March 31, 2012

Soft Dinner Rolls



When I first moved to Vermont my son was starting first grade and I really wanted to have the same schedule as him, so when I saw an ad in the local paper for the head cook position at my son’s school I jumped at it. I had never had a job cooking before, but I knew that I loved to cook and I figured if they hired me then the rest would work itself out. Besides, having all school vacations and summers off overshadowed any second thoughts I had about applying for the position!

I worked in that kitchen for a little over 4 years and needless to say, it was an interesting experience. I learned a lot doing this job, and eventually I became the Supervisor/Baker and learned how to make the rolls pictured above. These rolls were always a big hit at the school. They are soft and delicious, and really they are just the perfect dinner roll. I make these all the time for my family and everyone loves them.

So, this recipe comes from the kitchen at the little school I worked at in northern Vermont. Give them a try.....I'm sure you will enjoy them as much as we do!

Soft Dinner Rolls

3 packages of Active Dry yeast (2 tbsp + 2 tsp)
6 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1 tbsp salt
¼ cup + 3 tbsp sugar
¼ cup + 3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 ¼ cup water

Dissolve yeast in warm water, and let stand 4-5 minutes. Place all dry ingredients (flour, dry milk, sugar, and salt) in mixer bowl.  Using a dough hook, blend on low speed for approximately 2 minutes.  Add oil and blend on low speed for 2 minutes. Add water and mix on low speed for 1 minute.

Add dissolved yeast and mix on low speed for 2 minutes.  On medium speed knead dough for 8 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in warm area for about an hour to rise. I  usually put the dough in a large bowl sprayed with cooking spray and place it in the oven that had been turned on previously for a few minutes to get it a little warm. 

After the dough as double in size, punch down dough to remove air bubbles.  Form rolls and place a sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Place in warm area until doubled in size, 30-50 minutes.  Bake until lightly browned in a convection oven for about 20 minutes at 325 degrees. 

Yields 22-24 rolls, depending how big you make them

March 29, 2012

Blueberry Turnovers



What are your thoughts on pie?  My husband LOVES pie.....any and all pie.  If I ask him what he'd like for dessert he 9 times out of 10 will say pie.  For me, I could take it or leave it.  I like pie, but I can turn it down without a problem.  Wave a cookie under my nose however, and I'll gobble it up without thinking twice. 

So, once in a while when my husband requests pie my mind goes to turnovers.  I don't know why but they sometimes seem more appealing to me.  Maybe because it's a little less labor intensive.  Or maybe it's because you can take a few and pop them in the freezer for an easy dessert for later.  Or, maybe it's just because it's something different to make. 

Either way, the filling for these blueberry turnovers is delicious.  It's also the filling recipe I have been using in my blueberry pies for years (adapted from a Stonewall Kitchen recipe).  If you are in the mood for something different, give these a try and watch them disappear....  

Blueberry Turnovers:

1 (17.25 oz) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
Use the filling from the Blueberry Pie recipe (click here for recipe)
Heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2

Preheat oven to 400. Unfold puff pastry, and cut each sheet into 4 squares. Spoon blueberry filling onto the center of each square. Fold over from corner to corner to form a triangle shape and press edges together with a fork to seal. Place turnovers onto a cookie sheet, leaving about an inch in between each turnover. Brush tops with heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes, or until turnovers are puffed and lightly browned.  Makes 8 turnovers

March 27, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan



Are you a stress eater?  I tend to reach for goodies when I'm stressed out, but obviously that's not a good habit so instead I try to channel that desire to eat into something else.  So instead I start cleaning like a maniac....now to some people who know me that may not sound surprising.  However, the truth is that I am more of a "neat freak" not a "clean freak" - meaning my house is almost always tidy but it's not clean.  For instance, if you were to look at the tops of my curtains there is most likely good layer of dust, or if you look closely at the ceiling in the half bath you'll probably see cobwebs.  I like everything to be tidy and put away, but as far as the real cleaning goes.....I'm just not into it! 

Anyway, I was a little stressed out recently, but I was tired too so cleaning to relieve the stress wasn't doing it for me.  So I turned to food, but instead of unhealthy stuff I decided to make one of my favorite things to eat in hopes that it would give me a little comfort - eggplant Parmesan.  I loooove eggplant Parmesan....it's like lasagna but better because it's healthier!  Even though I bread my eggplant slices before cooking them and assembling the dish, I don't fry them - instead the breaded eggplant slices are baked in the oven.  I don't really like breaded and fried eggplant....too greasy for me.  Cook up some garlic bread to go with this delicious meal and I promise it will comfort you too!


Eggplant Parmesan

2 large eggplants
3 cups tomato sauce (homemade or bought is fine – I like to make a meat sauce with mushrooms in it for this dish)
8 oz sliced mozzarella
2 eggs
2-4 cups (start with 2 and add more if needed) of seasoned breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
                  
Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil and coat each pan with olive oil (it’s easier if you spread it around with your fingers).  Peel and slice eggplant about a ¼ inch thick.  In a small bowl whisk together the eggs with about a tablespoon of water.  Pour 2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs on a plate and set aside.  You will dip all the eggplant in the egg mixture and then dredge in the bread crumbs and set each piece onto the baking sheets.  Once you’ve finished this process you will need to drizzle a little olive oil on top of each piece of eggplant.  Place in oven and cook for about a ½ hour, turning each slice of eggplant after 15 minutes.  The eggplant should be a nice golden brown, so increase your cooking time if need be.
 
Spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.  Spoon about a ½ cup of sauce onto the bottom of the pan, then add one layer of the cooked eggplant.  Top the eggplant sauce and then the sliced mozzarella, and repeat process with more eggplant/sauce/cheese (mine is usually 3-4 layers high, depending on the deepness of the dish I’m using).  The last layer will be just the eggplant topped with sauce, then sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top, and end with a layer of the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350 for about a ½ hour or until hot and bubbly.

March 25, 2012

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls



I LOVE cinnamon rolls, however, let's face it - they are not great for the thighs. Because of that I do not make them very often, but once in a while I get a craving for them and when I do I want them to be worth it. I want them to be soft and decadent, and most of all I want the glaze to be like the glaze on the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. I'm not a big fan of the powdered sugar glaze you find in most recipes, so I finally figured out that the closest I could find to the Pillsbury glaze is actually a cream cheese glaze. Some of you are probably thinking "Duh", but what can I say.....it took me a little while to figure it out!

Lastly, I want to eat these for breakfast (alright, sometimes I sneak them for dessert...whatever!) and I don't want to mess with putting them together in the morning. If I make them it has to go in the fridge the night before so the next morning all I have to do is turn the oven on and pop them in.

This recipe hits all my requirements and is, to me anyway, the ultimate cinnamon roll. Mmmm, my stomach is growling just thinking about them......


Overnight Cinnamon Rolls1 cup warm milk
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup butter melted
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 package of active dry yeast - .25oz

Dissolve yeast in warm milk in the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the dough hook. Add sugar, flour, salt, eggs and melted butter. Mix/knead on medium speed until dough is smooth, about 4-6 minutes. Spray large bowl with cooking spray, place dough in bowl, cover and let rise in warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.

In small bowl combine 1 cup of brown sugar and 2 tbsps of cinnamon. Roll out dough onto floured surface into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Spread dough with 1/3 cup of softened butter and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Gently roll dough into a long log and cut into 12 rolls. Spray a 13 inch pan with cooking spray and place rolls into pan. Cover and place in fridge overnight. In the morning I take them out and let them rise on the counter for about 30-45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.

While rolls are baking beat together 2 oz softened cream cheese, 2 tbsp of softened butter, 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/4 tsp salt until smooth. Spread onto rolls when they come out of oven. YUM!!!!

March 23, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Every week I try to have at least one thing that is homemade for my son to take to school for a snack.  There are times that I am just out of ideas, and there are times when he decides that pretty much nothing sounds good.

One day I was going through all the recipes I've collected over the years to try and find something I hadn't tried before, and I came across a recipe for apple cinnamon coffee cake.  Since I had lots of apples on hand at the time & buttermilk (which is not something I always have on hand), I decided to give it a try. 

Honestly, I don't know why I waited so long to try this recipe!  It is just bursting with cinnamon yumminess, and is so moist.  It is now my son’s favorite snack.  If I ask what I should make he ALWAYS suggests this.  In fact, one time his teacher got irritated with him because the whole time he eats this for snack he says "mmmmmm" and it became distracting to the class!!  It doesn't last more than two days in my house, less if we have company.  This is a must try.....
Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp + 1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup vegt. oil
2 cups chopped apple
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 325.  Butter and flour a round baking dish (I use the biggest pie plate I have, but I'm sure you could just put it in anything you want).  Mix first 6 ingredients & 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon in food processor or large bowl.  Add oil and process (or stir with a fork) until it becomes crumbly.  Transfer 3/4 cup of mixture to a smaller bowl and stir in remaining cinnamon, and set aside and reserve for topping.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until just combined.  Pour into pan and sprinkle reserved topping over top.  Bake for an hour and 10-20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

March 21, 2012

Overnight Egg Casserole

So we are breaking records lately in Vermont for the warmest days in March!  Love it, but we know it's not going to last.  Just hope we don't get anymore snow.....that's all I'm asking since the last bit of it in my front yard has finally melted. 

I have taken advantage of the nice weather by washing everything I can get my hands on and hanging it out on the clothes line to dry.  Hanging laundry is therapeutic for me.....I'm not sure why, I just know that I love it.  Last night I went out to collect my clothes from the line and was shocked to see that it had fallen over!  All the clean clothes were laying in the mud with the wooden side toppled on them.  What a mess.....and to make it worse I can't hang anything else out until my husband has a chance to fix it.  It's always something isn't it?

But on a lighter note, our chickens have gotten back to laying eggs on a regular basis now that spring has arrived and the molt is over.  Hence I have acquired an over abundance of eggs, so I decided to throw together this overnight egg casserole.  I actually got this recipe from my mother who introduced it to me when I was a teenager.  I loved it then and I still love it now.  It's also great for when you have company - instead of being tied up cooking in the kitchen in the morning you can sit and chat with your guests and enjoy a cup of coffee while this cooks away in the oven.  It makes for a delicious and hardy breakfast without any real effort....perfect!

Overnight Egg Casserole

1  cup Montery Jack cheese 
1 tbsp flour    
sausage or bacon - I just use as much as I think will be good
3 oz can green chilies, chopped
1 cup Cheddar cheese
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Cook sausage or bacon, drain and set aside.   In a separate dish mix eggs with milk until well blended.  Spread Montery Jack cheese in bottom of greased 9 x 11 casserole dish.  Sprinkle the flour over cheese.  Layer sausage or bacon and chilies, and then pour in the egg mixture.  Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese.  Feel free to add any other ingredients you think your family would like - sometimes I'll add scallions, mushrooms or spinach.  Cover and let set overnight in the fridge for at least 12 hours, longer is fine.  Cook at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

March 19, 2012

Rice Krispy Treats with a Twist


Pin It
This weekend we had our two granddaughters stay overnight.  Food wise, this can be a challenge as the oldest one is a pretty picky eater.  I don't want to make it stressful for her (or us) by cooking things she doesn't like, so trying to come up with something to eat other than spaghetti, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese or pizza can be a challenge!  However, as usual, she was an angel and ate what we gave her (even if it wasn't what she was used to). 

I know she loves my chocolate chip cookies, but I wanted to try something different this time so I took a chance and chose to make these rice krispy treats that have been a favorite of mine since childhood.  My Aunt Judy in Maine made these for me when I was a kid every time I went to visit. I loved them, and they love to tease me about how I ate almost the whole batch by myself on one of my visits - that's how good they are!  These are not your average rice krispy treats.  These are peanut butter rice krispy treats with a chocolate and butterscotch topping.  They are yummy....and very addictive.  Kids and adults will not be able to keep out of them.  Luckily it was a hit this weekend as well.  She even asked if she could take some home with her :)



Aunt Judy's Rice Krispy Treats

1 cup Karo syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups rice krispies
6 oz butterscotch morsels (sometimes I use more butterscotch than chocolate)
6 oz semi sweet chocolate morsels

Bring the Karo syrup and the sugar to a boil in a large pot, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter. Next, add the rice krispies and stir until well combined. Butter a 13x9 baking dish and press the mixture into pan. Melt the butterscotch and chocolate chips in a double boiler. Once it's melted and well combined, spread over rice krispy mixture. Let them firm up before serving. ENJOY and watch them disappear!

March 17, 2012

Raising Your Own Chickens

Isn't this egg dish awesome?  It was a gift and I just love it!
Pin It  About two years ago my husband built a chicken coop and we got six chicks.  Since we live in a small town in Vermont and we have a few acres of land we figured we'd take advantage of the space and privacy to raise our own chickens.  We've done a lot of research on the topic and I have discovered some interesting facts about raising chickens and about the eggs they produce.

  1. If you let your chickens have free range on your property (which we do) they are excellent at keeping all the little pests and bugs away.  A natural source of pest control is always a good thing.
  2. Chicken droppings will enrich your compost and is good for the lawn :)  We also put the droppings in our garden soil, which is a wonderful natural way to enrich the soil.
  3. Raising your own chickens is ultimately cheaper than buying organic free range eggs.
  4. Eggs that you buy in the grocery store are weeks old by the time they reach the shelves. By the time you buy them and eat them they are anywhere from 4-6 weeks old, maybe even older. The older the egg gets the more it looses it's flavor.  Therefore, fresh eggs actually taste better. The whites are firmer and the yolks are a much brighter/darker orange.
  5. Fresh eggs from chickens you raise yourself are healthier.  They have 25% more vitamin E, 1/3 more vitamin A, 75% more beta carotene and more omega 3 fatty acids than eggs you buy at the grocery store.  This is because they are allowed to roam free.  The exercise and the freedom to peck around for bugs and pests makes for healthier eggs for you to enjoy!
Here's a little trivia - did you know that you don't need to refrigerate a freshly laid egg?  You don't need to refrigerate eggs at all unless they have been washed.  This is because a freshly laid egg has what you call a bloom/coating that protects it from bacteria.  I've never been to Europe, but from what I hear it is not uncommon for people to keep eggs out on the counter instead of refrigerating them.  Once the egg is washed, it will then have to be refrigerated because you have washed away that protective coating. 

Out of the six chicks we got two years ago, only three turned out to be the laying kind.  The other three ended up being meat birds, and two of those were roosters!  All three of the meat birds died in the first six months.  The three laying birds actually turned out to be a good amount of eggs for us.  We got anywhere from 12-18 eggs a week (one of them does not lay consistently everyday for some reason).  Now that they are two years old the egg production will slow down and then eventually stop.  So, today we went and got six more chicks!  Here's a picture of our oldest granddaughter holding one of them:



They're so cute, and the whole experience has been fun for all of us ♥

March 15, 2012

Corn Chowder

Pin It
For a while now people have been telling me that I should get on Pinterest.  They've gone on and on about how fun it is, and how much they know I'd love it.  Even though several people had explained to me what it was all about, it didn't make much sense to me and I couldn't figure out why people are so in to it.

So over this past weekend I dove into the pool that is Pinterest.  NOW I get it and like I hear from everyone who is on it....I am addicted!  Like I need another thing on the computer to capture my attention for hours at a time.  What I really need is to pull out my 500 piece puzzle and see if I can't make a dent in it, or spend some time reading a book, or spend some time doing some spring cleaning, or spend some time doing some quilting, etc.  Another thing on the computer....not so much.  I try to tell myself that I am getting some great ideas for when I redo our bedroom so I feel somewhat productive while I'm on there pinning away.  I guess I'll just have to keep telling myself that until, hopefully, the urge to get on there passes ;)

There aren't a lot of soups or chowders that my husband feels are substantial enough to have for dinner.  He generally feels like they aren't filling enough.  However, he does like corn chowder and this one will definitely fill you up.  This is a nice thick chowder that is delicious and comforting on a cold winter night.

New England Corn Chowder

4 strips bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley
2 large cans creamed corn
2 large cans whole corn
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream or ½ & ½
Salt and pepper to taste
8 drops tobasco sauce, or to taste
4 cups chicken stock
2 large potatoes, cooked and diced
¼ cup flour mixed well into a little chicken stock to make a “paste”

Saute the bacon, onion and celery together slowly until tender.  Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add cooked potatoes and the flour mix, and let simmer another 15 minutes or until thickened.  Serves about 8.

March 13, 2012

DIY - Homemade Vanilla Extract

Pin It
Why are there no good TV shows on Monday nights?  And whatever happened to the re-make of the Charlie's Angels show?  I watched a few episodes of it and I liked it, then it was just gone.  OK, it wasn't the greatest show in the world but neither was the original.....let's face it, it was a little cheesy. I really liked the movie though.  My husband and I went to see it at the theatre, and as is normal when I see a movie that is all about girl power, I was a little wound up when we left the theatre.  I was ready to kick some butt!  Later that night my husband was in bed and I  ran into the room and jumped on the bed and proceeded to show him my karate moves.  Oh yeah, a really sweet jump and kick combo....too bad I didn't remember the ceiling fan was on!  The look on my husband's face when my head hit the fan was priceless....I will never forget that moment and how hard he laughed at me, after asking if I was alright of course!  Thankfully only my ego was bruised :)

Two years ago I decided I was going to make some homemade vanilla extract to give away for Christmas.  I thought it was a good idea....I know I'd love to get a jar of homemade vanilla, so I hope the people I gave it to enjoyed it!  Turns out that homemade vanilla has a much better flavor than the store bought stuff, so I am officially committed to never buying vanilla extract again.  From my research I discovered that it keeps for an indefinite amount of time.  You can just keep adding more alcohol and switch out the vanilla beans once in a while, and it's good forever......well maybe not forever, but you get the idea. 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

6 premium grade vanilla beans - don't skimp and buy the dried up ones
2 cups of vodka - or some combination of vodka, brandy or Bourbon (I'll top off my jar when it gets low with whatever I have on hand, as long as it's 80 proof)

Split the vanilla beans the long way with scissors but leave the last inch uncut.  Add the beans and the alcohol to a glass container with an airtight lid.  Make sure the beans are completely covered with the alcohol.  Put in a cupboard out of light and then all you do is wait - I like to wait at least 8 weeks before using it. 

Adding rum to the mixture will give the extract some sweetness.  Most store bought varieties add simple syrup to sweeten it, but I prefer adding a little rum.  Enjoy!

March 12, 2012

Pumpkin Bread


Today was a sunny beautiful day in Vermont - sunny and 60 degrees in March...can't ask for a better day!  The husband and the boy are in NY working hard on the deer camp they are building, which means a very productive day at home for me :) 

Last year my New Year's resolution was to try a new recipe at least once a week.  While I didn't accomplish this goal for the entire year, I did succeed for the most part and ended up finding several yummy recipes to add to my collection.  So, I thought I would try to continue that goal for this year as well.  This week I tried a recipe for pumpkin bread pudding.  I have never made bread pudding before, so my son's reaction was "It has a weird texture"....needless to say I don't think he was a big fan of it.  He's good though and pretty much never says he doesn't like something (for fear of offending me I'm sure), and while that's sweet of him sometimes I wish he'd be a little more honest!  As for me, I didn't love the recipe because it had chocolate chips in it and I felt they overpowered the dish and the pumpkin flavor didn't really come through.  Oh well...it was worth a try! 

I had pumpkin puree left over so today while I had the house to myself I decided to use it up and make some pumpkin bread.  This will be good a snack for my son to take to school this week and I will also freeze some for the boys to take to NY with them some weekend in the future.  This is an easy recipe to throw together - no mixer required and it's super quick.  Very flavorful and moist...how can you go wrong??

Pumpkin Bread

2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray 3 mini loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.  Combine in a large bowl the pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, water and sugar.  In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir gently until blended.  Pour into loaf pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

March 10, 2012

Top 3 Burgers in VT....so far!


It's time to talk about one of my most favorite things to eat....that's right, it's burgers!  I know, it's not very sophisticated.  I can't help it though, I just LOVE a good burger.....actually I love all burgers, from fast food to fancy and everything in between.   From regular cheese burgers to the exotic.....love to try new combinations and/or toppings.  Here are my top 3 favorite burgers in Vermont and where to get them:
  1. Black and Blue Burger at the Rusty Nail in Stowe, VT.  It was hard to decide between this one and my #2 choice, however the Duck Fat Fries are what sent it over the top for me.  First the burger - it has blackening spices, artisan blue cheese butter, bacon and it's topped with onion ringlet's.  Let's start by saying that I am not a huge fan of blackened anything nor I am I a huge fan of blue cheese.  So why did I even order this do you ask?  Because the bartender raved about it so much that I just had to try it!  I was so surprised by this burger - it had just the right amount of blackening spices (it did not overpower, but did enhanced the flavor of the meat), the blue cheese butter was AMAZING (really, it was in no way overpowering with blue cheese flavor and it totally brought the burger to the next level), and you just can't go wrong when you add bacon and onion ringlet's to any burger! Now let's talk about those Duck Fat Fries.....who knew they would be so good???  I was curious and suspicious - would cooking fries in duck fat make any difference at all?  Of course I had to try them and my less adventurous  husband got the regular fries and was willing to let me have one so I could compare the two.  The Duck Fat Fries were so much better than the regular fries.  It's hard to explain how exactly they were better, so all I can say is they had a distinctly richer flavor to them.  Alas, go to the Rusty Nail in Stowe and try this burger and make sure to try the Duck Fat Fries!!!
  2.  VT Highland Burger at the Upper Deck Pub in Burlington, VT.  
    Grass fed Highland beef (from Laughing Wolf Farm, Fletcher, VT) topped with VT Alehouse cheddar, pickled onion, Roma tomatoes and artisan greens.  Honestly, I don't even know why this burger is soooooo good, but it is!  I do think it has a lot to do with the fact that it's local fresh meat.  This makes a big difference when it comes to the flavor of the burger.  If you have never had local fresh ground burger, you really should try it sometime - I guarantee you will be amazed at how good it tastes compared to what you get from the grocery store.  The difference in flavor is so night and day that it's worth every penny in the extra cost!  Anyway, this burger was so delicious that it has been stuck in my head for a long time now!  Next time I will try their pork burger - it was highly recommended, and so of course I gotta try it!
  3. Sky Burger in Burlington, VT.  I love this place!  I love the fact that they grind the meat fresh every day, I love that there are soooo many different hamburgers to choose from that I get overwhelmed and can never decide which one to choose, I love that you can choose what size burger you want, I love the fact that they have milk shakes and I love the decor!!  Have I mentioned how much I love this place???  Never been?  You gotta try it!
Honorable Mention - the Moog Burger at Moog's Place in Morrisville, VT.  Topped with mushrooms and onions.....it's delicious.....I've ordered it several times and will order it several more times I'm sure!

March 8, 2012

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Boy, the past few weeks have been tough in this house!  First stomach bugs then colds that just don't seem to want to go away.  My husband has had a chest cold for two weeks, and now I have inherited it.  I realize it was probably inevitable, but honestly I hardly ever get sick.  But the second I even think about the fact that I hardly ever get sick - WHAM....I'm sick.  It always works like that doesn't it?  I think homemade chicken soup may be in my immediate future....

So, salad dressing is another thing I like to make at home.  Mostly because I eat salad for lunch pretty much everyday, and so I figure it's just another opportunity for me to cut out the additives and preservatives found in most store bought dressings.  I have tried dozens of balsamic dressing recipes, and this recipe is a combination of all my favorite elements which I believe make the perfect dressing.  So simple.....so why buy it at the store?


Balsamic Vinaigrette

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar (use a good quality vinegar)
tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1-2 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (use a good quality oil)

Mix all ingredients together, except the oil.  Add the oil slowly while mixing with a whisk, or shake in air tight container to combine. 

March 6, 2012

Yummy Meatloaf


Tuesday, March 6th is Town Meeting Day in Vermont, and I have it off from work.  Town Meeting Day is the day that citizens of VT gather in their town to vote for local officials, approve budgets and address other local town business.  Really though, it seems to be more about socializing.  Since there is also no school on Town Meeting Day, the meeting in our town is held at the elementary school.  It is kinda nice - there's always a big dinner and they always seem to get a good turnout.

Not everyone gets the day off, however, I have always had it off and once again I am not attending the town meeting.  Is that bad???  I need to make the trip into town to do some much needed shopping.  I always seem to be tied up on the weekends lately, so it will be nice to have the day off during the week.  Gotta love Vermont!

This is my meatloaf recipe.  Meatloaf is one thing my family seems to really like, and this is my go-to recipe. However, it is fun to play with it and add whatever I may have in my fridge that needs to be used up. Sometimes I'll throw in mushrooms, roasted red pepper....once I even threw in plum sauce (which actually turned out very good). I don't think you can really go wrong with meatloaf. Especially on a cold winter day with a side of mashed potatoes and corn - YUM!  And hey, it's a perfect meal for Town Meeting Day :)

Little B's Meatloaf

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
3/4 cup minced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1 tbsp grated horseradish
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 eggs beaten
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/4 ketchup

Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, add all ingredients and combine gently. Grease (or spray with cooking spray) a 9x5 loaf pan & gently shape meat and put in to pan. Top with glaze (see below). Bacon on top is yummy too. Cook for about an hour, or until fully cooked through. Let set for 10 minutes after removing from oven before cutting.


For glaze: combine 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp hot sauce, 1/4 tsp Worcestshire sauce, 1 tbsp butter, and 1/8 cup brown sugar in small sauce pan and simmer for 5 minutes.

March 4, 2012

Not Your Average Snicker Doodle


It's snowing (again) and we have to drive an hour and a half to go to a basketball tournament today.......blah.  I haven't been able to get a whole lot done this weekend, but I did manage to make these cookies.

This recipe comes from the kitchen where I used to work.  I have seen lots of recipes over the years for Snicker Doodles, but this one has one important ingredient in it which produces an outcome that I think sets it apart from all the others I’ve tasted - almond extract.  Once peanut allergies became a problem at the school we could no longer use the almond extract and that's when I realized how much of a difference it made in the flavor of the cookie.  Don't worry, if you are not a fan of almond extract - I promise that the cookie will not taste like it's in there.  Without it, Snicker Doodles just taste like a cinnamon coated sugar cookie.  The only way I can describe it is that the addition of the almond extract brings out the flavor of the cinnamon even more.  I can't put it into words, so you'll just have to try it for yourself - I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Snicker Doodles

1 cup shortening
½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
Mix 2 tbsp sugar & 1 tsp cinnamon in small bowl


Cream shortening, sugar and eggs. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mix to the creamed mixture, and add the almond and vanilla extracts and mix to combine. Scoop out dough and roll into balls (I use a size 40 scooper, which is about the size of a golf ball), then roll into the sugar/cinnamon mix. Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for about 12-14 minutes. These cookies will not get brown all over, so be careful to not overcook!

March 2, 2012

Blueberry Coffee Cake


It's school vacation week, so the 2 & 1/2 feet of snow we got over the weekend couldn't have come at a better time...my son has finally been able to spend some time snowboarding.  In addition, his 13 year old bottomless pit of a stomach has been gobbling up all the food in the house!  Hope this means he's gonna have a growth spurt soon.  I made this coffee cake and he pretty much ate the whole thing by himself in less than two days time!  I'll have to think of something else to make for him tomorrow.....

I wanna be on school vacation - it's times like this that I almost wish I was back working in the kitchen at the school so I could have all the same vacations as my son again.......I said almost!  But more than anything I wish I could just go on vacation....somewhere sunny and WARM.  Actually hot, somewhere hot would be better......ahhh, I can't wait for summer!

I got this recipe from a co-worker about 14 years ago.  I've had to re-write it so many times that I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere along the way a thing or two got changed by accident.  Regardless, if you like blueberries this coffee cake is for you - it's filled with blueberry deliciousness!  And since there are so many blueberries in this recipe I'm pretty sure it can go into the "healthy" category, right?  OK, that might be a stretch.....

Blueberry Coffee Cake

4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ - 1 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups blueberries (I always use large berries, not the little tiny ones)

Preheat oven to 350, and spray an 11x7 baking dish with cooking spray.  Mix dry ingredients and large bowl. Combine the milk, sugar and eggs with the melted butter. Stir butter mix into the dry ingredients until well blended. Fold in blueberries, and pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle the topping (see recipe below) over top and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Topping: Add 1 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup cold butter to bowl of food processor. Pulse until mix becomes crumbly.