Monday, November 22, 2010

Veteran's Day, Deserts, and Desserts

To help you remember how to spell dessert (yummy after dinner sweets) versus desert (a warm sandy location) here's a trick - dessert has more s's because you always want more! 

Bryce and I met in August of 2008.  Three months earlier he'd completed his time in the United States Marine Corps: 4 years of weekly haircuts, camouflage, yes sirs, 1 tour of Iraq (speaking of the desert), some time as an MP, pecker checker, you name it, he did it!  OOH RAH.  For our first Veteran's Day I threw him a little shin dig: we had machine guns, sand storms, terrorists... kidding!  We had name tags, printed menus (AMERICAN cheeseburgers, FREEDOM fries, and Wave Your FLAG Cheesecake), toy Marines, Veteran's Day print outs, and activities - Bryce had to come up with a list of Military slang terms for us civilians to decode!  Blanket party anyone?!  We were brand new and it was super cute, awwwwwe :)  You'll notice his lack-of-weekly-haircuts in the photos, he went through an "I'm a civilian now and I'm NOT cutting my hair" phase for quite some time.  

I made the flag cake again in 2009 so this year it was getting old and un-fun.  Plus, that recipe is time consuming!  This year I decided to try out those scrumptious mini cheesecakes my Mom has been making my whole life, since the others I've tried this year hadn't turned out so well (remember the Mini Orange and Chocolate Cheesecake ordeal?)  I topped them with red strawberries, white Cool Whip, and blue-berries and they were ever so adorable as much as they were patriotic.  

12 vanilla wafers
16 oz cream cheese - softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Place foil liners in each muffin tin & one vanilla wafer in each liner.

In the mixer combine cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar.  Then add eggs, mix well, and pour over wafers, filling each compartment 3/4 full (which I can never seem to do evenly).  

Bake for 25 minutes at 325*

Chill, then top with desired fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc.  My Mom usually does cherry pie filling, MMM! 

In all seriousness, Veteran's Day means so much more than silly parties and red, white, and blue desserts.  I am so proud of and thankful for Bryce, and of all our Veterans, for sacrificing their lives for our country's freedom.  The land of the free because of the brave.  Thank you! 

And just for fun, here's civilian Bryce in 2009 with the cutest little boot camper I've ever seen in my life, aka USMC Bryce in 2004.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Turkey Time & GBC

It's the most important meal of the year - Thanksgiving dinner!  The turkey begins the defrosting process early the day before and must cook all day long, the many, sumptuous side dishes are prepared with care: stuffing, green bean casserole, candied yams, mashed potatoes, etc.  Of course, the cranberry sauce is BEST fresh out of a can, still intact in the can shape, if you ask me!  Don't bother trying to make the homemade kind because the processed cranberry jelly thing is perfect.  There are always far too many desserts but hey, it's Thanksgiving and we'll over eat if we want to!  Pumpkin pie, cookies, trifles, strudels, I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Typically this is a holiday spent with family, but since I decided to move 5,000 miles away from home (Sorry Carol & Mike!) it's one of those days where our friends become family here in Hawaii.  Us 20 and 30-somethings try our best to do the holiday justice.  We've got all the recipes and cooking under control - sure it takes several calls to each of our mother's - "Hey Mom, you know that casserole you always make for Thanksgiving...", but we pull it off!  We dress nicely, say grace, and have a real "grown up" Thanksgiving dinner.

My specialty for Thanksgiving, and one of my favorite recipes, is green bean casserole - GBC for short.  Sure the canned green beans with the mushroom soup is good, but I take it up a level with Paula Deen's recipe using home made green beans cooked in chicken broth, fresh onions and mushrooms, mass amounts of cheddar cheese, and of course those delectable little fried onions.

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Update: I've since improved upon and perfected this recipe! Here's the link to an even better variation of Green Bean Casserole.

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Here's Paula Deen's Green Bean Casserole recipe y'all!  (With some notes from me, too!)

Green Bean Casserole
From Angela at Aloha: Yinz Mangia

  • 2 - 4 tablespoons of butter 
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 of a cup of fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups of fresh green beans, cut to your desired length
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or water, or a combination of the two for boiling the beans in)
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 (2.8-ounce) can of French-fried onion rings (original or cheddar flavor!)
  • 1 cup of grated Cheddar cheese
  • Salt, pepper & garlic powder
  • Optional addition: Bacon!
Boil the green beans in chicken broth/water for 10 minutes, then drain. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the onions and mushrooms in butter.  To the onion/mushroom mixture add the green beans, mushroom soup, Cheddar cheese, and salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste and stir well. Spray a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with non-stick and add the delicious mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the onion rings (and cooked bacon?!) and bake for 10 minutes longer, until the casserole is hot and bubbly.

Who's ready for Thanksgiving?  I am!
Last year's GBC in the works: on the left are the beans, soup, and cheese, on the right are 'shrooms & onions and far less butter than PD calls for!

My GBC front and center, followed by baked macaroni, corn, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams...

...dinner rolls, gravy, and salad.
The star of the show - TURKEY!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Supermarket Sweep

No... not the game show, unfortunately!  For my job, often times I am tasked with grocery shopping for in-store sampling events and sweep the shelves clean.  Who doesn't love a free sample while grocery shopping?  I'll take as many free, tasty, tidbits as I can get!  So when the time rolls around - I have to shop for 5 events, each of which expect several hundred sample grubbing shoppers.  I like working with food and get to select the recipe for the events, based on the time of year, seasonal products, sale items, etc.  So the recipe needs to be fairly simple and easy to distribute.  Just this week I went shopping for the ingredients for 70 batches (1 dozen each) of Raspberry Kisses from Kraft - which includes 15 boxes of Nilla Wafers, 37 tubs of Philly Cream Cheese & 10 jars of raspberry jam!  It's always a great day when I'm able to find all of the ingredients in just one store, and just that I did this week - SUCCESS!  Shopping in bulk like that is such an awkward thing to do, the looks from the cashiers and the other people in line are hilarious!  And the answer is yes, you can get in front of me if you only have a few items!

This week's order: 37 tubs of cream cheese, 10 jars of jam, and 15 boxes of Nilla Wafers!

Another day - making pies with Cool Whip, milk & pudding!

I hope nobody needs Oreos!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pierogies N'at

Pierogies are a big deal in Pittsburgh.  

My trusty friend Wikipedia says: "The origins of pierogi are difficult to trace".  

I say:  They're from Poland, brought to Pittsburgh's "Polish Hill", and the 2 have been in love ever since.   

What are they?  

Wikipedia says:  Half circular dumplings of unleavened dough, stuffed with mashed potatoes, cheese, cabbage, sauerkraut, meat, mushrooms, spinach, or other ingredients.

I say:  It's like a ravioli, but instead of ricotta cheese inside there's mashed potatoes, and sometimes other goodness like cheese - I don't eat any of that other crap! :)

So when I moved from Pennsylvania to Hawaii I discovered that you can buy frozen, pre-made, Mrs. T's Pierogies here!  Instead of a whole freezer case dedicated to them, you have to hunt for them and usually can only find 1 variety, but that's ok as long as I can have them every once and a while.  Bryce had never heard of or eaten pierogies before and I've since gotten him hooked on them, too!  We eat them on a regular basis.

If you're familiar with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the worst baseball team in the league, you'll know that there's a "Great Pierogi Race, N'at" at all of the games!  My BFF Jamie actually got to be in the race when she worked for the Pirates (She was Saul and she didn't win, boo!).  

Here what Wikipedia says about it:  The Great Pittsburgh Pierogy Race N'at, commonly called the Great Pierogi Race, is an American promotion between innings during a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game that features four contestants racing in giant pierogies costumes: JalapeƱo Hannah (green hat), Cheese Chester (yellow), Sauerkraut Saul (red) and Oliver Onion (purple). 

I recently became friends with another yinzer, aht here in Hawaii, Deanna.  My good friend Jon, also a jagoff, planned to be here on vacation over Halloween, too.  The idea to be the pierogies for Halloween came out of left field, pun intended!  It took 2 days to make them and they turned out FAB!  We ate pierogies before going to the Halloween party, of course!  Not wearing the costumes, though, that would be cannibalism.

After our first day of costume making: