Monday, December 30, 2013

A Holiday Miss / An Apology

Well, somehow I've made it through the entire holiday season without posting ANYTHING I've made.  I'll give you a quick run down...

At Thanksgiving I made green bean casserole (from scratch!), corn casserole, and the cutest ever turkey cake balls, ever.  For Christmas, instead of buying gifts, I made them!  You really can't go wrong with a gift from the kitchen, and now it's a tradition for me. 

No one complains about something they can eat.  Unless it's fruitcake, they might complain about that.

As we've previously discussed, I love candy.  And let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've had a homemade caramel.  Have you?  How about a homemade marshmallow?  Trust me, you're missing out.   I made salted caramels, marshmallows, peanut brittle and this year, I branched out and even made peppermint patties.  O. M. G.

Every year I spend hours in the kitchen, poised over a vat of boiling sugar; I lose sight of what clear kitchen surfaces I manage to keep, I stress out my husband, and every year, I ask myself why I do this?  And every year, I enjoy my friends' and coworkers' reactions so much, I forget about the terrible parts, and I know I'll do it again next year. 

The leftover candies aren't a horrible incentive either.  Let me live.

Now, here's the bad news, I don't have entries prepared for anything I've described above.  
Work + Life + Holiday Crazy + Blog - Time = Head Full of Ideas + Empty Notebook Pages

So, I will labor on, and now that the holidaze (see what I did there?) is coming to an end, I'll work to share these recipes and more with you.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Barbecue Turkey Nachos or Thanksgiving 2.0

Okay, Thanksgiving.  It's like the food Olympics (am I even allowed to say that?)  But now what?  It's over, and I have a whole bunch of leftover Thanksgiving crowding up my fridge.  I can only have so many bowls of microwaved green bean casserole and cold turkey sandwiches.  And now that I'm moving on to Christmas candy and cookie making, I just really need the real estate.  So, what to do with this entire turkey breast? 

Well, thanks to my good friend Allyson, here's the solution.  She really is the best at making nachos, this is not the first time we've incorporated turkey. 

So put down the bread, pick up the avocado, and everything will be right in the world.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stovetop Hot Chocolate for Two

It has been a hectic day of weather in Michigan.  Since about halfway through last week, the news has been warning of a possible 'tornado outbreak' today.  Thunderstorms and a possibility of tornadoes in November?  I've been sure that something terrible was going to happen, and as a result, I have been glued to the weather for most of the afternoon - watching radar makes me feel the safest. 

+ we have power
- our street is absolutely flooded
+ we finished up the last of the raking and misc yard work yesterday
+ the worst of the storm appears to have passed
- I am completely wound up (and I feel bad for my husband)

So, we're doing okay.

To keep myself busy and use up some of this nervous energy that I didn't need for rescuing my pets or outrunning a tornado, I made hot chocolate and sweetened whipped cream - for two!  I LOVE stovetop hot chocolate, it is much more rich and decadent than the packets, and it always makes me feel like a kid to drink it.  The recipe is super easy and makes two big, warm and satisfying mugs of hot chocolate, but you can scale it up or down as necessary. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Bark

White chocolate.

Candy corn.

Reese's pieces.


Dark chocolate (for drizzling).

This is all you need to create a list minute (but delicious) Halloween treat.  And if you're looking to make it today, I can almost guarantee that the most difficult ingredient to procure will be the candy corn.

I knew I wasn't going to wear a costume to work today was going to dress up like a modern office employee today, and that likely wouldn't be well received by my coworkers.  As a preemptive peace offering, I decided to make something I wanted to call 'Halloween Bark'.  I didn't what that meant when I headed to the grocery store for ingredients.
So, I wandered the cut-price Halloween candy, picked up the fall M&M's, put them down, searched high and low for candy corn, never found it.  So, I went to a different store, found the candy corn (bought two bags for some ungodly reason), debated on the virtues of peanuts versus pretzels, couldn't find the fall M&M's and settled on Reese's pieces instead.  They look like fall all year round.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

B is for Banana Bread

Over the last month, I have gone back to working normal, 40 hour weeks.
I got a new pair of glasses AND a new pair of shoes.

I have had the great fortune of watching one of my best friends tie the knot (I made her cry with my toast), and conspiring with my husband's cousin (and the best man at our wedding), who finally popped the question to his girlfriend of four years.  We've been keeping the secret (and holding her engagement ring at our house!) all summer and I'm so happy that it's official and I can take my secret Pinterest board public, and I'm looking forward to their big day!

Now, let's talk about a joyful kitchen. 
A clean one, certainly, if you take pride in a cleaning job well done.
(I just feel like a domestic goddess when I have a clean kitchen and something yummy to eat.)
A messy one, because that project baking away in the oven is totally going to be delicious.
A warm room, full of good people, good food, and if you're lucky, good wine.
A simple recipe that never lets you down.
Quick breads - no kowtowing to yeast here!  (water too hot, water too cold, blah, blah blah - I'm scared of working with yeast, can you tell?)

Banana bread.  I love it so much. 
I like to make it on the weekends and we eat it for Sunday breakfast... Obviously throughout the week too.  It takes us more than one breakfast to eat an entire loaf of bread.  It takes me back to childhood, and reminds me of this Alpha-Bakery cookbook I had when I was a kid.

Did you have an Alpha-Bakery cookbook?  I have no idea what happened to mine, but I can remember being obsessed with it.  Especially 'E is for Elephant Ears', although I never did make them.  I can also remember thinking it made a spectacular gift for me to color the edges of some 3x5 index cards and copy down recipes from this book.  I, of course, did not give the book proper credit.  Those recipes were 100% from the kitchen of Maggie, thank you very much. 

And so, banana bread.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Well, just like everyone else on the interwebs, I'm about to get obsessed with pumpkin.
BUT - I'll have you know that I have yet to have any pumpkin influenced coffee.
So there.
In case you haven't noticed (or you live in one of those places
without seasons like Florida or Southern California), IT'S FALL!
Who am I kidding, pumpkin spice everything is already here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Slow Cooker Rueben Dip

Last weekend was the best.  After so many weekends of work and crazy,
I was finally, finally, FINALLY able to take a couple of days off and spend some much
needed quality time with my husband and my friends.
Good friends, good food, good times.
One friend visited from California.  Another WON A DANCE COMPETITION. 
That happened.  She's awesome.

Not only did she put on her dancing shoes and pull off a win,
she organized an Afterglow at our favorite local bar.
 With so much to celebrate, and the location making cocktails practically a guarantee,
she also convinced the owner to let us put together a little potluck.
And thus, we arrive dear friends, at the point of this rambling entry,
my contribution to the celebration was a reimagining of a classic deli sandwich.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Roasted Garlic Potato Salad

I have worked 180 hours in the last two weeks. 
We took on a huge project at my real life job, and as a result, have almost been living at the office. 
This left no time for cooking, baking, writing about cooking and baking, or running.
This also means that I've been eating take out or nothing at all for almost every meal. 
I miss my kitchen.
Labor Day, fittingly, is my first day off in a couple weeks. 
We celebrated yesterday with the family at my mother-in-law's
and I decided to finally write the recipe for the potato salad I took. 
I'm not a huge fan of classic potato salads, so I came up with this alternative a few years ago. 
I took inspiration from the classic loaded baked potato you can get at any steakhouse. 
How do you make a baked potato better?  Add bacon.
How do you make garlic yummier?  Roast it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

I used to have a roommate whose mom made the best snickerdoodles. 
We kept them in the freezer in zip top bags and they were so delicious. 
Crispy edges, chewy centers, everything you've ever wanted in a cookie. 
How can we improve upon this?
Cinnamon sugar + cookie + brown butter
That's how.

Friday, August 9, 2013

S'mores Crispies

August?  How is it August?  Where has the last year gone?  Where has the summer gone? 
Working, living, Couch to 5k-ing; staying busy sure makes the days fly by.
I'm not saying there are some beautiful days to come this summer, but what have I been doing all year?  Why haven't I had a s'more yet?  And how can I have some more if I haven't had any?
I have really got to get my priorities in order.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Barbecue Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

Believe it or not, I wasn't always this much of a foodie. 
I would actually have considered myself to be quite a picky eater.
I think it comes from the years I spent making my own dinners as a kid. 
My mom is a single parent, and she ended up working a second shift job. 
Once I was old enough to stay home alone, well, that's what I did. 
I wasn't allowed to use our gas stove unsupervised, so I improvised. 
Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle is just as good out of the microwave, and my older and wiser cousin taught me how to make a passable grilled cheese using the toaster and microwave. 
I was never very adventurous.  I knew what I liked, and come hell or high water, that's what I wanted.
I'm also an only child.
Years later, I would work at one of the fine dining-est restaurants that has yet come to this little town.  Suddenly, a whole culinary world was opened up to me.  The better I knew the menu, and the ingredients, the better tips I would make, and I got an employee discount. 
Eating there was a win/win/win. 
One of my favorite dishes was barbecue salmon and, because the place has since closed,
here is my attempt to recreate it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blueberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

I'm still on blueberries. 
I know you're all thinking, "How many blueberries can this girl possibly have?" 
And I'm here to tell you it's something close to five pounds. 
So, a cup here and a cup there, believe it or not, I've barely made a dent. 

Today, I'm branching out and exploring some savory blueberry options.
Last weekend, I realized that it had just been too long since we'd
been to a cookout and decided to throw something small together. 
Now, if we're being really strict on the definition of a cookout, this event won't fit the bill.
I cooked everything in the house because, for reasons my husband has not fully explained to me, our grill is not yet operational this summer.  But we did eat outside so that has to count for something.
On the menu for our impromptu, prepared inside, enjoyed outside meal were baby back ribs with this BBQ sauce, potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans and roasted zucchini and onions.  Yum!
Have a good laugh imagining me trying to stage artistic barbecue sauce photos.
We used this sauce to glaze ribs, but I think it could be used in place of
traditional barbecue sauce in pretty much any dish. 
Sweet, smoky, just the right amount of heat, this sauce has plenty of applications,
I'm thinking I'll try it on chicken wings next.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Pinwheels

So, are you noticing a blueberry & lemon theme lately?  Yeah, me too. 
It wasn't intentional, I just really need to use up these blueberries
and, honestly, I can't think of a better pairing than lemon. 
I want to eat cookies, but it's summertime, and I'm doing that Couch to 5k program,
so I want to make them with fruit and pretend that they're good for me. 
Blueberries are FULL of antioxidants, you guys.

These are basically a sugar cookie flavored with lemon
but you could easily change things up to suit your taste.  
Use another flavor combo... maybe lime cookies with a cherry filling,
pistachios instead of almonds if you wanted to keep things green.
Oooh!  Or key lime cookies, with some kind of graham cracker, cream cheese type filling! 
(Totally doing that.)
You could even just bake lemon sugar cookies, which sounds like an excellent idea to me. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Blueberry Lemonade

The dog days of summer are here and the mercury is rising. In an effort to keep cool, celebrate the 4th of July, and make good use of all my blueberries, I whipped up a refreshing batch of blueberry lemonade.  Just the right amount of sweet AND tart, you really can't go wrong with this beverage.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Blueberry Cream Scones (or Let Them Eat Blueberries)

As previously discussed; blueberries, it's time to eat them.

I happen to be located near enough to Leduc Blueberries to get fresh blueberries every summer.  I mean, everyone can probably get blueberries from the grocery store, but they are so much better when you can get them right from the source.  I usually end up with a 5 pound box, and  I eat them fresh for as long as I can, but I always have to freeze some, because my husband, of course, doesn't really care for them.  Not even in pancakes.  Muffins only, but how many muffins is one girl expected to make?  So today's project, in an effort to use up last summer's blueberries, is blueberry scones.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summertime (and the living's easy)

It's summertime.

I live in Michigan.

It's time to eat some blueberries, cherries and strawberries.

It's time to go find a roadside stand and get your hands on some peaches and sweet corn.

It's time to play outside.

Fire up the grill (this is how you get the man in your life to make dinner),

Plant some flowers (and then worry about them every time it storms),

Spend time in the hammock (I mean to read, but I always fall asleep),

Go swimming (in a Great Lake, if you can manage it).

Enjoy the days when the humidity is low and the temperature is ideal.  Get outside and feel the sun on your face.  Dig in the dirt and watch things grow because of your hard work.  Go barefoot.  Go geocaching.  Take pictures, make memories.  Make sun tea.  Ride a bicycle.

On the high humidity days, put on your skimpiest outfit, lay in front of a fan and mist yourself with a spray bottle.  Put ice cubes in your coffee.  Play in the sprinkler.  Eat ice cream. Learn to make ice cream.
Make friends with the neighbor's dog, because if he's anything like my neighbor's dog Frank, he's coming over, and he'll be staying as long as he likes, thank you very much.

Michigan is happier in the summer and so am I.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Cream Cheese Stuffed Mini Monkey Bread

Have you ever had monkey bread?

It's usually made with canned biscuit dough, butter, and cinnamon sugar.

And it is delicious.
Bonus points if you make your own biscuit dough.  I did not.  I did change things up a little bit and started with prepared sweet roll dough, cream cheese, and cinnamon sugar, and I ended with something amazing.  And when you have a sweet, ooey, gooey, cream cheesy breakfast-ish pastry, what do you do next? 
Top it with more cream cheese in the form of a glaze.  Yup, I went there. And you'll be happy I did.

I have to be honest with you - this recipe is an absurd amount of work.  Delicious? Yes.  But very tedious and labor intensive.  They will be amazing, and everyone you share them with will be really impressed by your level of dedication and thoughtfulness.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

It's my husband's birthday and I want to make him something special.  He's a sucker for a peanut butter cup.  Or a peanut butter sandwich.  Or a peanut butter based ice cream concoction.  The man is passionate about peanut butter, okay?

A birthday takeoff on a peanut butter cup...

Chocolate cupcake? 
Peanut butter buttercream? 
Excellent idea. 
Peanut butter cup centers? 
Well, now I feel like some sort of genius.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Maggie's Best Ever Brownies (so far)

Brownies.  Ooey, gooey, decadent and delicious, who doesn't love a good brownie?  A brownie is a little bit of chocolate heaven.   

It's too bad that the definition of what makes a "good" brownie varies depending on who you ask.  For me, it's dense, chewy, rich and chocolaty.  If you resemble that remark, please make these.

I began with a recipe from my mom for Erva's Best Ever Brownies, and I'll be honest, I don't remember who Erva is, and her Best Ever Brownies (while delicious) are too cakey for my taste.  Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society are Maggie's Best Ever Brownies.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I have a summer birthday so I never got to have a good party at school

Last weekend was my birthday, and the celebrations totally threw me off my new blog habit of baking on Saturdays. 

When I was in elementary school, my birthday was the last day of school (or the beginning of summer break), so it wasn't often that I got to bring in a birthday treat for the class.  AND, this was back in the good old '90s, when you still could bring in treats, could eat peanut butter for lunch, and still had a few years before you had to start learning Geometry. Truly a simpler time.

Now I work at a bank.

There are no summer vacations in banking.

And I still have to bring in my own birthday treats.  But now everyone is responsible enough to know if they're allergic to one of the ingredients and polite enough to only take one.  Most of the time.

For this birthday, the big 2-7, not a landmark by any stretch of the imagination, I took Friday AND Monday off work.  A use it or lose it vacation policy can be a huge motivator.

On Friday,  I went shopping with my mom.  She didn't know what to get me, so she just let me pick out some things for myself.  We went to a kitchen outlet (what?!), and, after much deliberation, chose several new kitchen utensils.

Two pairs of tongs with silicone grabbies.  (Is there a technical term for that?)

A set of green silicone spatulas.

A sifter.

I had an excellent night out on Friday with my husband and friends, and the next day, he showered me in even more gadgetry with... A GARLIC PRESS!
Also, Good Eats:  The Early Years, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls and It Looked Different on the Model.  Nerd girls get books, what can I say?

We also went to the zoo, which was excellent.  For your information, there were lots of couples sans children there to enjoy a day of exotic animals, so there's no need to feel awkward.

We paid $1 for a leaf of lettuce, and I waited patiently among the 5 year old kids to feed a giraffe. 
 We also saw this ostrich,
this intense tortoise,
this haughty llama, who would neither look at nor stand anywhere near us,
these zebras,
and this (fake) owl, among many other animals.
All in all, I had a very enjoyable birthday weekend.  Friends, family, and a trip to the zoo, what more could a girl ask for?

The bad news?  I still haven't taken a birthday treat to work, and people are starting to get upset.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Breakfast Burritos

Ah, the weekend. 

Saturday morning is a time for rest, relaxation, and of course, delicious breakfast.  Of course it's nice to go out and have someone else cook breakfast for me; restaurants always have more choices than home, and the cooks are usually better at making pancakes than I am. 

But some Saturday mornings, I just don't have the gumption to make myself presentable and venture out in to the world.  Some Saturday mornings, I stay in my pajamas until afternoon, drink coffee until I get the shakes and can barely stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. 

For those (or any) Saturday mornings, I present chorizo and black bean breakfast burritos, inspired by my husband's constant requests for what he calls "Mexican Eggs", and my inability to eat scrambled eggs turned pink by all the chorizo's seasonings. 

They're delicious, but I can't get past the visual.  What's the solution?  Just wrap it in a tortilla.  And after all, what looks less appetizing that the insides of a burrito anyway?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Oatmeal Scotchies

It's a rainy Memorial Day in Michigan, so it seems as good a day as any to bake up a batch of cookies.  I'm stuck inside anyway, I may as well have something good to eat.  I've decided to go with another childhood favorite, Oatmeal Scotchies. 

I used browned butter to make this batch.
Chewy oatmeal cookies, studded with rich, butterscotch chips.  Does an oatmeal cookie get any better?  You can keep your raisins, for my money, an oatmeal cookie doesn't get any better. This was another common recipe in our house, and I have always loved these cookies.  I even went so far as to carefully copy it from my mom's recipe card, so I could recreate the magic after I moved out.  Much later, I would discover that the recipe had actually come from the back of the bag of butterscotch chips. 
I followed the classic recipe for this batch.

After reading about the joy and deliciousness of browned butter over at Bakergirl, I decided to try my hand at it.  And, what better medium for something so rich than oatmeal and butterscotch?  I thought it would change the flavor of the cookie, but I wasn't expecting to end up with two cookies that look like they came from two different recipes.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

(Unauthentic, not Hungarian & decidedly Midwestern)

Goulash was a staple in my house when I was growing up.  My mom was a single, working mom, and this was an easy and cheap one-pot meal that the two of us could eat for days.  I think this is one of the first savory dishes I learned to make and before I even left home.  It's comforting and rich, and it will always remind me of my childhood.

When I prepare savory dishes, I almost never follow a recipe.  I just sort of feel my way through the process, which is probably why I can rarely duplicate a dish.  Goulash is the exception, I don't follow an exact recipe (I eyeball most of this), I've just made it so many times that I can tell when I've got it right.


Printable Recipe

You'll need...
1 large white onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef or turkey
8  ounces button mushrooms, sliced
5 cups tomato juice
2 cups mini penne (any short cut of pasta will work & you can bump up the fiber by using a whole wheat pasta)
1(15)ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Worcestershire Sauce
Olive Oil
Salt & pepper to taste

First things first, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a large stock pot and put it over medium heat.  Next, strap on your onion goggles and get to work on that bad boy.  I go for a medium dice, but you really don't have to be too particular.  If you're worried about raw onion flavor, don't be, these will cook long enough to mellow considerably.  Add the diced onions to the pot, toss them in the oil and just let them work for few minutes.  Once you get the onions going, add the ground meat of your choice, I went with ground turkey.  You'll need a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon to break up the meat as it browns. 

Once the situation in your pan looks like this, turn your attention to slicing the mushrooms and mincing the garlic.  Yes, you can buy mushrooms pre-sliced at the grocery store, but I like to slice my own. 
Please, please, please don't use canned! 
I really like mushrooms, so I used an entire 8oz container, you can cut back if you're not as big of a fan. 

Add the mushrooms, garlic and a shot of Worcestershire sauce to the pan.  I find that when cooking with turkey, rather than beef, the Worcestershire really helps to make the dish taste richer and meatier.  Don't forget salt & pepper, but remember that we're using Worcestershire too and be mindful of how salty that is.

I have a confession to make...I didn't mince my own garlic for this recipe.  I was the recent recipient of a most amazing convenience product from the good people at Penzeys Spices.  That product?  Dried, minced garlic.  I've always scoffed at (and refused to buy) things like this, I mean, how do you beat fresh garlic?  But when I received it as a gift from my mom, I figured I may as well give it a try.  And, well, it's changed my life.  I still buy and use fresh garlic regularly, but on those days when I just don't feel like peeling and mincing it myself (I still don't have a garlic press, you know), this stuff is amazing!

Okay, back to business.  We've got onions, meat, mushrooms, garlic and Worcestershire working in the pot.  Once the meat is browned, we're ready to move on, but if you've used ground beef, you may want to pause here to skim off some of the fat.  Next, add the garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning (just eyeball it) and the 5 cups of tomato juice. Bring it to a boil, because we're going to cook the pasta right in this pan!  Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions (mine took 7 minutes). 

The pasta will pick up so much flavor from the rest of the dish, but it will also absorb a considerable amount of the liquid in the pan.  I combat that with the can of tomato sauce, I like my goulash to be a little thicker and find adding sauce gets me to just the right consistency.  If you're going for a soupier consistency, use more tomato juice instead.  Give it a taste, adjust your seasonings, and that's it, we're done! 

At my house, we dish it up in bowls and serve it with a slice of peanut buttered bread on the side.  After all, this is the Midwest and we take our carbs very seriously.


Monday, May 20, 2013


I've fired up the computer to write my first post, only to discover that I can't find the cord which connects my camera and computer so I can't use pictures of yesterday's dinner. Instead, for today at least, you get my musings and I hope you find them entertaining.

It's Wednesday afternoon (bordering on evening), and I'm considering starting another pot of coffee.  I'm just home from the Secretary of State, which is never a relaxing experience and caffeine is sure to help, isn't it?  I'm contemplating what to make for dinner and thinking about how much I'd like a plate of cookies and a tall glass of milk as opposed to anything responsible or green. 

I love to cook, bake, and create, but I hate cleaning up the mess.  My dream kitchen has a dishwasher, one of those sleek stainless numbers, and it matches the fridge (freezer on the bottom, thank you very much).  I'm not worried about them making the kitchen too sterile or industrial though, because I have a very serious problem with clutter.  Namely, that no matter how hard I try, I cannot conquer the problem in my house.  Unsolicited credit card applications,  magazines (yes, I still get paper magazines delivered by the USPS if you can believe that), empty coffee cups, pens, sunglasses, nail files, hand lotion, and workout DVDs, these are a few of the random objects that cover basically every horizontal surface in my house.  I blame it on the fact that my kitchen doesn't have enough drawers. I mean, don't you use the extra drawers in your kitchen to hide all your random junk when company is on the way?  Well, I only have enough drawers to house my collection of kitchen gadgetry, so that's out of the question. 

Yes, that gadgetry includes a set of non stick egg rings, and they did not stop my eggs from fusing together and becoming the size of the pan. So, no, fried eggs are not my strong suit.

French rolling pin?

Love it.


Gotta have it.

Nonstick egg rings?

No.  Just trust me.

I'm a sucker for a gadget, but in this case, I wish I'd gone with a garlic press instead.
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