Thursday, July 10, 2014

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Every time I order lettuce wraps at a restaurant, I am reminded how simple they are, 
and have recently been whipping them up at home.  Here's how I like to do it.

Oh, and all the steps, up to eating, where done a day in advance. 

YumFest 2014, right! 

Grab a head (or 2 or 3...) of bib lettuce in the produce section

 1 lb. ground turkey (93% lean is preferred) and
in a small bowl mix: 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce,
1 tablespoon sriracha and 2 tablespoons light brown sugar)

 Use a fine grater (I get out my zester) to finely grate
carrots (yield ~1 cup grated carrot)

 Pulverized goodness

Cook the turkey thoroughly, then stir in the sauce and
carrot (add more heat, sweet or sodium to the sauce to 
meet your liking.  I do think the measurements I gave
you are a good base though)

It's hard to find that cup of grated carrot, huh! 
Sneaky, sneaky!!

 Chop the zucchini and drop into a pot of boiling water
for 1-2 minutes.

 Remove from the boiling water and submerge
in an bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking.

 Turn the heat off the boiling water and drop
the mai fun noodles in the pot.  They will
sit in the hot water (off heat now), covered,
 for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, drain the noodles.

 This step is for sure not compulsory, but I think it adds
 a wonderful crunch and is super simple.  If you want the
crunch, but aren't up for this step, use store bought 
crispy chow mein noodles.

I use my pizza wheel to make strips of wonton dough.
I find the packages of wonton wrappers in the 
produce section at the market.

 In a saucepan heat 2 inches of canola oil, test the temp
by dropping one strip in and watch it dance, if you will
 (I am not a seasoned deep fryer, but these are hard to screw up)

Use a metal tong (or spider skimmer) to remove from the oil 
when they are light golden brown in color. Place on a
plate with paper towels to drain.  

These can be made several days in advance, just store air tight.

 All the fixings for delicious Asian Lettuce Wraps:
Bib lettuce (cut off the base and cleaned very well and
wrapped in towel to dry), the ground-seasoned turkey, wonton
strips, jullienned sweet peppers, blanched zucchini, sliced
scallions, lightly salted cashews, cooked mai fun noodles.

Also, if you want whip up some more sauce, that was stirred into the
ground turkey, for topping the wraps.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Balsamic Candied Bacon Brussel Sprouts

While it is the heat of summer, and no one (including me) feels like cooking in the house, I was missing my brother (who I just left after a big family vacay in Kentucky) and must have been thinking of him as I ran to the grocery (without a list, of course) to restock the refrigerator after a week away. I picked up bacon and brussel sprouts, the stuff dreams are made of in side dish heaven (and my brother's favorite). 

What you need:
2 pounds brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
8 ounces center cut pork bacon
small white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons light brown sugar (optional)
cracked black pepper
balsamic vinegar reduction
1/4 cup raw pecans

Line a baking sheet (with a generous lip) with aluminum foil
and parchment paper.  Top with brussel sprouts, onion and bacon
(I use my kitchen utility scissors to cut the bacon into bite size bits) 
cut and roll in the bacon bites in brown sugar.  
Top the pan of goodness with cracked  black pepper and a pinch of salt.

Back at 375 for approximately 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven 
after 30 minutes to stir, coating the vegetables with the bacon fat 
(this is where center cut pork bacon is a must, renders less fat and will not require any drain off)

After the hour cook time, throw in the raw pecans, chopped roughly,
and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Drizzle with a bit of balsamic reduction and toss around with 
a fork. I really love the reduction from Trader Joe's, but you 
can find different brands of reduction at any old market. I used to 
make my own, so if you want to give that a whirl, here is how I did it

So easy and delish!!!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Italian Cream Cupcakes, on the QUICK!

I was in a pinch for a dessert and thought I would give a go at making Italian Cream Cupcakes, 
starting with a box of cake mix.  The results were fantastic (and oh so quick), so give this a whirl!

What you need:
box of white cake mix (that will yield a 9x13 pan)
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
2 T water
2/3 cup shredded coconut
1 cup raw pecans 

Click here for my delish frosting recipe, that must top
these cupcakes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the chopped
pecans to fold into the frosting.

Use a sharp knife to roughly chop the pecans.  If you don't feel like
getting your chop on, pulse the pecans in a food processor.

By hand or mixer, blend the cake mix, buttermilk, butter, water and eggs.
Then fold in the coconut and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.

I use a large scoop to plop the batter into muffin papers (I looove
the organic look of these parchment papers I picked up at King Soopers) 

Bake in a 350 degree, preheated oven.  17-21 minutes bake time.

While they bake, make the frosting!!!  Here is the link again. 
Stir in the 1/2 cup of chopped pecans you reserved.

After the cupcakes cool (I always set on a cooling rack for at least
half hour), top with as much frosting as you wish.

Then, ENJOY!!!  


Friday, June 27, 2014

The Okee Dokee Brothers in concert

Call me crazy, but we do not own the Frozen soundtrack.  We have seen the movie and can casually hum along, but we do not know the words (which has been a bit awkward at the birthday parties as of late!!).  This is because since the day I became a mom I have incorporated my music into my children's lives.  Yes, I did have the foresight to pull the plug on the Beastie Boys, once Logi turned 1...but they have grown up on the music genres I love most:  folk, bluegrass and reggae. 

A couple of years ago, I was very excited to receive some tunes from my friend from growing up.  Kid music.  But, the best kind of kid music I have ever heard!!! Oh-to the-Em to the-Gee!! That my friends would be The Okee Dokee Brothers!  A couple of dudes who grew up together out here in Colorado, but now reside in Minnesota (which of course would be reason enough for me to looove them!)  So, disc one has been our favorite for the last couple of years, it rarely leaves the car and it rarely turns off, even when the kids aren't with me (which of course means it is kid tested, mother approved, duh!).

Lucky us, The Okee Dokee Brothers played in Colorado last week, in support of their second album's release!  Here are a few snaps from my phone, of a lucky little afternoon for some of my favorite little kids:

 Jake, Logi and Benny!  These kids are
second generation friends, as I grew
up in Minnesota with Jake's daddy. 

 Logi is very timid in crowds, but quickly
warmed up to the celebration!

 They are seriously the sweetest little friends
Moving here and reconnecting with Jake's dad
has been one of the greatest blessings to our life
in Colorado, especially getting to watch these two 
sugars grow up together.

 Logi and Jake scooted up front (where
it appears Lo worked on finding her
sits bones).  The 'brother' to the right (Joe)
went to college at St. John's in Collegeville, which
of course I love because all of Logi and Benny's
uncles were Johnnies. The 'brother' on the left (Justin)
had a ridiculously infectious smile, and I would 
imagine he brings a whole lot of happiness to his
people.  I want him to move next door.

 Barefoot Boogie!

 This was our favorite song (an auctioneer bit), 
the kids were raising there hands to 'bid'. 
So thankful we got to enjoy this afternoon
with the kids and some ridiculously good 
tunes.  Check out their website and catch
a show, when they are in your area.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

James Taylor Live at Red Rocks

I just rolled in the door, but before I hit the hay I wanted to knock out this quick blurb, after an excellent show out here in the foothills.

I do not care which genre of music you pledge your allegiance to, you must, I repeat you must see James Taylor play a live show.  He is flawless.  He is timeless.  I saw him play in Duluth, Minnesota 12 years ago, on my mom's birthday.  When I heard he would be at Red Rocks, I thought my mom and I should for sure hit the show up.  The day leading up the the show was amazing.  Indian lunch at my favorite little spot in Golden, massages, shopping (I bought a floppy hat) and yoga.  That's when the weather rolled in.  Boooo, it started pouring cats and dogs.  I thought for sure they would cancel the show because of the lightning, but sure enough, after a 45 minute rain delay, the sky made like a bruise (went from black to blue...did you catch that drift?  I am wildly clever when I am ready for bed...) and the show went on.  Pinch me. 

I love his music so very much.  When I had my sweet little boy, I changed one word in his song Sweet Baby James to Sweet Benny James, and sing it to my little love all the time!  I also flashback to childhood every time I hear him sing, You've Got a Friend as it reminds me of my summers at sleep away camp and the month I spent canoeing in Canada with a group of girls.  Oh sigh.  I just love him.  Oh, and I also die when I hear Fire & Rain as one night in college I saw one of the horrible commercials for those horrible compilation CDs of super random music (which was actually really good tunes, but the idea of them always throws me off, unless we are talking about Jock Jams...obvy.  Oh and yet again, I am totally off point)...I saw the crap commercial, that wasn't so crappy as I heard his sweet voice singing that song and as I fell asleep I dreamed I was ON A DATE WITH JAMES TAYLOR (shouting!).  RandomFest!  But still let's be honest, it was a glorious date!

Okay, must hit the pillow...but do yourself a favor and see if you can catch a show! 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Staircase Remodel

In the process of deciding how we wanted to remodel our home, my husband (who is super easy going, and doesn't really care about this kind of stuff) was adamant that if we were going to have to patch in hardwood floors and have the entire first floor sanded and stained (due to the rearrangement of the kitchen), he would like to reroute the staircase, as it really drove him nuts.  I was way on board (my remodel list was a bit out of control, so I was super excited that this was his idea!!!)

Here are a few pictures of the staircase in their original form:

I am sure some will think we are super
 nit picky, but that's a whole lot of railing!

 Our biggest complaint was the large, jutting out platform
at the base of the stairs.  It pulled the flow of traffic
one direction, when desending the stairs.
 The removal of platform stairs.  The posts of the railing, removed and
resting at the top of the picture were reused for the new set up.

 What was once a cumbersome twisting platform was simplified
into an addition 4 steps.  What a space saver!!!

 Baby Benny inspecting the work.

And now, THE AFTER!

Added gloss white to the yellow oak rails and
fresh carpet to the rearranged stairs.  Love!

The carpet is called Stitches by Milliken.

Yay!  Project complete!!! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Layered Spring Salad

Sorry for this ridiculously generic post, but I put a photo of this salad on Instagram and my friend, who talked me into blogging in the first place asked me to please blog the salad, step by step.  So, I must oblige.

What you need:
bag of salad greens
fresh mozzarella
maple spiced pecans (recipe link below)
olive oil
balsamic reduction
sea salt
garlic (optional)


Cut zucchini on the diagonal and brush with olive oil and cook on the grill (or pan saute, if you do not have a grill or grill pan). Once the zucchini is a bit tender remove from heat and sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside to cool.

Slice tomatoes

Slice fresh mozzarella

Toast baguette (cut chunks of baguette roughly the circumference of the tomato and mozzarella you sliced). To toast the baguette, generously brush the bread with olive oil (or, place a bit of olive oil on a plate and dip one side of the bread) and sprinkle with sea salt and crushed garlic (optional), bake at 350 for 10 minutes (the bread with be crunchy, like a crouton) **you can do this step a several days in advance, just place in an air tight storage container until needed.

Now you are ready to build on the platter.

Start by piling a  heap of your favorite greens (I love the spring mix blend) on the platter

Top the greens with Maple Spiced Pecans (recipe) **this can also be made days in advance.  I always have a jar of them in my pantry.

Around the edges of the platter create stacks, topping the toasted baguette with the mozzarella then the tomato.  Sprinking sea salt and a light drizzle of olive oil atop the tomato stack. 

Tuck a slice of grilled zucchini between each baguette stack, around the edges of the platter.  

Generously drizzle with a balsamic reduction.  I used to make my own, but my daughter told me it makes her eyes burn, so I started buying it at Trader Joe's.  You can find it at any market, in the balsamic section!!!

Again, many apologies for this crapTastic blog post.  But for my sweet Tanya, I hope this helps.