Memorial Day Weekend Shenanigans

This weekend was full of ‘em…

Shenanigans that is. 

I ran out of the kitchen this weekend and spent some much needed time out in the good ‘ole Ohio sunshine. 

My weekend started on a Thursday night, when 4 of us (Jeff, James, Andrea, and I) went to the Zac Brown concert down in Columbus.  We had a great seats and they played one heck of a show.  I would recommend their music to anyone.

We got home late Thursday/early Friday morning and since I was the lucky one that didn’t have to work the next day I spent the day resting with my parent’s basset hound, Duke

 and their mutt, Fud. 

They are a pair.  We spent the afternoon watching the French Open – I just can’t help myself when it comes to tennis, especially when its located in Paris.  Oui Oui!

I know I know, you are probably wondering where’s the sunshine?  Well it didn’t start shining until Saturday…I am getting there.

I spent Friday night at Jeff and Andrea’s because about 5 months ago, Jeff talked me into yet another race.  The last time he did this I ended up running 13.1 miles…this time it was only a 10K, however it was through mud and over obstacles.  Yes, mud.  The Original Mud Run ….

So Saturday morning I was awoken by my 5 1/2 year old niece sitting on my stomach at 6AM.  The race was to start in 3 + 1/2 hours.  Oh what were we thinking?  Can’t we just be normal and sleep in on Saturday mornings?  Nopers.  I pulled on my bright blue tights, orange shorts, and an old t-shirt and squeezed myself in the backseat of their Explorer.  Smack dab between a sleepy 2 year old and a bright eyed and bushy tailed 5 1/2 year old.  Off we went.  Again, what were we thinking!?! 

Before…

An hour or so later and after picking up some fellow crazies we were on our way to the starting line.  We made our pact not to leave anyone behind, double knotted our shoes, took some ‘before’ pictures, and off we went.  We had no clue what we were in for….

I was sure my legs weren’t long enough…

 

Smells like mosquito sex…

Working hard…

Anyone coming with me?

Unibomber?  Nope, just Jeff

Shawn, whats that on your face?

After…

It was a blast!  6.2 miles of obstacles (rope net, rope swing, tires, army crawls, river crossings, etc…) and mud that was likely to take your shoe.  Jason (a fellow nut) put it correctly by saying ‘he had mud in places water had never been’.  I would have to agree.   Let me put it this way, mom is currently washing my race clothes for the third time and the water is still rather muddy…

It was the most fun I’ve had exercising, ever…this will be a yearly race. 

After the race and once I had been sprayed off with the fire hose we made our way home and spent a relaxing evening with the family. 

Sunday was equally great, just cleaner.  After church, my parents and I jumped on the Harleys and took off for the afternoon.  What a great day to go riding!  We wound our way through the country.  Right on this county road, left on that state route, slowly through this small town…you get the idea.  About half-way through the ride we stopped for our usual mid-ride snack of ice cream.  I have noticed that every town has an ice cream shack on the main drag…I love small town Ohio.  My dad likes to say that when he was younger he used to ride from bar to bar, but now he rides from Dairy Queen to Dairy Queen….true, so very true!

 Dad’s ride…

My Ride…

Once we got home we went back out and bought mom and dad a new grill, theirs bit the dust last fall.  So once dad and I put it together – he instructed, I turned the wrenches –  mom did some grilling.  We had a feast of salad, steak, chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, and cold beer. 

We are now sitting here content and happy with life.  Tomorrow we are hoping to get back out on the bikes and discover some new ice cream stands!

Wishing everyone and safe and happy Memorial Day!

I’ll be back in the kitchen this week!

Parmesan Zucchini

I found these little gems at Trader Joe’s the other day.  Aren’t they just the cutest things?  How come the baby version of anything becomes cuter?  I mean baby clothes and shoes, adorable!  Well heck,  babies are much cutier than their adult counterparts (human and animal…puppies!) 

OK back to vegetables.  I love zucchini.  It makes a quick side dish with little effort, plus they are cheap in the summer.  I normally mix them with summer squash, but I am a butthead and forgot to buy them.  Ah well, not the end of the world. 

These I sauteed with red onion and mushrooms with a bit of the marinade left over from the steak salad from the other night. (Italian dressing or a balsamic vinegrette works well too.)

I then topped off everything with parmesan cheese, my all time favorite cheese – well at least a top fiver!

I paired this with steak tacos made from the leftovers from my steak salad.  I used the same ingredients, minus the corn but with the addition of tortillas and a bit of sourcream.  Its great when food is versatile and leftovers can create a whole new meal.  Love that, and what a money saver!

Ingredients

Serves 3 to 4

  • 3 to 4 baby zucchini, sliced down the middle and sliced into 1/2 inch half moons.
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced ( I used baby portabellas)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoon marinade ( if you dont have this then using italian dressing or balsamic vinegrette – both are great)
  • 2/3 Cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated (freshly grated tastes better!)
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium – high heat.  Add mushrooms and onions and saute until mushrooms are tender and onions are translucent.
  2. Toss the zucchini with marinade or dressing, salt, and pepper.  Once mushrooms and onions are tender, add the zucchini.
  3. Cook, tossing the vegetables with spatula often, for about 5 to 7 minutes until the zucchini are tender. 
  4. Transfer to serving bowl and top with Parmesan cheese. 

 

 

I didn’t get a picture of everything plated up because I ended up scarfing this meal down as severe thunderstorms were rolling in.  I nearly had to eat in the basement….

Steak Salad (my first)

 

So after nearly two weeks of cookies, muffins, and cheesecakes…I have regained my senses (a reaction to the fright of the looming swimsuit season…) and returned to the perimeter of the grocery .  I hope the baking isle doesn’t feel neglected, I’ll be back soon! 

Spring/soon to be summer has finally arrived!  Wahoo!  This is the first full week in Ohio where the weather is to stay above 50°F, holy moley!  It is amazing how different everyone acts when the temperature goes up and the days get longer.  How does the change in weather alter your daily life? 

Car windows are rolled down, house windows are opened up.  Grilling.  Baseball.  Neighbors come out of hibernation.  Sounds of children playing are heard well into the evening, this is mixed with the constant hum of lawn mowers.  Grilling.  The anticipation/excitement of school ending – I haven’t been in school for 4 years and I don’t have children in school, but I can still feel that air of excitement that can only be explained by the end of another school year.  Flip flops.  Grilling. Farmer’s markets.  Grilling.  Grilling.  Grilling.  Um…Have I mentioned grilling?

Since I am apparently in love with grilling, would it be surprising that I have never grilled?  Never, not even once.  Other people have grilled on my grill, but I have not.

Well that all changed this afternoon and I didn’t lose my eyebrows in the process.  I was worried. 

I was just going to grill some vegetables, but on Sunday I got a craving for steak – another first for me.  I could count the number of steaks I have had on my right hand.  Since I was young, red meat has just not been my thing…

So, Monday morning I made my normal trip to the grocery store and hit up the meat counter, not really knowing what to buy – good thing moms are just a phone call away!  I ended up buying 2 strip steaks (every other steak looked like it could feed 3 of me….) and began praying that I wouldn’t ruin them! 

I did a bit of research on grilling times and such, but besides that I just went at it.  I prefer my steak medium to medium -rare ( I assumed this since I enjoy sushi and figure the textures would be similar),  so I grilled the steaks for about 3 to 4 minutes over medium-high heat.  If you are unsure of grilling times, use a meat thermometer to guide you. 

I placed the steak on top a bed of greens and dressed the whole mess with a homemade blue cheese dressing.  If I may say so myself, I did a decent (if not good) job. 

Ingredients

Steak Marinade (makes about 2 cups, enough for about 2lb of steak)

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3/4 Cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 3 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Blue Cheese Dressing  (makes about 1 +1/2 cups)

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2/3 Cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 lb crumbled blue  cheese (this can be increased or decreased, I like a chunky dressing)

Salad Fixings (per each salad)

  • 1/2 Avocado, sliced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Red onions, thinly sliced
  • Roasted corn ( about 1/2 an ear per person)
  • Mixed greens

 

Directions

  1. To prepare marinade:  In a small bowl or large measuring cup (at least 2 cups in volume), whisk together all ingredients for marinade
  2. Place steaks in large plastic bag and pour in about 1/2 cup of marinade per steak.  Place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. 
  3. To Roast corn:  I roasted in the oven (first time griller here…lets not go overboard just yet).  Remove a few of the outer husks (dryer ones), preheat oven to 350°F and place corn right on oven rack.  Roast for 30 minutes. 
  4. Remove from oven and cut kernels off the cob, set aside.
  5. To prepare the salad dressing:  Whisk together all ingredients for dressing, except blue cheese, in a small bowl or large measuring cup.  Add extra milk if a thinner consistency is desired. 
  6. Fold in blue cheese.  Store in refrigerator. 
  7. To grill steak:  Remove steak from marinade.  Place steak on a pre-heated grill over medium-high heat.  Grill on each side until desired doneness is reached.  For medium, about 4 minutes per side. 
  8. Once done, remove from grill and let rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. 
  9. Construct salad.  Toss together mixed greens, tomatoes, sliced onion, and corn.  Garnish with sliced avocados and top with slices of grilled steak. 
  10. Enjoy with a nice glass of wine or a cold beer :)

I hope you enjoy this meaty summer salad.  Definitely something that I will re-create again and again (actually again tomorrow, seeing how I made 2 steaks, or maybe I’ll make some tacos…who knows!)

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake

 

 

Ridiculous!  That is all I can say about this one. 

I have made many a cheesecakes in my life.  I am the girl who made 10+ cheesecakes for her own high school graduation party.  Of all the cheesecakes I have made, it never dawned on me to add cookie dough. 

Thank goodness I have a brother who has a sweet tooth that rivals mine. 

 James mentioned once that I should combine these two ingredients….well, actually he looked in the refrigerator each time I came home and asked where the chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake was.  He is subtle. 

 

 

 

So, that is what I am attempting here.  A classic cheesecake with graham cracker crust ( I prefer a vanilla cookie crust, but Jim is a traditionalist) with a nice layer of cookie dough interspersed.  Since this is overthetop, I figured why not push it over the edge by adding a chocolate ganache topping.  Oh chocolate…

Holy moley!  This is a wiggle in your seat, smile creating, heavenly sweet treat. 

 

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 box graham crackers (about 27 sheets)
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar

* This makes a very thick crust, if a thinner, shorter crust is desired then use only 15 to 20 sheets, 4 Tablespoons of butter ,and only 1 Tablespoon of sugar.  We are crust lovers, so to each their own!

Filling (adapted from Alton Brown’s cheesecake)

  • 24 ounces creamcheese, room temperature
  • 1 + 1/4 Cup sour cream
  • 1 Cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • about 2 – 3 cups of chocolate chip cookie dough

* I used only 2 cups of cookie dough and it turned out great, but next time I will use more.  I think 3 to 4 cups would be right.

Topping

  • 8 ounces chocolate ( I used a combination of semi-sweet and milk chocolate), chopped
  • 4 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1 + 1/4 Cup heavy cream

 

 

 

Directions

  1.  Make chocolate chip cookie dough ( I would imagine that store bought would work, but….
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F and wrap 9 inch spring-form pan with tinfoil and place on a cookie sheet that has a lip.
  3. Place graham crackers in plastic bag and crush with rolling pin or pulse in food processor until fine crumbs.
  4. Stir in sugar
  5. Mix in melted butter
  6. Pour crumbs into 9 inch spring-form pan and press to mold into the shape of the pan.  Press onto the bottom and the entire height of the sides.  ( Remember, generally the crust only goes up about 1 inch on the sides, but we are different over here.  If you want a shorter side crust then make sure you make less of the graham cracker crumbs.) Set aside.
  7. In a medium sized bowl mix the cream cheese, sour-cream, and sugar on medium speed until well mixed. 
  8. In another medium bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and heavy cream.
  9. Pour the egg mixture into the creamcheese mixture and blend until everything is incorporated.
  10. Pour filling into crust.
  11. Take small chunks of cookie dough (size of golf ball or so) and place them in a circle on the perimeter of the filling and work your way inward.  Submerge the cookie dough until it is completely covered by the filling. 
  12. Place in preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.  When done the center (about a 1 inch diameter) will be a bit jiggly.  If it cracks…that’s OK, we are going to top this bad boy with chocolate, no one will know!  Also, if the top is getting too brown, but the filling isn’t done then tent a piece of tin foil over the cheesecake – will prevent the top from browning. 
  13. When cheesecake is done, turn the oven OFF, open the door, and let the cheesecake remain in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  14. Remove from oven and place on wire rack.  Let completely cool before covering and placing in fridge for at least 6 hours before serving (overnight is great)
  15. Just before placing the cheesecake in the refrigerator prepare the chocolate ganache.
  16. Place corn syrup and chopped chocolate into a medium bowl.
  17. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.
  18. Remove from heat and pour hot cream over chocolate and corn syrup and let sit for about 5 minutes – do not touch!
  19. After 5 minutes, whisk the mixture until smooth.
  20. Let sit another 10 minutes to thicken.
  21. Pour over cheesecake.  This makes a lot of ganache, so you might have extra, save for garnishing later. 
  22. Loosely cover and place the whole kit and caboodle into the fridge. 
  23. Once chilled (give a good 6 hours!) remove from fridge and enjoy! 
  24. Wait 2 weeks before attempting swimsuit shopping.

 

 

Apple Pecan Muffins

 

 

 

I have found myself with a surplus of apples…why?  Who knows.  I apparently can’t count.  There is only one of me and I still buy enough fruit for a family of 4.  Right now I have 2 mangoes, 4 bananas, 6 apples, and 1 lemon staring at me from my fruit basket.  Lets just say I definitely get my 4 to 6 servings recommended by the food pyramid, or is it 2 to 4 servings?  Who knows, that pyramid is bogus.  Who seriously needs 6 to 12 servings of grains every day?  That is 12 bowls of cereal or 12 slices of bread…seriously?!  Talk about a carb coma.  And they wonder why we are obese as a nation….OK, stepping off of my soap box.  

 

OK I might be a little hypocritical here seeing how I am making muffins.  :)  Moderation is the key.  Plus, I think eating muffins is more of a treat or a weekend brunch item (does anyone eat brunch, or is this something that is only done in movies?).  Not to be eaten on a daily basis, but something to break up the monotony of the week.  Plus, its a creative outlet to use some extra Granny Smith apples that are rolling around your kitchen. 

 

 

I made these pretty hearty with the addition of pecans, apple chunks, and apple butter (makes my top 5 list of spreads, below nut butters but above jelly/jams).  Garnishing the top are glazed pecans -amazing! - and brown sugar.  These are a denser muffin, but the flavor is nice and light and they are just sweet enough.  They can be stored in an air-tight container and frozen or eaten straight from the oven with a bit of butter.  I am thinking of making these again (always thinking of how to improve), but with buttermilk and maybe some pear juice or pears.  I am obsessed with the pear/apple combination.*If there is a nut allergy, the nuts can be omitted*

 

 

I have houseguests coming this weekend (during baseball season I have guests more frequently) and will be serving these for breakfast.

 

Apple Pecan Muffins

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup melted butter, cooled
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 3/4 Cup apple butter
  • 2 extra-large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 Cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Glazed pecans, 1/4 Cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon for the topping

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and prepare muffin pans, either grease pans or use paper liners
  2. In one medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients (pecans, cinnamon, giner, flours, baking powder, salt, baking soda)
  3. In another medium bowl whisk together wet ingredients (melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, milk, apple butter, and chopped apples)
  4. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix just until everything is incorporated….don’t overmix, you will get tough muffins.
  5. Spoon into muffins tins.  Fill cups about 3/4 of the way full.  Top with brown sugar mixture and glazed pecans and press down to ensure it sticks. 
  6. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean. 
  7. Let cool, or enjoy straight out of the oven!

I hope you enjoy these and add your own twists, making them your own!