Sushi Cake

Our youngest son turned 5 in August and he requested a “sushi cake.” The child LOVES sushi and frequently requests it for special events. I share his love for sushi and was only too happy to oblige! I searched for ideas and then created my own version of a sushi cake using cake, candy, fruit roll-ups, rice krispies, marshmallows, chocolate, Swedish fish, and coconut. It was so fun and turned out better than I could have imagined! The only inedible part was the chopsticks. The base cake was mint chocolate as requested by the birthday boy and the sushi rolls were vanilla cake. Hope you enjoy!

Sushi Cake

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Sauteed Spaghetti Squash

I will readily admit that Spaghetti Squash has never been a favorite. That’s probably an understatement – I couldn’t stand it. So, I wasn’t very excited to get two from our CSA – they hung out in my pantry for a few weeks as I pondered whether to try them or to give them away. Yes, yes, I know…shameful. In the end, I consulted with a few great cooks and decided to keep them and give them another try. I’m happy to report that this preparation changed my mind. This was a total hit with the family! I served it as a side dish alongside pork chops. You can change the herbs and the amounts for what you prefer but the sage was absolutely amazing.

Sautéed Spaghetti Squash

SAUTEED SPAGHETTI SQUASH
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2 sm-med. Spaghetti Squash
4 Tb. butter (you could sub olive oil if you are vegan)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2-3 Tb. Fresh Sage
1-2 Tb. Fresh Parsley
1-2 tsp. Fresh Oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut Spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Place cut side down on a shallow baking sheet (like a bar pan or jelly roll pan). Add water to 1/2 inch. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes, uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes (I actually turned mine over). Scrape out seeds. In a separate bowl, scrape out the squash.

In a skillet, melt butter. Add garlic and herbs. Cook for a few minutes until garlic is softened and the herbs are aromatic. Add the squash and sauté for 5 minutes until heated through and combined with butter and herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Caprese Salad

One of my all time favorite summer flavor combinations is tomato & basil! There is nothing quite like a garden fresh, homegrown tomato and gorgeous, fresh basil leaves – add some fresh mozzarella and you have an amazing salad! We have had the nicest basil I have ever seen through our CSA and we have been thoroughly enjoying it.

I generally make my caprese salad fairly structured on a plate but you can make it however you like! The amount of ingredients are completely up to you – I used 4 small tomatoes and 3-4 ounces of cheese with about 12 large basil leaves on the salad below.

You can serve this with some sliced and toasted Italian bread rubbed with fresh garlic for a nod to bruschetta. Totally delicious!

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CAPRESE SALAD

Tomato
Basil
Fresh Mozzarella (usually available in the deli area)
Salt & Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar

Thinly slice the tomato(es) and fresh mozzarella. Chiffonade the basil (to do this: stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them together from the long side to the other long side and then thinly slice). Arrange the tomato and cheese in an alternating pattern on a plate. Sprinkle with the basil chiffonade. Freshly grind Salt & Pepper to taste. Drizzle with a good quality Balsamic Vinegar (I have some general use vinegar and then I have  some amazing vinegar that I reserve for uses such as this). Let stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle. Enjoy!

CSA

Our family is participating in a Community Supported Agriculture share this summer/fall. We had our first share this week and I am so excited! It is wonderfully fresh and beautiful produce that will stretch my creativity. This week, we are enjoying fresh herbs, peas (2 kinds!), onions, swiss chard, strawberries, garlic scapes, asparagus, and lettuce. I made creamed peas & potatoes last night and topped it with fresh chives and just had to make strawberry shortcake. We LOVED both (I’ll post the recipes in coming posts). Anyway, check out CSAs in your area – buying local is awesome!

Organic Fruit & Vegetables

Here’s to a summer full of fresh, local, and delicious produce and all of the recipes that will follow!

Molasses Syrup

Our family LOVES pancakes and it’s my husband’s specialty! Last week I made some (mostly forgettable) banana nut pancakes and was searching for a quick syrup to make to serve with them. We try to make our own most of the time since I’m not crazy about all the additives in store bought syrup. We do use pure maple syrup (but sometimes at an alarming and therefore expensive rate), however, we usually top pancakes with yogurt, fruit syrups, and/or homemade syrups. So, while I can’t take credit for coming up with this yummy syrup recipe, I was very excited to find it! I doubled Simple Bites Recipe because if I’m going to the trouble I want some leftover for other meals.

In short, this was DELICIOUS! We love molasses cookies and the flavor was very reminiscent of the warm, spicy flavors of a fresh cookie. A few notes – 1) a little goes a long way, 2) this was amazing on hot cereal like oatmeal and cream of wheat, and 3) it stores well and would probably be quite good on vanilla ice cream or gingerbread.

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MOLASSES SYRUP
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1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. molasses
3/4 c. water
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tb. salted butter

In a small pot, whisk together sugar, molasses, water, and cinnamon over medium heat. Bring to a slow boil and continue stirring until ingredients are fully incorporated and syrup thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Cool slightly. Transfer to a pitcher for serving or a glass jar for storing.

Yields: 1 1/2 cups syrup

**Of note, Simple Bites has 4 other great-looking syrups in this post!

Updates on Life!

Goodness, it’s been awhile since we’ve posted! So much has happened in the past 6 months! My family is expecting a daughter home from Ch*na next month and the past few months have been busy with paperwork and preparing for her arrival! We are so excited and so anxious to have her home! I, of course, am looking forward to visiting Ch*na for the first time and enjoying some new cuisine. Stephanie has changed address and moved to another state. We now live far from each other and miss seeing each other so much!

So, needless to say, it’s been an eventful several months. Cooking and baking has taken a back burner for me beyond keeping my family fed. I miss the excitement of new recipes, new ingredients, and playing with food photography. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that my camera has been rather unused of late.

We sincerely hope to remedy this sad state of the blog in the new year! We do love to cook and bake and blog and connect with you, readers. We have lamented the unplanned blog break to one another frequently over the past several months.

As for my latest kitchen adventures…this is hands down my favorite time of the year for the kitchen! I haven’t had my big candy making day yet but today, sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies have been baked. For our tree trimming party, we enjoyed lemon sugar cookies per the kids’ request as well as a blueberry pecan cheeseball. YUM!

I’m looking forward to spending more time in the kitchen and sharing the joy of creating food with my boys.

We sincerely hope you are having a wonderful year and happy holiday season!

Hello?

Hello…testing…do we have a blog here? I know, I know – blog FAIL. This year started so…unexpectedly and I think we’ve been kind of reeling ever since. We’ve had some personal things going on as well which has made for a very sad and neglected blog. We are cooking but we are both mostly sticking with the old standbys and not much new.

I did make a Kazakh feast for Nauryz (the Kazakh New Year) last week. Chrov Plov, Cheese Pastries, Meat Piroshkis, Carrot & Radish Salad (from mymommymakesit – I omitted the anise because we didn’t have any and used a little cardamom), Chicken Shashlik (kabobs), Honey Cookies, and Russian Snowballs (which are pretty much exactly like Mexican Wedding Cakes – I used a combo of walnuts and pecans which was delicious!). Oh and I also made a Russian Tea which was like a spiced punch. All in all, I had a wonderful day of cooking and we thoroughly enjoyed sharing the meal with friends! I took exactly ZERO pictures. Sigh. What kind of blogger am I these days?

We are excited to be expanding our family again through adoption. It’s been a big decision and it’s a big step in faith but we are thrilled to welcome #4! The process will take awhile – probably 12 months or so but we can’t wait! Our boys are delighted beyond words! So…that has been keeping us a little busy – discussing, deciding. etc. I’m also launching a new business since I LOVE Pampered Chef products and need to earn extra for adoption expenses.

Steph has a new job which is exciting for her! She will be so awesome! It will allow her a little less time for posting but hopefully we’ll both manage to continue sharing some recipes – or rather, get back to sharing… We are hoping to begin a family cookbook which is a big undertaking but would be so treasured!

So…that’s what’s happening in our non-blogging world.

Irish Recipes

Obviously, we’ve had a tough time getting posts up! It’s not for lack of desire but because both of us have been stretched thin lately. However, we couldn’t let St. Patrick’s Day pass without at least linking back to a few of our favorite Irish recipes from past years. I’m thinking a few of these are going to make it on my table tomorrow – a day late but still great! 🙂

 Irish Soda Bread by Heather

Corned Beef & Cabbage
Homemade Horseradish Sauce
Guinness Bread
Irish Raisin Cake

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Tea Cake

Irish Colcannon

Pear & Ginger Crumble
Farmhouse Vegetable Soup

Hope you enjoy! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Easy Lasagna

My mom is the one who introduced us to this easy version of lasagna. The layers are beautiful and it is such a delicious dish. I like it for company, providing a meal for someone, Sunday dinner, or even as a non-traditional holiday main dish – this is probably how I most remember having it growing up. I gave my husband a choice of things to serve for a dinner we were hosting recently and I didn’t get past the lasagna suggestion 🙂 – I don’t make it often but it is definitely a family favorite.

Lasagna can be involved with bechamel sauce, meat sauce and more but this version will achieve the levels of flavor and takes a fraction of the time. I always use sausage because I think it adds incredible flavor! Also, the spinach is optional but I like the color it provides and, of course, the nutrients. Serve this with garlic bread or homemade breadsticks, and a lettuce salad. Hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

EASY LASAGNA
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1 – 16 oz. pkg. lasagna noodles
1 qt. spaghetti sauce (jarred or make your favorite homemade!)
1 lb. sausage or ground beef
1 c. water
1 – 15 oz. carton ricotta cheese
1 egg beaten
8 oz. shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
6-8 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1/3 c. water
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1 Tb. parsley flakes
dash nutmeg
salt, pepper to taste
1/2 c. parmesan cheese

Brown meat, add spaghetti sauce and 1 c. water, bring to a boil.  In mixing bowl combine ricotta cheese, egg, mozzeralla, spinach 1/3 c. water, 1/4 x. parmesan, parsley flakes, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

TO ASSEMBLE: Use uncooked lasagna strips bu rinse in hot water before layering in a 9×13 pan (about 4 lasagna strips fit in a single layer – 3 lengthwise, 1 crosswise). Layers: 1 2/3 c. sauce, lasagna strips, 1/2 cheese mixture, 1 2/3 c. sauce, lasagna strips, remaining cheese mixture, 1 2/3 c. sauce, lasagna strips, remaining sauce, top w/1/4 c. parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 degress covered w/foil for 40 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Vegetable Egg Scramble

I’m just not great at making omelets – they stress me out and never turn out the way I want. So, my solution is to make a veggie egg scramble. It is easy, gourmet, and delicious. I actually prefer it because the flavors so beautiful marry. Also, I’m kind of weird about cheese in my eggs – I just don’t love it even though cheese is one of my top favorite foods. So, my solution is to sprinkle the cheese on top of the eggs as an optional addition. This is a dish that you can totally personalize which is especially nice for choosing the ingredients that would be most appreciated by the person or people you are cooking for! And again, you can easily add fresh herbs as a garnich or put them in for the last few minutes of cooking for a lovely, fresh flavor.


VEGETABLE EGG SCRAMBLE
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2 eggs per person
vegetables (I used onion, multi-colored peppers, and fresh baby spinach), chopped small
breakfast meat, optional (I sued sausage)
cheese, optional
butter
salt & pepper

Beat the eggs until light in a bowl. Add a little milk and salt and pepper to taste (you can always add more but you definitely want to cook them with some seasoning).

Melt a little butter in a skillet on medium to high. Add the chopped onion and peppers and saute until almost tender. Add the spinach (I do not chop this) and cook until wilted and veggies are tender. Reduce heat to medium. Pour in the eggs and scramble – fully mixing in the vegetables. Cook until eggs are fully cooked (add herbs right before finished if desired). Serve garnished with cheese if desired.