Friday, May 29, 2009

It is all about Friendship, Laughter, an Award, and a Cupcake Video

When I discovered blogging sometime back, and eventually had the nerve to start my own blog in December 2008, I had no idea the impact that it would have on me. I have been a stay-at-home Mother for over twenty years focusing on raising my two sons. I was pretty much living my life in a little bubble of Motherhood and Wifehood.

I have met some really extraordinary friends though blogging. These friends are extremely creative, kind, compassionate and have brought a richness to my life. These people are teachers, chefs, lawyers, bakers, cooks, mothers, fathers and so on. . . . They come from all over the United States and the world for that matter.

For instance, I feel that I could just make my way to South Bend, Indiana for visit with Dar that would have us laughing and talking for hours. I feel like I have known her for years! Not only does she have one awesome blog, now she has two blogs. Make sure to take some time to check out her new blog. It is full of incredible pictures and is a great read.

When Dar gave me an award, of course I was honored! Thanks Dar!

I would like to pass this award to Heather from Diary of a Fanatic Foodie. She has incredible recipes, is a lawyer (just in case we need blogging representation) and has one darn cute dog named Roxie. Oh yeah, and we can't forget her husband Nick. Most likely all my blogging friends are her blogging friends, but just in case you have not had the chance to check Heather's blog out, what the heck are you waiting for?

Hope that everybody has a great weekend! If you want something to bring a smile to your face take time to watch It is precious and cute.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Don't Have to Go to Japan to get this Potato Salad!!!

Bear with me here!

I tore this page from the April 2009 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine and headed to Jungle Jims. I was bound and determined to find four of the six "Cult Condiments" that I have never heard of, let alone tried or tasted!

I am a huge Nutella fan and thanks to Heather an even more so fan of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce! That left me on a quest for four "Cult Condiments" which brings me to the first of which I would like to share with you.

Kewpie Mayonnaise comes from Japan and it is awful! It is awful for bathing suit season, awful for your diet, and most likely awful for your cholesterol. It is so awful, it is off the charts mouth-watering delicious. Kewpie Mayonnaise is dense and rich with a slight tang to tickle your taste buds. According to Every Day with Rachael Ray, Kewpie Mayonnaise "is tangier, sweeter and more flavorful than American mayonnaise." I will have to raise my hand high in agreement with that assessment! Now, for the bad news. One tablespoon will cost you 100 calories and 10 grams of FAT! (YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT)

Undeniably, Jungle Jims has some of the best customer service EVER! So, I was surprised when I asked for help finding the Kewpie Mayonnaise and the young lady told me, "You do not want that."

"I am a food blogger," I said proudly. I immediately thought how stupid that sounded. But, I wear the badge of "food blogger" proudly! What can I say?

"No, you don't want it because it is too good to eat," she told me. "I bought some the other day and I can not stop eating it. I use it to make my bologna and cheese sandwiches and they are gourmet good."

"What is the problem?" I thought to myself. This is when she handed me the bottle and pointed to the nutritional facts. We exchanged a glance that indicated we both knew what the problem was. That didn't stop me. I work under the saying "Everything in Moderation."

On to Japanese Potato Salad.

Gin's Japanese Potato Salad

5 medium firm potatoes, peeled and diced

1 carrots, finely sliced

1 red onion, grated

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

8 radishes, thinly sliced

6 farm fresh eggs, boiled and thinly sliced

1 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

(1) Boil the potatoes approximately 20 to 25 minutes. The last 10 minutes add the carrot. (2) Drain potatoes and carrots and place in bowl to cool. Add salt and pepper. (3) Add grated onion, cucumber, radishes, Kewpie Mayonnaise and sour cream. Stir. (4) Top with sliced eggs. (5) ENJOY!

I took a big bowl of that potato salad to our Memorial Day celebration at my sister's house so "Why is my brother-in-law giving me that look?" He just found out what the big bowl of potato salad that he just ate consisted of! Rob has been on a meticulously determined diet with such will and resolve, that he has dropped over 40 pounds!

To take a word from my seventeen year old son.

"Sorry Rob!"

I have since done some more research on Japanese potato salad. Here are the changes I will make for this decadent treat. I am not going to put the cucumbers in the salad. Why? They don't stay firm and there is something about biting into a limp cucumber. If you don't believe me just ask Donna! And, I am going to take some of the potatoes and mash them like the do in Japan. In place of the cucumbers I will add a lot more radishes and carrots.

There you have it, JAPANESE POTATO SALAD. It is definitely worth a try for an unbelievable treat. The magazine suggests using the Kewpie Mayonnaise "as a dipping sauce with fried foods or in any mayo-based salad."

Stay tuned for reviews on Patak's Hot Lime Relish, Branston Pickle Relish and Vegemite. Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Strawberry-Rhubarb Citrus Jam and a Pole Vaulting Teenager

My kitchen has been shut down for the last couple of days. We had the final push for the remodel and I am happy to say things are almost done. I spent all day Tuesday on my hands and knees scrubbing my white tiled floor getting it ready for a reseal. I am not looking for sympathy here, but needless to say that wasn't a good thing to do for a girl who has to participate in a triathlon in a couple of weeks. I am sore where I didn't even know muscles existed!

Once again rhubarb mysteriously showed up on my doorstep! Rhubarb has a short shelf life so I had to work around the kitchen mess to create some Strawberry-Rhubarb Citrus Jam. I have to say it was a welcome break from the remodel.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Citrus Jam

2 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 package powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon extract
4 1/2 cups sugar

(1) Combine strawberries, rhubarb, powdered pectin and lemon juice in a large pot. (2) Bring to a boil and stir frequently. (3) Add sugar, stirring until dissolved and return to a boil. Boil 4 minutes, stirring constantly. (4) Remove from heat and skim foam. Add lemon extract. (5) Put jam into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust caps and process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. (6) ENJOY!

This jam is sweet, tangy and unique. The combination of strawberries and rhubarb really work to create a wonderful jam. You can use Splenda in place of the sugar without much change in the taste of the jam. The only thing that you will miss is the calories which is OK because bathing suit season is upon us. You want to jazz up a boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich use Strawberry-Rhubarb Citrus Jam.

Peanut Butter and Strawberry-Rhubarb Citrus Jam Sandwich

2 slices of thick bread
Peanut Butter, your choice
Strawberry-Rhubarb Citrus Jam
1/2 banana, sliced thin

(1) Spread both slices of bread with a heaping amount of peanut butter and Strawberry-Rhubarb Citrus Jam. Top with banana slices. (2) ENJOY!

This sandwich is delicious. It is perfect for a lunch, a snack, a hike, a boat ride, or a picnic. You will not be disappointed with the tangy tart fresh taste of the jam.

Now, back to the remodel. After spending all day scrubbing my tile floor they came yesterday morning to seal it. That means nobody on the floor for twenty four hours. I have a very open kitchen to the rest of my house and two dogs and one teenage son (17 years old) who still lives at home. So after the floor was sealed, honey and myself went to great pains to block the entire kitchen from anybody (or dog) making the mistake and walking on the floor. I am here to tell you that our kitchen was as secure as Fort Knox! I have one very smart dog and one dog that is scared of her own shadow. My scared puppy ran and hid when we starting securing the entrances to our kitchen. My smart dog was curious but we said "no" and he accepted that and kept his distance for the entire twenty four hour dry period.

Now, on to my son Luke! Luke had left for school before the sealing took place. After the sealing, I was on my way to meet my husband (Kenny) at Ikea to pick up some new decorations for our kitchen.

So, Kenny says to me, "Do you think we should text Luke and tell him about the kitchen and not to walk on the floor?"

I responded, "No, he will know not to walk on the floor!" I mean come on! Every entrance to our kitchen has gates, couches, chairs or tables blocking the way!"

While we were at Ikea my cell phone rang. It was Luke saying he was home from school. When I told him not to walk in the kitchen my statement was met with a long bout of silence.

"You are standing on the kitchen floor right now, aren't you?"

"Yes, but I won't do it again," Luke says.

"Luke, didn't you see the entire kitchen was blocked off?"


Sometimes the frustration level with teenagers will lead you to want to pull your hair out or drink! It just so happens that our Ikea is right by Kenny's favorite pizza, Unos. So, after Luke's "misstep" we decided to split a pizza and a pitcher of beer. By the time we were finished with our meal and beer we were prepared for any damage Luke had done to the kitchen floor. No harm done, everything was fine!

This morning we started to put our kitchen back together. I spend most of the time shaking my head about Luke finding his way into a kitchen that was as secure as Fort Knox. He literally had to pole vault over tables and chairs! To take a word from his vocabulary, "WHATEVER!"

Have a great day and a fun holiday weekend.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saying Thank You to Stonyfield Farm® with Yogurt Cream Honey Pound Cake

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Kristina from Stonyfield Farm® asking if I would like to try Oikos Organic Greek yogurt in my baking or cooking! Of course the answer was "YES!" The partnership was perfect (a match made in yogurt heaven) because I am a self declared yogurt lover.

I have to admit that I have not eaten much Greek yogurt up until now. Being a creature of habit, I have always bought the same old yogurt. I know what you are thinking, boring. AND, I had never really given yogurt consideration beyond eating it out of the container. Everything changed when Kristina introduced me to Oikos.

It's hard to believe something so good for you can taste so good! But believe me, Oikos Organic Greek yogurt from Stonyfield Farm® is loaded with remarkable flavor. So what makes this yogurt different from all the others you see around? It is thick, creamy, tart and a pleasant change from the ho-hum other yogurts.

Kristina sent me five coupons for five (FREE) 5.3 OZ containers of Oikos Greek yogurt. I also received four miscellaneous coupons, AND a reusable grocery shopping bag! I have started collecting these shopping bags and this big bright yellow one makes a great addition. Oikos comes in the flavors of plain, vanilla, honey and blueberry.

I had decided that I would use my coupons to bake one sweet recipe and cook one savory recipe. I choose two honey and three plain Oikos yogurts. The first recipe I came up with is a Yogurt Cream Honey Pound Cake. When the summer months come, I make several different flavors of pound cake and freeze them in small slices to serve with fresh fruits of the season for a special treat. Pound cake freezes wonderfully and imagine the surprise of "unexpected" guests when you serve them a slice of pound cake with fresh fruit and whipped topping in no time flat.

Yogurt Cream Honey Pound Cake

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

6 eggs

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 containers of Oikos Honey Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

powdered sugar for dusting

(1) Separate the egg white from one egg and save yolk. Whip egg white until soft peaks appear. Add whipped egg white, yogurt and corn starch to pan and heat but do not boil. Cool. (2) Cream together butter and sugar. Add remaining egg yolk and eggs, one at a time, beating will after each addition. (3) Add flour and baking soda and continue to mix well. (4) Add yogurt mixture and extract. (5) Pour into greased and floured 1o-inch tube pan and bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until slightly browned. (6) Cool and dust with poweder sugar. ENJOY!

I did run into one BIG problem when I was baking with the Oikos Honey Greek yogurt! I bought two containers of the honey yogurt and I needed two containers for the recipe that I had created. Of course when I opened the first container, I had to have a little bite to see what it tasted like. The honey sits on the bottom of the container, so I gave it a little stir and popped a bite in my mouth. YUM!! The fusion between the sweet honey and tart yogurt made my tastes buds dance. It's addictive, unique and a great way to get your calcium, protein and a ton of other good things for you. And believe me, it's 10 times better than the yogurt I have been eating. Hence, my problem was that I ate the entire container right there on the spot and out to the store I had to go.

The Yogurt Cream Honey Pound Cake is extraordinary. It is moist, full of flavor and it's an irresistibly stupendous treat! The brown sugar in the recipe creates a mild crunchy crust on the outside of the cake. You'll love it, trust me! This is the first time I have baked with yogurt, but it won't be the last. A big thanks to Kristina and the kind folks at Stonyfield Farm® for expanding my yogurt repertoire.

Stay tuned for my savory creation using the plain Oikos Greek yogurt . Have a wonderful day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saying Happy Mother's Day with Honey Mixed Fruit Bars

The phone is ringing.


"Aunt Gin," it is Ellie." (my eleven year old niece)

"Hi Ellie. What are doing?"

"Nothing. What are you bringing for dessert for Nana (my mother) for Mother's Day?" asked Ellie.

"Oh, you want me to make dessert for Nana?"

"Yes," said Ellie. "Something you have never made for us before. Something special."

I present to you, Happy Mother's Day Honey Mixed Fruit Bars!

Honey Mixed Fruit Bars

2 cups dried mixed fruit
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 apple juice
2 tablespoons butter
the juice of one lemon
1/2 salt
2 eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 13x9 inch Pan with cooking spray. (2) In a saucepan, cook all filling ingredients except egg over medium heat about 15 minutes. Cool. Pour mixture into food processor. cover and process pulsing on and off until fruit in finely chopped. Add egg and pulse processor until mixed. (3) In a large bowl, mix all base ingredients with fork until crumbly. (4) Pat half of the mixture in bottom of pan. Spread filling over base and sprinkle with remaining oat mixture. Press lightly. (5) Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into bars.
(6) ENJOY!!

These bars are unique, versatile, moist and big in flavor. They are a great choice for an everyday treat or good enough for special occasions like Mother's Day. You certainly can change the filling flavor to your liking. My friend makes them with dried apples. She serves her bars with a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt and homemade Carmel topping. They are out of this world delicious.

Make sure that you cool these bars completely before trying to cut them. I am always too eager to have one, so I cut them way before they are cool. Do you know what I end up with? A BIG MESS! Of course they are good with the standards, coffee, milk and hot chocolate. They are great to take on picnics, boating, hiking, and book club. If you take them to book club, you might as well take copies of the recipe because you will be asked.

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Celebrating Cinco De Mayo With One Spicy Walnut

Happy Cinco De Mayo!!

This is going to be short, sweet and and spicy. To buy flavored nuts is insanely expensive. You can fight the high prices by making your own. Whatever your choice of nut is, the flavor possibilities are unlimited.

I personally love spiced walnuts. The spicier, the better. When I decided that I wanted to give some of my friends a little Cinco De Mayo gift, I looked no further than the big bag of walnuts that I always have in my pantry. I was lucky that Dar had brought to my attention Charmane's Gourmet Seasonings. Charmane has some of the most unbelievable flavored sea salts that you will ever come across! Don't take my word for it, give her a visit and see what I am talking about!

Gin's Spicy Walnuts

2 cups walnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon Habanero Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 garlic powder
1/2 onion powder
1/2 cup finely chopping fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (2) Put all ingredients in a large plastic bag and shake, shake, shake. (3) Bake for 12 minutes and cool. (4) ENJOY!!

Here is my suggestion to you. Make, bake and bag these for gifts immediately. They are addicting. I know that walnuts are good for you, but I pretty sure they are not talking about 2 pounds at one time? The possibilities for the use of these walnuts are also unlimited. They can be eaten plain, on a salad, in a cheese ball, on pasta, used as ravioli filling, and so on....

Have a happy Cinco De Mayo.

PS Spicy Walnuts are also good with a "big" icy Margarita or a cold Mexican beer!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Tower of Tangy Rhubarb Mini Coffee Cakes

Being the resident "foodie" of the neighborhood, sometimes things just show up at my doorstep! Tuesday I was out running the neighborhood, preparing for a June triathlon (another story see below) and came home to find a bag full of fresh rhubarb.

I absolutely love rhubarb. It is sweet-tart and lends itself to jams, pies, sauces and of course coffee cake. Rhubarb is easy to prepare and even better to eat.

I recently have come into procession of a mini square Calphalon baking pan. I love it!! It didn't take long for me to start thinking Mini Rhubarb Coffee Cakes.

Tangy Rhubarb Mini Coffee Cakes

1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup fat free half n half
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon coffee extract
3 oz cream cheese
4 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1/2 flour
3/4 sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 packs of instant oatmeal flavor of your choice (I used Maple and Brown sugar)

(1)Heat oven to 325 degrees. (2) In a large bowl beat cake mix, half n half, vanilla, almond extract, coffee extract and cream cheese. Beat on medium speed for at least two minutes. (3) Boil a pot of water and remove from heat. Add 2 cups of the fresh rhubarb to the water for approximately two minutes. Gently drain. (4) By hand, gently fold the additional two cups of fresh rhubarb that you have coated in 1/4 cup of the flour and the "cooked" rhubarb. (5) In a small bowl mix sugar, remaining 1/4 cup flour, butter and oatmeal to coarse crumbs. Fill muffin cups (or in my case the mini squares) only half full. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top and bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and remove from pan. ENJOY!!

These mini coffee cakes are really good. They are perfect with coffee, milk or tea. They are sweet with a tang to awaken your taste buds. So get baking!!

Why did I bring up the fact that I am doing a triathlon? BECAUSE I don't want to do it!! I participated the Little Miami Triathlon in October with my husband (honey) being my partner. The triathlon consist of 6 mile canoe, 5.5 mile run, and an 18 mile bike race in that order. It literally took me days to recover from this gruelling race! Let me just tell you that we were awful! We didn't come in last, but darn close. We totally underestimated the canoe part of the race and spent most of the time in the water! A bunch of people in our neighborhood participated in this triathlon and they beat us by over an hour. So, with honey it is kind of a pride thing. Me on the other hand, I just plain don't care. At neighborhood parties we are kind of made fun of and I pretty much take it stride. This kind of harassing just eggs honey on.

So, at the beginning of the year, Lo and behold, I got an email congratulating me on signing up for the Little Miami Triathlon! I have remained strong in my commitment NOT to do this triathlon, but my resolve is wavering. Honey wants to do it, now my sister is doing it, and how the heck can I say 'NO?"

Any suggestions for how I can say "no" just pass them my way! Other than that, have a wonderful day!