Sunday, March 31, 2013

Baked French Toast

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It always seems to take me longer to catch on to most things.  And this would be a perfect example.  Baked French Toast.  It’s nothing new and everybody else in the world makes it all the time but I made this today for the first time for our Easter brunch.  It was amazing!  Of course I found it on Pinterest and it comes from a 2009 post on a blog called Rach’s Blog.  Here’s the recipe:

Baked French Toast

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)

1 cup brown sugar

1 loaf Texas toast ( I used a loaf of French Bread and sliced it into 1/2 to 1 inch thick slices.)

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups of milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Optional:  Powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar


I baked mine in a 9” x 13” Pyrex Glass baking pan.

Melt butter in microwave and mix with brown sugar and spread evenly in baking pan. 

( I placed a stick of butter in the Pyrex pan and melted it in the microwave.  Then I mixed in the brown sugar.)

Beat eggs, milk, & vanilla
Lay single layer of your bread in pan on top of the butter and brown sugar.  
Spoon 1/2 of egg mixture on bread layer. (I then used a pastry brush to make sure each piece of bread has egg mixture on it.)
Add 2nd layer of Texas Toast
Spoon on remaining egg mixture, Sprinkle with cinnamon an sugar if desired.

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Cover & chill in fridge overnight  ( baked mine right away and it was delicious.  But I can see how making it the night before would be so convenient and make life easier. )    Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes .  Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. 

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Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with warm maple syrup.


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And here is a shot of the back side where the butter and brown sugar mixture turns to a decadent, caramel like crust! 

Truly sinful and your family and guests will love you for it!  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 30, 2013


All the college kids in town are home on Spring break and home for the Easter weekend and I think all of the girls are out shopping with their Moms.  Count us as one of that pack.  Just got home from fighting the crowds.   It’s a little cooler than we would like but the sun is shining and shaping up to be a beautiful Easter holiday.  I hope you are enjoying your Easter weekend! 

Here’s my bit of randomness.  It’s been a while.  :)

1.  I’ve moved up to 4th place in our March Madness Basketball Pool. I am sure this will be the highest position I reach and will probably sink like a stone later tonight.   I unfortunately picked Miami to go all the way and they have since been beat.  Not sure why I picked Miami as I know virtually nothing about their team.  It was a longshot that won’t be paying off!    But Michigan won last night!  Sad to see Michigan State drop out though.   And I was kind of hoping that Florida Gulf Coast would end up taking it all…what a great story that would have been but it was not meant to be,   The best part of all of this is that our little niece is and has been leading the pack since the beginning.  And the top 6 positions are held by the ladies.  Girl Power rules!

2.  I use way too many exclamation points when I write.  I can’t help it!!!

3.  Making our dog Oakley’s dinner is going well.  I know this might seem a bit “Martha-esque” and honestly that is not what I was going for.  Last night she had leftover flank steak with some rice, green beans, and I tore up a bunch of spinach leaves into tiny pieces and darn if she’s didn’t lick her plate clean again! 

4.  I have the opportunity of getting a new and very adorable kitten.  I don’t know what to do.  The problem is I don’t really want another cat.  If kittens would stay kittens I would get three. 

5.  I absolutely cannot wait for the new season of Mad Men to start. Jon Hamm is on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine  and I love this quote:   Rolling Stone's Mad Men review raves, "Mad Men is the greatest TV drama of all time, and it's not even close.  Mad Men is to TV what The Godfather was to the movies.”  Yes!  Everything about it is excellent.  The characters, the casting of those characters,  the fashion, the set designs, the dialog, the wit and humor, the storylines and the way the personalities of the characters unfold and develop which are all the result of amazing writing.    And for a laugh, check out this list of 8 Mad Men Inspired Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavors.   And while I am at it, here is a link to 11 Reasons to Love Megan Draper on Mad Men.

6.  I made Banana Chocolate Chip Snack Cake this morning with some bananas that were past their prime.  The house smells good.

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7. It  really works.  You can  grow new green onions after you cut them down by putting the white bulb part with the mini roots in a dish of water and you will grow new onions.  I guess I already knew this but just never thought to bother with it.  But these scallions were cut down to the nub after using them in one of our favorite dinners, Coconut Shrimp from Jaden Hair’s Steamy Kitchen Cookbook and in just one week I have a new bunch.  Kind of like doubling your money and I like that!

8.   I am currently working on a rag quilt for my son.  The fabrics are gray’s, blacks, and more gray and black.  It will look great when it’s done and it’s very masculine looking but not fun to work on!  I need those brighter colors to keep me motivated to sew.  Been working on it since January and it’s still not done if that tells you anything. 

9.  Two new favorite songs are  “One Woman Army” by Kate Earl and “Ain’t Messin Around” by Gary Clark Jr.

10.  Quote currently on my kitchen chalk board: “Every time you are able to find humor in a difficult situation, you win.”

I like that.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Gruyere and Rosemary Crackers

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Amazing!  I’ll just come right out and say it!  These Gruyere and Rosemary Crackers are amazing!!

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On page 294 of Deb Perelman’s excellent cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen,  (she also writes a fantastic blog by the same name) you will find this great recipe for one of the best nibbles I can think of to go with a glass of your favorite wine. 

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Here is the recipe that includes a few of my modifications.

Rosemary Gruyere and Sea Salt Crisps

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick butter)

3/4 cup all purpose flour (I used un-bleached Gold Medal flour.)

1 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp. fine sea salt, more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor, pulsing until the mixture resembles coarse, and shaggy crumbs.

Remove the mixture to a

large piece of plastic wrap, gather it into a ball, and flatten it into a loose, thick square.   Wrap with plastic, and chill for 15 to 20 minutes, or until slightly firmed up.

My dough was very dry and would not come together so I added a few tablespoons of very cold water and  added it to the feed tube while I pulsing the food processor.  The dough came together better.  Be prepared. This is a very dry and shaggy dough!

On a floured surface, roll out your dough to about 1/8th inch thickness.  Cut the dough on the diagonal into a grid.  I used a fluted pasty wheel and made 1 inch   diamonds. 

Poke a hole into the center of each cracker and dab lightly with water and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.  (I did not do this step.  I think the crackers are salty enough without the extra salt on top so I didn’t add it although I can see how the salt on top might make they look pretty.) 

Also, I placed my cut out crackers on a piece of parchment paper to bake. 

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the ends are lightly browned.  Let cool on the baking sheet. 


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Here is a shot of my shaggy dough all pressed together into a disc.  I found that placing my dough in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so made my dough more crumbly even though the original recipe recommended doing so.  Next time I will probably just roll it out right away and bake.    But if you find your dough is too soft or sticky, I would go ahead and put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes as recommended in the original recipe.

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These would make an excellent addition to your next party or get together. 

They are so flavorful and delicious that you’ll find yourself taking your time as you nibble away at these crackers and savor every bite. Enjoy! 

And Happy Easter weekend to you and your family!  Anybody else out there watching the March Madness basketball games like we are in our house?  I am in 6th place right now in our basketball pool.  Would love to see either Michigan or Michigan State win it all!  Who did you pick?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Feeding the Family Dog–Making Your Own Dog Food

Oakley with Toy

Just as I have been tinkering around with my own diet, and trying to reduce the amount of gluten and carbs I consume,  I have also been tinkering around with our dog Oakleys’ diet.

She’s a healthy Golden Retriever but I have been doing some reading about how people as well as our pets need to be eating more of what we were “designed” to eat and less of what we were not.

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In the process of reading and doing some research online about the best way to feed our pets,  I recently found an explanation as to what really happened to our cat Otis.  He’s been gone for about 5 years now but he was a huge, and I do mean huge cat who in the end had  terrible urinary tract problems.  I recently read an article on why you need to feed cats and kittens wet food and a high protein diet.  Otis was fed dry cat food because I didn’t know better and I liked the convenience of it.  He was overweight and miserable most likely from the food I fed him.  Dry cat food is usually grain based and cats need a high amount of meat and protein.  I also read that cats get a lot of their hydration needs met from the “wetness” or water content in their food.  Feeding a cat dry food all the time sets them up to be de-hydrated.  They just don’t drink as much as they should on their own.    I feel bad now that I know.  He suffered simply because I couldn’t stand the smell or look of wet/canned cat food.    Feed your kitties wet cat food!  (You will save yourself some heartache and some huge vet bills later.)

Anyway, back to Oakley, the world’s cutest dog and her food story.  :)  I have been feeding our dog Oakley dry dog food ever since we got her.   Again, because of the convenience and because I didn’t know better.  Dogs were meant to eat a high protein meat diet.  You can get a higher meat/protein content dry dog food.  The brand “Blue” comes to mind and I still might consider using it but it’s on the pricey side.  I might give it a try and see if Oakley likes it and feed it to her for breakfast with her cottage cheese and stick to making her dinner in the evening.

Here is a book I ordered online from a Veterinarian  named Dr. Greg Martinez, DVM.  He also has a website and blog called Dog Dish Diet and a lot of what he writes about on his blog and in his book makes perfect sense. In his book Dog Dish Diet he has a recipe that he feeds his own dogs that he prepares in the crock pot.  It’s made with whole chickens and his dogs love it.    It also looks like he has an e- book available  called “Feed Your Pet to Avoid the Vet” that I need to check out.


So far, preparing Oakley’s food has been easy and I have been able to prepare the food ahead of time and refrigerate and freeze some of her meals to have ready when I need them.


Here is what I have been making for her lately:

Chicken, Rice, and Green Beans  (This is her favorite.)

Beef, Rice, and Carrots

Cottage Cheese  on the side

Hamburger, Rice, green beans or carrots

Sometimes I’ll sneak in some torn up spinach leaves, leftover scrambled eggs, and a few leftover roasted potatoes.  I’ll also be picking up some doggie vitamins just to be on the safe side. 

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For the chicken meals I feed Oakley,  lately I have been picking up an extra rotisserie chicken from Costco for $5.00.  I can usually get 4 or 5 meals for her out of one chicken.  I simply pick that bird clean and Oakley doesn’t mind eating the dark meat, I think she actually prefers it!  I make a big bag of rice ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, and I feed her green beans with no added salt  from a can. (I have also been know to sprinkle a few shreds of Cheddar cheese on her plate to make it colorful and extra tasty. ":) )

Mostly what I am doing is “assembling” her meals.    I have been doing this gradually and slowly.  I didn’t want to upset her tummy or create indigestion problems or heaven forbid cause diarrhea or constipation and so far so good. 


I still feed her dry Beneful in the morning but it’s now  a smaller portion size and I give her a small scoop of cottage cheese alongside it.  And do your research.  There a lots of foods you need to avoid that are not good for dogs like chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, avocados, and bones, especially cooked bones. Garlic is controversial so I avoid it.  I never understood what bones were safe to give a dog anyway so I avoid them altogether. 

Here is a 5 minute video on what treats Dr. Martinez says are better and more healthy for your dog.

And so the purpose of my post here today is not to tell you how to feed your pets but to simply talk about what I have been doing as a result of doing some more reading and learning about something I thought I knew about.    I love my dog Oakley and I want to keep her as healthy and happy as I can.

She dances and twirls while we put her plate together and you should see the joy on her face when we set down a plate of food for her.

She’s a happy dog!

Oakley March '13

Ok, so this photo might not look like she is happy but she is!  It’s hard to capture with my camera the dancing an twirling that goes on before she gets to eat her dinner.  But believe me, she is happy.  This was just another cute photo I wanted to include.  I mean, look at that face!  :)


And before I go, let me leave you with a link to another website that I found fun and very helpful called:  Can I Give My Dog. com ?  It’s a fun and informative sight dedicated to answering your questions about what you can and cannot give to your dog.    If you have a specific food or question you can plug it in and it will return an answer.  Questions like Can I give my dog a taco?”  are answered seriously and without judgement.  :)  A taco.  Really?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Potting Pansies

Ahhh Spring!  It feels like we waited an extra long time for you to arrive this year.

Today is going to be sunny and 74 degrees!  So happy!

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I picked up a tray of pansies a couple of days ago anticipating the warm and sunny weekend.  I have had this three tiered hanging basket contraption for years and never found the right place for it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have added it to the Goodwill donation pile and then at the last minute would pull it out again.  I first bought it with the intention of using it in my kitchen to hold onions, potatoes, and maybe some apples.  Well, by the time we got around to using all the potatoes, apples, or onions they all either sprouted, grew “eyes”, or turned mealy.   Not good.

Pansies and Bee Watering Can

So in my last and final ditch effort to save it and find a use for it, I decided to try and use it as a springtime planter for some pansies.   And it turned out great.   You can do this with almost any container or basket that you might want to plant flowers in and the burlap is much cheaper and easier to work with that the more expensive and bulkier coconut liners you can buy.   I took some leftover burlap, (and you know I have a ton of that) and made liners for the baskets.   I took photos but didn’t realize that my camera setting had been accidentally changed and all of the shots were over exposed and not usuable.  So let me explain with out the help of photos.

Very easy really.  I folded the burlap in half so that it was doubled and then I turned the baskets upside down and used them as a guide to cut out circles of burlap to use as a liner for the baskets.  I traced around each basket with a sharpie pen and I added about 2 and a half inches to the circumference all the way around so that they would come up to just under the edge of the frame of the basket.    Don’t worry if they are not perfect. And you can always trim them so cut them larger than you think you might need.  I liked the added thickness that using two of the burlap cut outs provided so all of my liners used two circles  but you could certainly use one if your burlap is one with a tighter weave.


Pansies don’t last around here once the summer heat hits but they will fill in nicely for the Spring and give me lot’s of color until then.  Not sure what I’ll replace them with for the summer months but I think I’ll be keeping my new hanging basket holder now that it has finally found it’s purpose!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hirten Cheese


Castello Alps Selection Hirten

I have a new cheese to recommend! The name of it is Hirten and the company who makes it is Rosenborg Castello.  I am starting to see it in all of my stores and today was the first time I got a chance to taste it.  Delicious!  It reminds me a little bit of one of my favorite cheeses called Parrano.  I would describe it as a cross between Parmesan Reggiano and an aged Gouda.  

Hirten is a cow’s milk cheese from the Bavarian Alps region in Germany.  The cows are raised on small mountain farms in the Alps. Each farm is at least 2,625 feet above sea level, and has fewer than 20 cows. I love that.  Can’t you just picture it?   It’s what make the difference in a truly flavorful cheese.  Happy cows, produce happy milk, which makes for a happy and delicious cheese!!  

Hirten is aged for 9 months and has a rich yellow/orange color and a crumbly, dry texture.  This cheese has the  crunchy protein crystals that I love so much.  Almost like mini bursts of flavor and I think the sign of a well aged cheese.   It has a rich, sharp, complex taste that I would describe as a slightly sweet caramel taste and the manufacturer says it has a a hint of pine.  I don’t think my palate if refined enough yet to detect the “pine” but I will keep that in mind each time I taste it!

Hirten Cheese

Serving ideas for Hirten would be to pair it with a lager beer, or serve with a full-bodied red wine. If white wine is preferred, serve with a white Bourgogne or Sauvignon Blanc.

So there you have it.  A new cheese to nibble with your favorite glass of wine or an ice cold beer.  I am already looking forward to the weekend and it’s only Monday!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Springtime, Baby Chicks, and Chicken Coops


It’s definitely Springtime here in the South and I know this because daffodils are blooming, the trees are budding and Southern States Farm Supply at the main corner near our neighborhood has baby chicks for sale.  They are so cute!  I have fantasy about raising chickens.  It will stay that way, a fantasy, because the neighborhood association and their gigantic list of rules and covenants prevents us from owning livestock.  Sure wouldn’t want a lien slapped on my house just because I wanted some fresh eggs!  :(

     Galvanized tubs with wooden legs added...what a great container planting idea!

So on Saturday, because the weather was so nice, I decided that I wanted to start looking around for some galvanized tubs because that is how I think I am going to solve my problem of Bermuda grass invading my vegetable garden. I just won’t have a garden! Instead, I am going to try growing my tomatoes in containers this summer. I got the idea when I saw these galvanized tubs on Pinterest.  We went shopping in search of tubs and the first stop was Southern States Farm Supply. And there in a gigantic galvanized tub were dozens of baby chicks. Squeal! :)  So cute!


I’ve had this little dream for quite a while.  I even blogged about it once back when I saw a photo of what I thought was the worlds’ fanciest chicken coop.  It belongs to Heather Bullard and she has a beautiful blog.  Take a few minutes and take a look.  It would make almost anyone want to raise their own chickens!

My renewed interest in owning chickens began on Friday when I found out that a book I had been looking at while shopping at Anthropologie was available on Kindle from Amazon for only $3.99.  I decided to get it, read it one night, and will probably buy the regular book anyway because I saw so many recipes in it that I wanted to try.  But the book is more than just recipes, it’s a short memoir about how Janice Cole,  the author, ended up with three chickens of her own.  It’s full of recipes, cute stories and fun facts about chickens that I never knew.  Highly recommended.

So that is how our weekend started off.    And so while I didn’t bring home any baby chicks with me and I haven’t ordered a custom chicken coop quite yet,  I do hope to have some new garden tubs to show you very soon!

Is it showing signs of Spring where you live yet? 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars

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Just the name of this recipe, “Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars”  is enough to take me back to my days in elementary school.  And while I don’t specifically remember a lunchroom treat like this one, the words “Lunch Lady” takes me back to the Multi-Purpose Room where we would eat our lunches at Union Lake Elementary.  There was a stage on one end of the room and the floor was green.  This room served not only as a lunch room, complete with that distinct school lunch room aroma,  but as a PTA meeting room,  a school assembly room, a Brownies and Girl Scouts meeting room,  a gym (the knotted climbing ropes were attached to the ceiling.  I could never get past the third knot on those ropes and I had a huge fear of heights so touching the ceiling was never going to happen for me.), and a theater (we did the Prince and the Pauper in the 6th grade).   And then there was Ruth.  Blowing her whistle and yelling “ 5 minutes!  Eat your lunches!”  She was kind of mean.  And you didn’t want to accidentally spill your milk because there were verbal consequences when you did .  She terrified me!

Ok,  I’m back.  Started to drift off there for a minute down memory lane. :)

These  bars are definitely NOT what you would call a  low carb” dessert.  But oh my, are these a tasty treat!  There are a multitude of recipes for these bars floating around on Pinterest and they have been tempting me to give them a try for quite a while.  The recipe I decided to go with came from the blog Tried and Tried Again.  I made these last night after getting the bug to bake.  They took about an hour so they are not what you would call quick and there are three steps to them so I wouldn’t come right out and say they are easy but really, they are.  They just take a bit of time.  Definitely worth it.

Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars

1 1/2 cups Flour

1¼ tsp. Salt

½ tsp. Baking Soda

¾ cup Butter

¾ cup Sugar

¾ cup Brown Sugar

1 ½ tsp. Vanilla

1 1/2 cups Creamy Peanut Butter total.  (You will divide in half into two 3/4 cups.)

2 Eggs

1 ½ cups Quick Oats


½ cup Butter (1 stick)

3 ½ cups Powdered Sugar

2 Tbsp. Cocoa

¼ cup Milk (I used some half and half )

1 tsp. Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars, 3/4 C peanut butter, eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add dry ingredients, just until incorporated. Then, stir in the oats. Spread onto a greased 11 x 15 Jelly Roll Pan (cookie sheet). Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes.

The icing is a two step process. First, whip the remaining ¾ cup creamy peanut butter until it becomes light in color and fluffy. Carefully spread the whipped peanut butter over the cooled pan.

In a small sauce pan on top of the stove, melt the butter. Add the milk and cocoa and whisk it in to make sure it is well incorporated and to reduce the lumps of cocoa.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Heat just until boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Then, gradually add the powdered sugar. Stir until thickened. Pour over the peanut butter and gently spread over the pad of cookie bars.  Cool completely, and slice into bar cookies.

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This recipe makes a huge cookie sheet of bars.  I cut mine into 24 individual squares.  They are Very rich.  The men in my house loved them and I would definitely consider these bars man sized.  I loved them too but I think if you were going to serve them at an event with a lot of women,  I would cut each of the bars again into 4 mini squares.  Ladies don’t like to take a huge bar of anything but if you cut them up into dainty little pieces they will disappear!

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Those lunch ladies knew what they were doing. Put some chocolate icing on a peanut butter bar, sneak in some oatmeal to make it a teensy bit healthier and to stretch the recipe out because after all, they had a lot of mouths to feed, and a legendary elementary school memory was created.   How about you?  Do you remember a dessert treat like this from your elementary school days?    Did your cafeteria have a Ruth with a whistle?