Category Archives: Cooking

Just a little caramel

This past Christmas and every Christmas, my parents hosted the family brunch – usually the Saturday before Christmas.  This allows their offspring and their offspring to be able to fulfill any in-law obligations without stress.  Between me and my siblings, our spouses and children and in some cases their children there are over 20 of us.  We have aunts and uncles and cousins that come as well.  It’s times like that when my parents 4000 sq. ft. house makes sense.  I’m straying off topic – and it’s early in the blog.  Ok…focus.  My parents had us over for brunch and one of the desserts that was made was a Caramel cake.  My mother had been asking me to make her a caramel cake for a while, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it and there have been so many request from her that come in, that I didn’t prioritize the caramel cake.  I guess she got tired of waiting on me, so they (my father made the cake and she made the caramel) made the cake.  My Babydoll loved the cake and has been on me for a minute to make her a cake.  Recently, I decided to make the cake, but with a twist – I was making cupcakes. 

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Cupcakes are so much easier to deal with and a lot easier to distribute.  The key with these cupcakes is finding a way to include the delicious caramel filling into a cupcake.  I decided to poke holes using a kebob skewer and allow the caramel to seep into the cupcakes that way. 

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I was thinking that I should leave the cupcakes un-iced and let the caramel goodness speak for itself, but esthetically they weren’t very pretty.  I had some caramel sauce left over,

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so I added about 1 cup of powdered sugar to it and whipped like my live depended on it, then quickly spread it on the cupcakes. 

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Why was I quickly spreading the icing on the cupcakes you ask?  Because if you have ever worked with a caramel icing, you know that it sets quickly. 

When it was all said and done, I had these amazingly delicious caramel cupcakes. 

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I gave two to my parents to compare with the awesome cake they had made for Christmas.  My mother told me that she ate hers and was giving my father 24 hours to eat his, or she was going to assume he didn’t want it and she was going to eat it.  Smile  My Babydoll was very happy with the outcome, although she was very hesitant at first.  

The recipe for the cake is a basic yellow cake recipe that I use for most yellow cakes that I got from blog I used to frequent regularly, but haven’t had a chance to look at recently – iambaker.com.  The caramel recipe is one that I use with an Apple Caramel cake that I usually bake in the fall.  The caramel portion of the recipe is so easy  and good that I use it whenever I need caramel.  I prefer it to cooking sugar, then adding cream or standing over a pot until the caramel comes to the perfect temperature using a candy thermometer.   I hope you guys enjoy it.  If you have an easy caramel recipe, please share it; I’m always up for trying something new and my family and friends will thank you for it. 

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Madeira Cake Anyone…

Am I the only one that is late coming to The Great British Baking Show? I had been hearing people talk about it for about 6 months, but just didn’t take the time to check it out. Which is crazy in itself, because I love to bake, and this show is completely about baking. A few weeks ago, I went to Netflix, watched 1 episode and have been hooked. I’m not able to binge like most people because I live with people who liked to watch tv with me and unfortunately, they are not a fan of the show.

Anyway, watching this show has inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and make somethings that I have not tried before. For example, I’m going to try my hand at making some homemade crackers, making ice cream out of coconut milk, Opera cake – had never heard of it, but saw it and now I gotta make it, and I’m going to go back to making Trifles in the spring and summer. All these types of cakes, pies, tortes, trifles, and such had me attempting something new last weekend. Madeira Cake. A Madeira cake is defined as a cake with a firm yet light texture. It is eaten with tea or (occasionally) for breakfast and is traditionally flavored with lemon. I love lemon, so this seemed like this would “pop my panties”.

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I remembered a few things from the episode of British Baking Show where the Madeira cake was made.

1) the cake should have a dome shape with a crack,

2) there should be candied fruit on the top that is crisp, and

3) the cake should be light, but dense

I made this cake based on a recipe that I found online, but decided to make mine a lemon poppy seed version, because I had sad earlier in the week that I was going to make a lemon poppy seed cake for the weekend.

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I took a page from the show and measured my dry ingredients.  One of the ingredients that the recipe called for was castor sugar.  Castor sugar is a superfine version of regular sugar  that does not go as far as confectioner’s (or powdered) sugar.  I decided to pulse my sugar in my mini chopper to get a finer grain for this cake.  Caster sugar is supposed to be easier to emulsify with the butter.

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I didn’t candy as many lemon slices as the recipe called for because I knew my family wouldn’t eat it.

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But I wanted to attempt candying my fruit, so I know how for a future food project to make sure that I can do it the way that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood said it needs to be done.

Did the final product have the three aforementioned requirements?

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It did have a slight dome and a crack on the top. My candied lemons were not super crisp, they had potential, but when I dropped them on a plate, they did not “clink”. The texture of the cake was dense, but light. I can’t explain that better than to say it was dense but light.

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The lemon flavor is very pronounced, but not in a tart way, it taste almost like P2110037the lemon smells. I wonder if that is because the syrup that was used to candy the lemon slices was brushed over the cake. I enjoyed the cake and will make it again. I want to branch out and make different flavors and also make the cake without the poppy seeds to see if the poppy seeds had anything to do with the denseness of the cake.

Have you made a Madeira cake? Have you tasted a Madeira cake? Comment below to tell me what about it.

Until next time,

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1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup castor sugar (225 g)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 ½ cups flour (300 g)

2 ½ tsp baking powder

Zest and juice of 1 ½ lemons

3 tbsp poppy seeds

Candied lemon ingredients

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup water

2 lemons sliced ~1/8-inch thick

Preheat oven to 350o. Prepare loaf pan. Combine and whisk flour, poppy seeds, and baking powder and put to the side. Cream butter, lemon zest, and sugar on medium high until it is light and fluffy, ~3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tbsp of flour mixture after each egg addition. Fold in remaining flour and then lemon juice.

Transfer batter to pan and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick (cake tester) comes out clean. Allow to cook for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and complete cooling process on wire rack.

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Combine sugar and water. Bring it to a boil, then add lemons in single layer. Cook for 15 minutes, flipping half-way through. Remove from simple syrup and place on parchment lined baking sheet to allow them to dry.

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Baked Donuts anyone?

Because I’m on Weight Watchers, a lot of the time I forego pastries like donuts; but every-now-and-then I have a craving and I’ve stored up enough Fitpoints that I feel comfortable enough to have one.  The weather in the Midwest has been sketchy for the past few weekends and we haven’t been out unless absolutely necessary, and a donut run was not absolutely necessary.  But I do have flour, sugar, yeast, baking soda, baking powder, eggs, butter, and so on.  Oh, and I have donut pans. 

I wanted to keep it as healthy as possible, so I knew it had to be a baked donut and not one that is fried in a pot of oil.  So I got to searching the internet for a recipe for donuts that were baked and not fried.  I knew it would be a cake donut because it was going to be baked, so my search  on Google was “baked cake donuts”. After looking at several results, I found this recipe and decided to use it.  https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/baked-cinnamon-sugar-donuts/

I pulled out all of the ingredients, pulled out my donut pan

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and turned on the oven.

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I couldn’t find my round donut pan, so we were having heart-shaped donuts. 

The recipe gave the ingredient measurements in grams as well as “cups” and I had always wanted to weigh out ingredients instead of measure them.  I recently purchase this gem right here.

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I had been looking for a kitchen scale that was space friendly.  I have a lot of kitchen gadgets and a lot of them take up countertop space.  I don’t need anything else to take up space.  I had rejected several scales because I didn’t want another countertop hog.  I found this beauty at Williams Sonoma one day when I was purchasing seasonings.  Look how small it is.

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You can choose your measurement type, in this case I needed grams.  It opens up like this.

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One of the suggestions for getting the batter into the pan was to use a large food storage bag with the end snipped.  I keep large piping bags in my pantry, that I used in this instance.  I want to tell you a trick that I got years ago, I don’t remember who or where, on the best way to get batter/icing into a piping bag without making a mess.  Take a large cup or glass and place your bag inside, flip the edges over the rim of the cup.  Then put your batter/icing into the bag.  You can pull up the edges of the bag and there you go.

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You cut the tip off

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Begin to pip the batter into the pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. 

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I felt that the batter looked a little thin, so I went back in and put another layer over some of the 1st ones I did.  I baked them until golden.

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But doubling up the batter caused the donuts to rise above the donut hole.

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The next batch I made, I used the regular amount.  These turned out with the “donut holes”.  They turned out great.

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The recipe stated that you should dunk the donuts into melted butter then toss them in cinnamon sugar.  The previous week I made cinnamon streusel muffins that ended up having too much sweet topping on them, so this week I decided to just brush the butter on one side then cover that side with the cinnamon sugar.  

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These donuts looked so good, I had to sample ‘em.

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I would suggest that you head over to Sallysbakingaddiction.com and check out this awesome donut recipe.  Comment below if you would like me to include recipes that I get from other websites.  If it is one of my recipes, I will include it in the post (unless it is a family recipe that I have been asked to keep on the downlow – there’s no hope for those wanting the bread pudding recipe.)  Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you again next week.

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Macarons

Last weekend I took the Megabus to see one of my best friends in Chicago.  We were celebrating our birthdays; although our birthdays were last month.  My travel/vacation schedule last month and I wasn’t home long enough for her to come down or me to go up so that we could celebrate.  But anyway, I was there and she took me to the French Market for lunch.  We had noodles for lunch and on the way out, I had to stop at this patisserie that I saw on the way in.  I decided to get some macarons and got some for Sylvana also. (It was the perfect snack for Sylvana, because she has a mostly gluten-free diet now).

After having my wonderful macarons on the bus ride home (I got lemon, lichen, green tea, salted caramel, and vanilla.); I decided that I was going to try my hand at making some.  I had been very hesitant to make macarons in the past because I was afraid of failure.  I had received this book of macaron recipes as a gift.

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I had read it and drooled over the pictures, but was just too chicken-butt to make them.  I spent some of my free time this week looking at different recipes and reading other write-ups on macarons and decided I was ready.  Failure or no, I was making macarons this weekend. 

I was going to purchase almond flour because I wanted to make sure that all my ingredients were top-notch; but the price for a 16 oz of almond flour was close to $10.  One of the websites that I had read suggested you make your own almond flour because the price of the flour is pricey; after seeing the price, I ended up taking her advice.  I bought a 2lb bag of blanched almonds for $6.97.  Yeah, enough said.  I pulsed them in my food processor until they were ground up fine.

I decided to make three types of macarons; lemon cookies and vanilla, almond, and purple vanilla. I decided to make a strawberry cream cheese filling for the purple vanilla, and a plain almond filling for the lemon cookies and vanilla, and almond with blackberry jam smear for the almond. NOTE:  as I was making the almond I decided to forgo the almond and added orange extract instead.  They were delicious anyway I made them.

From everything that I read online and in the book, the time that your macarons sit to “dry out” is important.  If you let them sit for the right amount of time they will get the shiny look and the “feet” will form when you bake them.  We had had a lot of rain that morning and it was humid; I read that if it was humid outside, you were to let them sit for about an hour versus the 15-30 minutes normally suggested.  While I made the second batch (the purple vanilla) I let the first set form the skin on the first batch. 

I baked the first batch at 350 degrees in the convection setting of the oven.  This turned out not to be a good idea.  They seemed to cook too fast and my “feet” didn’t turn out so great. 

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I decided to turn the oven down to 325 and had better success. 

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I went to make the strawberry filling and discovered that I didn’t have any strawberry gelatin in my pantry; but I DID have some peach.  So I made a peach cream cheese filling instead.  Babydoll tried one of the purples and fell in love.  I’m so proud of my macarons. 

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I promised some to my coworkers and I hope they like them also.  I figured out the process (I ended up using my Magic Bullet to puree the confectioners sugar and almond flour to a super smooth consistency), and Babydoll loved them; so my confidence is way up there.  I’m going to do it again soon.  I’m thinking about making some for my girlfriends as part of their Christmas treats.

Have any of you made macarons?  What flavors have you made? 

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PS: I am going to write something real soon about how AWESOME my Magic Bullet is.

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I found it!

For months I’ve been trying to duplicate this bread that they serve at Wildfire Grill in Chicago.  I’ve posted a couple of attempts of the pumpernickel bread that had raisins in it.  It is a bread that is served that is standard for each table.  It is so awesome.

Anyway last week while in the line at the grocery store doing my usual looking through all of the food magazines I came across a recipe for Blueberry Boston Brown Bread.  The picture looked just like the bread that I’ve been trying to make.  I knew I did not have enough time to write the recipe on the back of my grocery list, so I whipped out my phone and took a picture of the ingredients.

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Yes…I took a picture of the ingredients.

The book was a book of slow cooker recipes and I briefly read the instructions, but my thought was I should be able to go online and find this recipe.  Not so. Sad smile  I found recipes for Boston Brown Bread, but not a slow cooker recipe that was the same as the one I had took a picture of.  I went through my cook books and found a recipe for the bread in my Better Homes and Gardens book and decided to go with it.  The final product was AWESOME (I say that in a sing-songy voice)!!!

Here is the break down….

First I mixed the All-purpose, Whole Wheat (I have white whole wheat), Rye flour, & Cornmeal in a bowl

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To that I added baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

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Then I remembered that I needed to soak my raisins and cranberries  in 2 tbsp of boiling water.

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I mixed all the dry ingredients than moved on to the wet.  I measured a cup of buttermilk.

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I mixed it with molasses and brown sugar that I put in another measuring cup.

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I added the wet to the dry, then folded in the raisin/cranberry mixture.

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This I placed in a loaf pan that I had sprayed with cooking spray and then placed that inside of a casserole dish.  I took a piece of non-stick aluminum foil and placed it over the top of my dough/batter.  (In hindsight, I should have done a better job of covering it, and I’ll tell you why in a sec).

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I placed this in my oven (325 degrees convection, 350 convention) and added water to the casserole dish.

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The bread is to cook for approximately 2 hours.  I think I let my cook longer than that because I was also making a cake at the same time and I didn’t reset the timer once I had taken my cake out of the oven.  Have  mentioned that I cannot wait until I get my kitchen remodeled so that I can have double ovens?

Anywho…I took the bread out of the oven and gave it a slice.  The top was a bit crunchy, that could have been a result of my not covering the top securely or me leaving it in the oven for too long.  I’m not sure, but it was still awesome and finally what I had been eating at Wildfire. No longer do I have to attempt to make that bread.  I now know what I’ve been eating.  It wasn’t pumpernickel raisin, it was Boston Brown Bread! Smile

I slathered on the butter.  Then cut me another piece and slathered on more butter and had it with dinner.

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I’m so happy to have found it. Smile  Now if I could just get the recipe for their spiced peanuts that they serve at the bar.

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Here’s the recipe.  I hope you like as much as I do.

1/3 cup raisins (or dried blueberries, cranberries)

2 tbsp boiling water

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup rye flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup full-flavor molasses

2 tbsp maple sugar or dark brown sugar (I used light because that was all I had)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray loaf pan.  Add raisins to 2 tbsp boiling water and set aside

2) Combine all-purpose flour, cornmeal, whole wheat flour, rye flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

3) In another bowl combine buttermilk, molasses, and brown sugar.

4) Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

5) Fold in raisins, include the liquid from the soaking process.

6) Place in greased loaf pan.  Then place the pan inside of casserole dish.  Take a piece of aluminum foil that as been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and place over the batter sprayed side down. (I know you can figure that out, but I do know some people that would not know to do sprayed side down, so I had to say it.)  For this I would try my best to secure it as much as possible without actually closing it off.  Tuck it around the sides really good.

7) Place the casserole dish in the oven then add enough boiling water into dish to come up sides of loaf pan about 1-inch.

8)  Let it bake for about 2 hrs or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Slice and serve warm with butter, cream cheese sweetened with honey, or even honey butter.  I had plain butter and it was fabulous.

Note:  I believe that I got this recipe from the Better Homes and Garden Slow Cooker Recipes book, but I must emphasis that I was in the grocery store line and didn’t pay much attention to which book I picked up.  I did however confirm the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Cookbook.

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Crockpot Save

Today I want to share with you guys, something that I feel is vital to all slow cooker/crockpot cooking.

REYNOLDS SLOW COOKER LINERS!!!

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In the past when you had to cook something in the crockpot you were happy because you knew you could cook your meal while you were out of the house; having a completed/most completed meal ready when you got home.  Then when all of the easiness is over you would have to clean that helpful tool.  I don’t know about you, but this was always a dark cloud that came shortly after my sunshine and rainbows.

Several months ago, I had a couple of coupons for the Slow Cooker Liners and bought them because they were on sale; then tossed them into my pantry bin for my food wrapping supplies.  I forgot about them until about around December when I saw them at the bottom of my bin.  I promised myself that the next time I used my crockpot I was going to whip them out.

My parents got me a new crockpot for Christmas that has the removable pot (my old one did not come apart and boy that was an even worse nightmare to clean).  I used my liner for the first time when I made pork for carnitas for Superbowl Sunday.  The clean up was easy-peasy.  Today, I made my Asian Beef and Broccoli (it was on the menu for yesterday, but I forgot to take my beef out of the freezer early enough and it was still frozen when I woke up that morning so, it got bumped to today).

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Take a look at the space between my liner and my crockpot….

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Amazing right?

I found another coupon for the liners and I’m going to buy another box or two or three (I don’t have that many coupons, but what can I say, I love these things Smile).  If you have not already tried them and you use a crockpot…what are you waiting for?  Go to the store and buy yourself some of these awesome liners.

Until next time,

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Note: the opinions of this post are not from a paid endorsement, I’m just sharing my opinion about something I have come to love. Smile

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Menu: 2/23/14

I haven’t posted one of these in a while.  I’m still making my menu’s just haven’t been putting them out here (or even putting them on the kitchen menu board for that matter. 😦 )  I think this winter weather is making me a lazy bumb.  I’m keeping the house clean and have even given up my weekly Saturday morning grocery store jaunt just so I don’t have to get out of bed and fight the snow.   Anyway I hope you guys get inspired by my menu…please share yours, I could use ideas (especially hearty soups for the winter – but please no soups with beans I acquired a bad taste of those after one of my summers with my grandmother when I was 9.).  So here we go:

Sunday – Salibury Steak with noodles (I know you are thinking why not potatoes, but I’m having potatoes on Saturday and if you remember, my actual menu starts on Saturday so we won’t be having potatoes back-to-back :))  I think I would like to add some type of greens with this so I may pick up some on Saturday afternoon from Kroger (they have the best greens pricing) – maybe a collard/mustard mix.

Monday: Soup & Sandwich day!!! – My version of a Minestrone without beans and Rachel’s or Ham & Cheese for Babydoll.

Tuesday – Asian Beef & Broccoli…I plan to serve these with homemade egg rolls and potstickers if I can dedicate myself to make them ahead of time on Monday.  I not then we’ll have the store bought version.

Wednesday – Pasta and Sauce – Stan loves this and I will make plain pasta for Babydoll and add some smoked sausage (she stays away from tomato sauce as much as possible because it aggravates her re-flux), I’ll fix a salad and garlic bread to accompany it.

Thursday: Pan-fried Tilapia and rice and either fruit salad or steamed broccoli

Friday – Not sure…I’m hoping I can talk Stan into taking us out if the weather cooperates.  If not, I maybe make a quick taco salad.

Saturday – Pork chops with pears, Twice-cooked roasted potatoes and spinach.

The dessert that I will make for the week is an Apple Crisp/Cobbler with French Vanilla Ice Cream.

On a side note: I have been craving Rice Krispy Treats since I watched an episode of Unique Sweets (does anyone else love that show); so I will be making about 5 different versions of Treats on Saturday.  My goal is to take pictures and post how they turn out.  Look for it some time next week. Smile

Also…I have been working on post about the basement remodel.  I believe I will break it down into about five or six parts.  I’m writing the entire post and will then break it down once I’ve finished it.

Have a great weekend guys.

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