over the kitchen.

Scared I might not get the right "pop" from the lid and accidentally kill my family with botulism.

Grandma canned (and without detailed instructions from the
National Center for Home Food Preservation) ... so why does it seem so scary?

Food blogger Cathy Barrow makes it sound so easy in her interview with NPR's Linda Wertheimer. And her recipe for Fig, Lemon And Thyme Confiture sounds divine! Maybe even I could do it?!?

Do you can? What tips do you have for a canning virgin? What's your favorite recipe? Your favorite memory of canning, maybe with your own grandmother? Do share!

(fruit photo credit: GoodNCrazy from Flickr Creative Commons)

Monday, March 28, 2011

What to Cook When All You Really Want to Do Is Snuggle In Bed

Let's say (hypothetically) your allergies are acting up and you take some of this...

And let's say (hypothetically) you get really sleepy and crawl into this...

And let's say about 3 hours later (oh, say around 7 p.m.) your family starts squawking at you that they're hungry (yada, yada) and want dinner (yada, yada) and bedtime is in an hour (yada, yada) because they've got standardized testing in the morning (yada, yada, yada) ...

(all hypothetical, of course).

What do you do?

You get your arse out of bed, march yourself down to the kitchen, gather up a few supplies and whip up a Spinach, Bacon, Egg and Tuna Salad.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 6 ounces of spinach (or other salad mix you like)
  • 12 ounces of tuna
  • 6 slice of bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar (we used Champagne Vinegar b/c it's what's on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey (choose a local variety. it might help with the allergies)

Off to the Races

1. If your tuna's frozen, fill kitchen sink with lukewarm water and submerge tuna (in a ziploc bag) in water to defrost.

2. Fill a sauce pan with water and and eggs and set on high.

Boil for 10 minutes, then drain hot water, add cold water, and let them cool.

3. Meanwhile, cook bacon.

Once the bacon's crispy, take it out of pan and cover with tin foil to keep warm.

4. Spoon out 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings, mix with vinegar, mustard and honey in a small bowl.

5. Cook tuna (4 minutes per side) in remainder of bacon drippings.

6. Take tuna out, slice it up and cover to keep warm.

7. Wipe remaining bacon drippings from skillet. Add dressing mixture and let boil for a minute or so to cook down.

8. De-shell eggs. Slice eggs, tuna and bacon. Lay them atop bed of greens and sprinkle warm dressing on top.

All, by...

Reviews: **

Chef Tanya -- This is one of the fastest, most flavorful dishes I know, and it's endlessly customizable. Don't like eggs? Leave them off and substitute some cheese instead. Bacon not your thing? How about adding some beans? Substitute salmon for the tuna. The combinations are numberless.

Jason -- As always, excellent! I forget about this recipe, but it's one of the meals I really like. The dressing is really good. I like to use a mix of arugula and spinach so I don't overdose on spinach.

Miranda -- I don't really like it. It's very dry. (Chef's Note: She refuses to try the dressing, so yes - hers is dry)

Olivia -- It's good. I don't like the yellow part of eggs, so I just pull those out and eat the white part.

Hannah -- It is really good! I like how it tastes when I put the fish and the yellow part of the egg together in my mouth.

** All reviews are real, not hypothetical. Just sayin'.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's for Dinner?

We're kicking off the week with a trip to ...


After all the great suggestions for food from Djibouti ("djibouti, djibouti, djibouti" ... we just like saying it!), Olivia's dug in her heels and settled on Denmark for this week's installment of World of Food. Sometimes, when a 12-year-old gets her mind set there ain't no changing it!

So, off to Denmark we go. Tonight's meal will include:

Frikadeller -- a.k.a. Danish Meatballs
Hvidkal med Kommen (say that 3 times fast!) -- Carraway Cabbage
Frugtboller (sounds naughty, doesn't it?) -- Fruit Dumplings

And she'll make some Danish Donut Holes (aebleskiver???) for breakfast tomorrow morning.

The rest of the week we'll be enjoying some food that's a little easier to pronounce: Bacon, Egg, Spinach & Tuna Salad; Pot Roast; Grilled Chicken with Warm Belgian Endives and Pine Nut Salad.

What about you? What's on your agenda this week? Got a new recipe you're excited to try? Maybe an old standby that never disappoints? Share!!

Snakes in a Kitchen - Part 2

If you read Snakes in a Kitchen (part 1), you know Hannah had a marathon cooking session on Friday. One hour of prepping, food processing ("is this thing gonna blow up?!?"), rolling and sprinkling to get 24 truffles (that "look like poop, but taste pretty good.")

Well, that was the just beginning because once the truffles were sampled, Hannah and Jason set about making the main course: Nettle Noodles with Veggie Sauce.

Nettle Noodles?, you say.

Yes. That was her risky "D" vegetable.

But wait! Nettle begins with an "N".

Why, yes it does! When Hannah planned this meal we did some googling and turned up some articles about Dandelion Nettles. So that's what we thought we'd be cooking with. Turns out there's no such thing as Dandelion Nettles (darned Google! darned Internet!).

Instead, the nettles that Olivia's violin teacher Sharon had raved about (and we bought, in the bulk spice section at Whole Foods) were Stinging Nettles.

Now, one of my most vivid childhood memories is from our family trip to Ireland when I was 9. We spent two weeks traipsing through graveyards with hip-high stinging nettles. Ouch!

So this time we came prepared.

Gotta wonder about a meal that requires plastic gloves to cook!

The other Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 5 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dried nettles


1. Put 3 1/2 C. flour in mixing bowl.

2. Stir together eggs, olive oil, and nettles. Add to flour. You can do this by hand or you can use an electric mixer. Dough should make a cohesive mass; if it's too gooey, add a little more flour.

3. Turn dough out of bowl onto plastic wrap. Work with gloved hands until dough forms ball.

(and work it some more. Who needs a gym membership?!?)

4. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest (at room temp or in fridge) for at least 30 minutes.

5. Start a large pot of salted water to boiling.

6. Roll or shape as you would any other pasta dough. (oooh, a chance to try out the rolling pin that's been hiding in our drawer for 2 years!)

This part takes a looooong time. Once it's finally flat & thin-ish you can start cutting the pasta. We used a pizza cutter.

7. Meanwhile, cut up veggies for pasta sauce (we used red pepper, onion, mushrooms, garlic, and a can of fire-roasted tomatoes and saute in a pan on the oven over medium heat.

8. Once all the noodles are cut, drop them one-by-one into the boiling water and let cook for roughly 2 minutes. (They cook lightening fast!)

And, as you can see, they also expand in the water... which is how we ended up with Snakes in the Kitchen.

Yes, these suckers were HUGE!


Chef Hannah -- It was a lot of work and I really didn't like the noodles. My eye itched and I couldn't itch it, which was really annoying.

Chef Jason -- It's not too bad. The nettles give it a good flavor (sort of like spinach). I might try making them again, though I don't know if it's really worth the time. (it took Jason and Hannah nearly 2 hours from start to finish).

Tanya -- The flavor was good, but our noodles were way to thick! I remember helping my grandmother cut noodles at the kitchen table. (Mom says she used to roll them out on newspapers, which kinda grosses me out a little. Unless she used the comics, which could be kinda fun if the print transferred!) I don't remember Grandma Ott's noodles being so labor intensive, but that's probably because she had it down to a science thanks to lots of practice feeding her large family and the dozen or so farm hands. I can't imagine we'll be trying this recipe again (sorry Sharon!) and certainly not with kids in charge of it!

Olivia & her friend Katie (who came over for a sleepover party and was offered Stinging Nettle Pasta for dinner!) -- It tasted pretty plain. We're calling it Noodle Poop.

Now... if all this hasn't dissuaded you from making your own homemade pasta, we suggest you check out how the Pioneer Woman's friend Ryan does it. Clearly, he's got the technique down!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Snakes in a Kitchen

If they gave cooking awards for endurance Hannah would surely be at the top of the list. Yesterday was her night to cook. We'd been pushing this day back (all week long) because we knew the meal she chose would be labor intensive ... and the meal itself scared us!

She's up to the letter D in her A to Z of Fruits and Veggies series and the options seemed a little. Um. Well, take a look and you tell us!

Dates - check. We've had to those before.

Durian - well, here's what Necessary Pleasures reader Kris had to say:

"You do NOT (can't stress this enough) want to use a Durian. They are extremely foul in smell, the fruit inside is actually very creamy (much like a custard texture) but the smell...ugh."

Dragonfruit -- surely Hannah will choose this one!

Dabberlocks (winged kelp) - that sounds intriguing. At least half of the house likes sushi. (oops! It's from the far north Atlantic. Ain't no sushi in Iceland!)

Daikon - it's like a radish. We could go with that.

Dandelion Nettles - Olivia's former violin teacher raved on Facebook about cooking with nettles. Okay, maybe.

Dulse - Hmmmm, a sea product that's high in protein, can be made into chips, and is eaten often in Ireland. But can we find it here in Alabama?!?

In the end, Hannah chose one safe option (dates) and one riskier option (more on that in a minute).

But, back to the kitchen. Hannah's choice for a Date recipe:

Yumnutty Date Truffles was suggested by AGirlAndHerCarrot. Don't these look absolutely Yumm(nut)y!

First, to gather the supplies.

Makes: 12 truffles (we doubled it since we were having a sleepover party)


  • 1/4 cup Toasted Coconut Yumnuts (we couldn't find these at the store, so we used regular roasted cashews)
  • 8 Medjool Dates (pitted) (are our Medjool?!? no clue. they just say "pitted dates")
  • 1-2 T. almond butter (Or other nut butter... we used peanut butter, since it was on hand)
  • 1 T. water
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Flavor coatings:
  • Shredded coconut
  • Cocoa Powder (At least 75% cacao)
  • Toasted Coconut Yumnuts, ground (about 1-2 Tablespoons) (again, we used cashews)
  • Melted milk chocolate (our addition)
  • Cream Cheese Cake Frosting (Hannah's suggestion)

1. Add all main ingredients in the food processor and blend until combined.

2. Keep mixing until a big ball forms. That's when you know it's ready. (hey, GirlAndHerCarrot - thanks for this tip because we thought for sure we were doing something wrong and that we might break the food processor!)

3. Remove from processor and place on a plate or small bowl in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.

(looks appetizing, no?!? um. no. "Looks like poop", Hannah says.)

3. Set up small bowls with flavor coatings. Remove the nutty mixture from the refrigerator and start making balls, no larger than 1-inch. Roll each ball in the topping of your choice and set aside.

Messy Work!

And the finished product:

Okay, not nearly as pretty as AGirlAndHerCarrot's! But how did they taste?


Chef Hannah -- Actually, pretty good! But really messy.

Olivia -- I thought it was good. I went back for more!

Olivia's Friend Katie -- The truffles were good but if you bit inside of them they looked like poop.

Tanya -- The truffles were harder to make than I anticipated. At one point Hannah and I thought for sure we'd break the food processor. But patience prevailed and the truffles tasted good. It's a nice way to fit nuts, seeds, and other good-for-you things into a bite-size snack. One warning, though. They are messy and they stick to the roof of your mouth!

Remember the Endurance Award Hannah earned? The truffles took nearly a hour, start to finish. But that's nothing compared to how long it took to make her Risky Dinner ... the dinner I like to call "Snakes in a Kitchen". (more on that in the next post)