Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pumpkin Squares

Punpkin Squares

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
4 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar

Mix together the eggs, pumpkin, oil, and sugar. Set aside. Mix together the dry ingredients, and add the pumpkin mixture. Stir until combined. Pour into greased half sheet pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. When cool frost with cream cheese frosting and garnish with chopped toasted walnuts.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese at room temp.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp.
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a mixer combine the butter and cream cheese on low speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Spread on cooled pumpkin squares. Garnish with walnuts if desired.

This is another fabulous recipe from our cooking school. And speaking of work, Monday is our huge sidewalk sale. It is always so much fun, but crazy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Raspberry Bars

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup unsalted butter at room temp.
1 egg
1 10 oz. jar raspberry preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9x13 baking pan.
In a large bowl combine all ingredients except preserves. Beat at low speed until mixture is crumbly, about 2-3 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture. Press remaining crumb mixture into prepared baking pan. Spread preserves coming not quite to the edge. Crumble reserved mixture over preserves. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely and cut into squares.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Attempt at French Country

Before I worked at the kitchen store I worked at a french country interior design boutique. I enjoyed it very much, and was able to acquire a few really nice pieces for our home that we had just built. We lived in this house about the same amount of time the boutique was open. Although I don't think french country really works in the house that we are in now, I did save a few pieces that I think blend well. Anyway, this is my version of french country.

this is one of the few pieces that I saved. It's a steel Pierre Deux reproduction sleigh bed. Unfortunately it is sitting in our garage right now probably being ruined. I hope to put it in one of the kid's bedrooms someday if it ever becomes available....but that's another story.

laundry room

no explanation required :)

master bedroom


great room

dining area (not really a room)

all the lampshades, pillows, and trim on the slip covers etc... were all sewn by the owner of the boutique. She is very talented! My brother painted the pictures on the walls.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quick Chicken Enchiladas

1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz. sour cream
1/4 cup picante sauce
4 green onions, chopped
2 oz. green chiles, chopped
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
10 corn tortillas
2 cups cooked chicken
4 oz. can sliced olives
Mix soup, sour cream, picante sauce, onions, and chiles together. Grate cheese and set aside.
assemble enchiladas: In center of each tortilla place 1 to 2 tablespoons of sauce. Top with chicken and sprinkle with grated cheese. Fold each edge of tortilla toward center and place seam side down in a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Corn tortillas are hard to roll, just fold as best as possible. When all tortillas are placed in dish, top with remaining sauce and cheese. Sprinkle with olives. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

I usually use healthy request Campbell's soup, non-fat sour cream, and low fat cheddar cheese. My family has no idea.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I discovered this brownie recipe several years ago. It is delicious! It has even been requested by several of my friends for events that they were hosting. I just knew I had the best brownie recipe. Until, one day at the kitchen store that I work at, I was talking to the owner about brownies. (it's a kitchen store, we get to talk about food all day long) I was very excited to tell her that I had the best brownie recipe. She said, "Everyone thinks that they have the best brownie recipe." But wait, she just didn't understand....I do have the best brownie recipe lol.
Does everyone really think they have the best brownie recipe? Well, if you don't, and you would like the real best brownie recipe, here it is ;)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. finely ground espresso beans
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line an 8x8 baking dish with aluminum foil, then spray with cooking spray.
Spread nuts on cookie sheet and bake until lightly brown, about 6 to 8 minutes, cool and lightly chop.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder into a small bowl. Stir in espresso and set aside.
Fill a medium size saucepan 1/2 full with water and bring to a simmer. Place chocolate and butter in large heat proof bowl, or double boiler, and set over water. Turn heat to low. Melt chocolate and butter, stirring frequently until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture just until the flour is absorbed. Do not over mix. Stir in the cooled nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a crust forms on top and the center is somewhat gooey, but not jiggly, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack, refrigerate about 2 hours, then cut into squares.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Retro kitchens

I thought these little retro kitchens were cute. They made me think of my daughter who just graduated from high school in June, and how fun either of them would be for her.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Strawberry cake

This cake is made from a box mix with a few add ins. Shhh, don't tell anybody that I work with:)
I have made it several times, and so far nobody is the wiser.

Strawberry cake
1 package strawberry cake mix (any kind)
1 (3 oz) package strawberry gelatin
4 lrg. eggs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup strawberries, mashed
preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour 2 round 8 inch cake pans.
Mix all ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl, and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 30- 35 minutes, or when toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire rack, and let cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
In a mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese on low speed till smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Add coloring of choice and mix well. Spread on top of cake just coming to edge. Place 2nd round cake on top and frost top and sides. Refrigerate.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday drive

Sunday morning we packed up the car, and the dog, and took a little drive up to the sierra. We spent the day in Murphys, (yes, there is no apostrophe) a little old town that was probably a mining town back in the day. It is now a little touristy town with cute little shops, restaurants, wineries, and Bed and Breakfasts. We had a nice afternoon, it seemed like everyone brought their dogs. Rosie had a blast meeting all of them, there was even another Rosie. We grabbed a couple of sandwiches at a local deli, and had a little picnic in the park. A very relaxing day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

White kitchen

From time to time I will probably post pictures of kitchens. It is my favorite room in the house. I don't know why, maybe that's why I work at a kitchen store :) I love all kinds of kitchens, but I am drawn to white for some reason. This kitchen that I want to show you today is from my last house. I have been missing it a little bit lately. It's really the only thing that I miss about this house, well, that and the front yard (I'll post more of the rest of the house another time). There was plenty of cabinet space, and all the bottom cabinets had drawers that pulled out. The only drawback was that there was a lot of tile and grout to keep clean.

Waiting for fall...

Every year about this time I get antsy for fall to arrive. I pull out all of my favorite Halloween movies (yes they are mostly children's movies) and start roasting, braising, and baking. Fall is my favorite time of year, and it just can't get here fast enough for me. So maybe if I hurry it along...

I wanted to share this recipe. It is from the cooking school that we used to have at the kitchen store that I work at. I know, very sad that they closed the school portion, but we have been left with some excellent recipes from some very talented chefs. And a lot of good memories.

This is probably the best butternut squash soup that I have tasted. There are a few ingredients that you might question, but trust me... it works, and it's delicious!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (preferably 1 1/2 tsp. fresh)
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried basil (preferably 1 1/2 tsp. fresh)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano (preferably 1 1/2 tsp. fresh)
2 large butternut squash, seeded and cut in half lengthwise
48 ounces vegetable or chicken stock (preferably low sodium)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly rub flesh of butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place flesh side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet and roast for about 35 minutes. Allow to cool enough to handle and peel skin and cut squash into 1 inch cubes. Heat soup pot. Add oil and butter. When melted add next 4 ingredients and cook until onions are translucent. Do not overcook or brown. Add stock, bring to a boil. Add squash and the 4 herbs, return to a boil and lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Puree until smooth (can use a blender if needed working in batches, return to pot) Add maple syrup and bring back to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add half and half and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust thickness of soup if necessary by diluting with more stock or water or thickening with more half and half. Yields 8 servings.

this is delicious with crusty french bread on a cool fall day, one can always dream....

Ina's perfect roast chicken

Have I mentioned how much I love Barefoot Contessa ??? This is our favorite roasted chicken recipe, it does turn out perfect every time!

Perfect Roast Chicken

1 5-6 pound roasting chicken

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch fresh thyme

1 lemon, halved

1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 spanish onion, thickly sliced

1 cup chicken stock

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of the lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Scatter the onion slices around the chicken.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the gravy.

Remove all the fat from the bottom of the pan, reserving 2 Tbsp. in a small cup. Add the chicken stock to the pan and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, until reduced, scraping the bottom of the pan. Combine the 2 Tbsp. of chicken fat with the flour and add to the pan. Boil for a few minutes to cook the flour. Strain the gravy into a small saucepan and season it to taste. Keep it warm over a very low flame while you carve the chicken.

Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve immediately with the warm gravy.

Rosie Gets Cozy

This is Rosie, our 18 month old yorkie. She was a gift to our daughter on her 17th birthday. We had lost our dalmation, Polly, exactly a year prior on her 16th birthday. We were devastated, and it truly took us a year before we were ready for a new dog. Rosie was meant to be in our family, all the pieces just fell into place on Melissa's birthday, and she came home with us. Rosie has become the love of our lives. Even my husband in madly in love with this little girl. She is just the sweetest. Anyway, she loves her bag and if we leave it laying out she will jump in it and take a nap, I'm not sure if she just loves being in it, or wants to go bye- bye and ends up falling asleep while waiting..

Sunday, August 10, 2008

our ranch style home

I thought I would share a few pictures of my home.

It was built in 1956, we purchased it about two years ago. Luckily the previous owners updated it, and kept the charm of the era. I really haven't had to do a thing to it except decorate it, which I must say is taking awhile. I would like to change the appliances in the kitchen to stainless though.
My previous home was done in french country, and I really didn't think that style would work here, plus I was ready for a change. So, starting from scratch.... it's taking some time, but half the fun is watching it evolve, right???

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes

My friend is hosting her daughter's bridal shower at my house on Saturday. I am so excited that she asked me to make the desserts, and requested my favorite... mini lemon cheesecakes, and something chocolate. I have made the cheesecakes on many occasions, and they always seem to go over pretty well. As an added bonus, a couple of bites and they're gone, easy, delicious, and not too many calories. Since I needed to come up with something chocolate for the chocolate lovers, I thought a rich chocolate mousse would be appropriate. I wanted them to be in similar size as the cheesecake, so I thought I would experiment with my pans, adapted a couple of recipes, and this is what I came up with. They were delicious! The bride liked them, so I will be making these along with mini lemon cheesecakes on Friday.

Mini Chocolate Mousse Cakes

Chocolate Crust:

2 cups chocolate wafer cookies crumbs

4 Tbs. sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 24 cup mini cheesecake pans (two pans) with non-stick spray. Stir cookie crumbs, sugar, and salt. Add melted butter and blend until moist sandy texture forms. Press mixture evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks.

Chocolate Mousse:

1 1/2 pounds semisweet chocolate (chips may be used)

1/2 cup prepared espresso coffee

1/2 cup Grand Marnier

4 egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

8 egg whites

pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of about 1 1/2 inches of nearly simmering water, whisking until smooth. Add espresso coffee, then stir in Grand Marnier. Cool to room temperature. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Whip cream until thickened, then gradually beat in sugar, beating until stiff. Beat egg whites with salt until stiff. Gently fold egg whites into cream. Stir about one third of cream and egg mixture thoroughly into chocolate mixture. Add remaining cream and egg mixture over the lightened chocolate base and fold together very gently. Divide the mousse evenly into prepared cups. refrigerate until set.