December 31, 2010

2011 - The year of the pie

Are you the kind of person that is able to do things just because you want to, for no apparent reason?  I usually am not a “do it because I want to” kind-a girl.  But this may change in 2011.  I’m starting to feel random again!
Take this blog (SRFD) for instance.  Is there a clear reason I like to do this?  I've told myself it's a creative outlet, an opportunity to tell some stories, learn more about photography, or … have an excuse to bake something because I want to blog about it.  I shouldn’t feel I need a reason to bake if I want to.  So this is working for me – the thing I can do just because I want to and not feel bad about it.
I have a couple of young nieces that have used SRFD instructions to bake their first pies!  That's success if you ask me.  Passing on some tiny piece of passion for cooking is a good thing.  My Mom would have liked that. 

I typically need an angle, a purpose to everything I do.   “I have to get this done so I can blog it.  Somebody out there is counting on me.”  At least that’s what I tell myself.  I'm starting to think that ‘justification’ is highly overrated.   Is there some sort of ‘purpose police’ out there to question me about why I’m blogging?  I don’t make any money from it, my own kids don’t read it, and would anybody care if it just went away?  Yes, I think I would.  I think this is fun. 

I have rambled on and on with no apparent purpose!  Just kidding.  My special purpose is to tell you about an idea that recently popped into my head.  I’ve decided to challenge myself and make 52 different pies, one a week, for the entire year of 2011.  Why?  Ha!  I don’t know!  Maybe just because it's so random and has no specific purpose other than I wondered if I can come up with that many pies.  I sat down and started making a list and actually came up with 42 different pies off the top of my head.  My sister-in-law gave me # 43 but it won’t necessarily be #43 in the rotation.  Obviously I need a more challenging job if I have enough time to think about this stuff.  I think that's on the top of my list for 2011 :)

Seriously … I think this will be fun, and random, and yummy, and maybe somewhere out there someone will find it helpful.    I told my kids they have to eat one piece of pie each week for the entire year.  Oh how they suffer.  I didn’t have to tell Husband he had to eat pie.  He asked if blueberry pie can be first since I have deprived him by only making one in 25 years of marriage.  So Husband, blueberry it is!  I think I will have this crust thing nailed down by the end of the year.  Practice, practice & practice some more!

I will bake a pie each weekend and post them on Monday’s throughout the year.  Please come along and see if you can guess which one is next!  If you have any favorite recipes please feel free to share.  You can email me at  I will continue to share healthy recipes I enjoy, and will visit healthy topics as much as possible.  I will even talk a little about going to college if I have to. 

As mentioned when I started this blog, I have tried many, many diets in my life.  They all work, but not forever.  I am still trying to achieve my feel good weight while focusing on natural foods and indulging in an occasional dessert.  Somehow knowing that I can have something sweet and special on the weekend, may help me stay on track during the week. 

I truly appreciate your readership and hope you like pie!  Many blessings to you and your family!

Husband and I are going downtown tonight to the family friendly Fredericksburg First Night event.  He's going to try and show me some camera tips about crowd shots at night!  Be safe and share something sweet with the ones you love!

Thanks for stopping by!  Tricia

December 29, 2010

Southwestern Spinach Dip

Just in time for your New Year's Eve or football party - this warm dip will complete your menu!  I've made Southwestern Spinach Dip for many years and always receive requests for the recipe.

It can be made ahead and refrigerated until time to bake.
Add an extra 5-10 minutes baking time or remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking.  It won't disappoint!
Cream cheese, chopped frozen spinach, onion, Rotel tomatoes, Monterey Jack cheese and cilantro.

Thaw the spinach and discard excess water.

Chop the onion and add to the mixing bowl with the spinach.

Chop the cilantro and throw it in too.

Grate 2 cups of cheese.  Add 1 cup to the spinach mixture.  Reserve the remaining 1 cup for the top.

Add the Rotel.  I usually drain a little water from the can so the dip is not too runny.

Add the cream cheese (room temperature).  Mix all ingredients until well blended.

Pour into a greased 9 inch pie plate.

Lookin' yummy!

Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese and sprinkle with Red Pepper flakes if desired.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

This will be bubbly HOT so resist the temptation to eat the dip immediately. 
Allow it to sit for a few minutes before serving.  Serve with chips, sliced bread or crackers! 

For a printable copy of the recipe, click HERE.

Southwestern Spinach Dip

1 (10 oz) box chopped spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can Rotel (chopped tomato & green chilies)
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (divided)
1 tablespoon cilantro
(0ptional - hot salsa or red pepper flakes)

Thaw chopped spinach and discard excess water.  In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, cilantro, chopped onion, Rotel, spinach and 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese.  Mix until creamy.

Place in a 9 inch greased deep dish pie plate.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Serve with tortilla chips, bread slices or crackers.


Thanks for stopping by ~ Tricia

Diavolo Sauce with fresh goat cheese

As mentioned in an early blog-life post, up until the spring 2010 I had never read a blog or had any idea how much great information is out there.  Not only can you find blogs on any subject matter you desire, you can also develop a whole new group of blog friends.  Bloggers are truly some of the nicest people I have ever emailed!  I hope to meet some of my favorites one day.  Maybe at a blogger convention in 2011 in DC?  Sounds like fun to me. 

There are several blogs I read almost every-single-day.  One blog titled The Smart Kitchen has been a favorite since day-one of my new blog-reader life.  Sarah has never disappointed with her wit and wisdom, which is not often seen in a woman that young.  She is a school teacher and I know her students must enjoy class everyday! 

Sarah recently posted her Christmas dinner menu and one of the items was a marinara, goat cheese appetizer served with bread for dipping.  I haven't tried this yet but had developed a super easy dinner with the same ingredients.  I read somewhere about Diavolo Sauce, a spicy marinara sauce.  I also read a recipe on The Pioneer Woman blog where she used tomato sauce and heavy cream to make an orange sauce.  I try to shy away from cream and butter (except during the holidays) but the orange sauce idea intrigued me.  So I decided to use goat cheese to blend with the Diavolo Sauce and see if we could get orange.

I am very pleased with the final product.  The Diavolo Sauce is still spicy, but now it's also creamy!  Something about the goat cheese that makes the sauce stick to the pasta like no other.  I don't know about you, but I need 'easy and tasty' a couple of days a week!  I found this sauce at our local Wegman's grocery store.  I haven't seen it anywhere else but I will look around.  You know, "if you're not looking for it, you probably won't find it."  Wait ... is it, "if you're" ... oh never mind.  You know what I mean!  I hope ;)

I like the saying "easy peasy!"  And I like a recipe that fits in that category.

This Diavolo Sauce seems to have natural ingredients, low fat, and not the worst sodium content I've ever seen in a pasta sauce.

Put it in a pan and warm on medium heat.

Once it is heated through, blend in the desired amount of goat cheese and stir until melted.

Pour over cooked pasta and garnish with fresh basil if desired. 
I can even remember this recipe without writing it down.
Serve with a small tossed salad and enjoy!

Skipping along to another topic - my traveling husband says I should 'toot my own horn' sometimes.  So I guess I will.  Ree (The Pioneer Woman) is the queen of bloggers.  She has a cookbook (bought on sale in Chicago!) and a romance novel about her marriage to her rancher husband, and she somehow manages to home school her children while running an incredible blog with huge readership. 

Occasionally Ree sponsors photography contests.  On a whim I submitted a photo and was shocked when it was chosen as one of her picks to display.  I didn't make the final cut but was thrilled (and actually squealed) when I saw my photo on her blog.  I didn't even own a camera until August this year.  (This is a testament to my photographer husband and his photo assistance.)  I still don't understand most of it but like shooting pictures of my food creations.  Anyway - just sharing a happy moment - check out my photo on her Group 3 post.  Mine is the Peanut Butter Blossom cookie photo.  I had already uploaded the photo my SRFD blog header before I submitted to Ree.  It makes my mouth water.  Yumm - and I really did eat the cookie with the curl on top, when it was warm, and melty, and yum!

Do you have big plans for New Year's Eve?  My objective is to stay awake long enough for the ball to drop!  I'm such a wimp!

Thanks for stopping by! 


December 28, 2010

Spinach-Apple Salad

We had our big family dinner on Christmas Eve.  I didn't get any photos since it was family time.  That sounds a little weird since most people take pictures when they have family to dinner.  What I meant was I didn't take food photos because I was visiting with my children. 

We had a great dinner with beef tenderloin, Corn Pudding, seasoned red potatoes, garlic toast and a terrific Spinach-Apple Salad.  The salad is a December 2009 Southern Living Recipe.  I was thrilled with all the recipes and feel certain I will make it all again. 

There was a lot of dressing left over so I made another salad to serve with a roasted chicken for dinner tonight.  The Sugared Curried Pecans and Maple-Cider Vinaigrette can both be made several days in advance.  All you need to do at that point is assemble the spinach, slice a red onion and a Gala apple, and sprinkle on the goat cheese crumbles.

Lots of flavor and crunch!

Spinach-Apple Salad with Maple-Cider Vinaigrette

Sugared Curried Pecans:
1 (6-oz) package pecan halves
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Maple-Cider Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

1 (10-oz) package fresh baby spinach thoroughly washed
1 Gala apple, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 (4-oz) package crumbled goat cheese

1.  Prepare pecans:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss pecans in butter.  Stir together sugar and next 4 ingredients in a bowl; add pecans, tossing to coat.  Spread in a single layer in a nonstick aluminum foil-lined pan.  Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned and toasted.  Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes; separate pecans with a fork.

2.  Prepare Vinaigrette:  Whisk together cider vinegar and next 4 ingredients.  Gradually whisk in oil until well blended.

3.  Prepare Salad:  Combine spinach and next 3 ingredients in a bowl.  Drizzle with desired amount of Maple-Cider Vinaigrette; toss to coat.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Serve salad with any remaining Vinaigrette.

Note:  Pecans may be made up to 1 week ahead.  Store in an airtight container.  Vinaigrette may be made up to 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Yield:  Makes 6 servings

Hope you're enjoying your week and getting back to the normal routine. 
Thanks so much for stopping by!


December 27, 2010

T'was the Monday after Christmas ....

It's the Monday after Christmas and in a way I'm so glad.  I'm not so glad to go back to work but am thankful to have a good job.  We have snow on the ground and it is blustery cold, but nothing to write home about!
We had great family Christmas time together, watching movies, playing a little Wii, cooking, and eating, and eating some more.  I must say that I'm very happy to get back to a normal food routine.  I LOVE to bake and have enjoyed making all the candy and cookies.  I have LOVED blogging the recipes and taking photos of the sweet indulgences.  I have enjoyed giving it away and hopefully making someones holidays a little sweeter. 
I only had two cooking mishaps but nothing required stitches.  I ruined one very good pan making a batch of Burnt Sugar Almonds.  I burnt them alright!  It was a total disaster and into the trash it went.  I've been shopping for a new pan to replace the one I burned up, but this may be a lot harder than I thought. 
The other mishap involved a Christmas present.  I make a lot of fudge and toffee.  A LOT.  My husband has tried for three Christmas's in a row to buy me a candy thermometer.  I normally don't use one but he thought I could change my ways and go more high-tech.  I welcomed the opportunity to try but each one has not worked with my needs or cookware.  This year I was excited because I thought this design would be the one.  Unfortunately the glass broke on the tube before it even reached 300 degrees while making a batch of English Toffee.  Who would have thought a thermometer would break doing what it is supposed to do?  The glass was somewhere in the Toffee so it all went into the trash.  I told my husband that I'm done trying to use those things.  I'll stick with my old low-tech method.  It has worked for years and it doesn't break!
This morning I really enjoyed my Banana Smoothie with Greek Yogurt, almond milk and frozen banana.  For lunch I have a pear, an almond butter sandwich and an orange if I need an afternoon snack.  It will take about two weeks to detox from the sugar / carb overload but I'm ready for the challenge!  Vege's for dinner tonight!

My husband bought some Jillian Michaels exercise DVDs for Christmas.  I'm ready to do some indoor exercising since it's too cold to walk - at least for me it's too cold!  I wonder if Jillian will yell at me? 

I have one more package of goodies to send out but everything was made last night.  This one's going to Texas and now I'll put away the recipes for another year!
I'm not into this New Year's resolution thing, but refocusing is way on the top of my list.  What are you going to do to get back on track, if you fell off the track like me? 

I'm also in search of a good black-eye'd pea recipe.  Any suggestions? 
Thanks for stopping by!  Tricia

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! (Hot Cocoa Recipe)

It's Christmas and I hope you're spending time with loved ones. 

Even though I've only been blogging a few months, I've enjoyed sharing recipes sprinkled with a few adventures with my family and new friends.

I am very grateful you've taken the time to stop by and see what's cooking at my house.  I enjoyed a very nice Christmas Eve dinner with my husband, son, daughter and my son's girlfriend.  I will post a couple of recipes soon.  The biggest hit at dinner was the Corn Pudding recipe I found on Tasty Kitchen.  They were fighting over the last spoonfuls.  Very nice, easy recipe and oh so delicious.

We were hoping for a white Christmas, but the nor'easter stayed off the coast and missed us completely.  But I was still in the mood for homemade hot chocolate even without the snow. 

Everything you need is right in the pantry. 
Sugar, milk, cocoa, salt, hot water and vanilla. 
The Reddiwip and marshmallows are not necessary but I love em!.

Stir the sugar, salt and coca together.

Stir until well blended.

Add boiling water and stir over medium heat until boiling.

Boil two minutes, stirring constantly.  Add milk and stir until well blended.

Heat cocoa but do not boil.

Serve with whipped cream or marshmallows if desired.
I chopped up a Hershey's Chocolate Kiss and sprinkled it on top.

Enjoy by the fire, in front of the tree, anywhere is fine!

Or maybe you have someone in the marshmallow camp at your house. 
I sprinkled the rest of the chocolate kiss on this one too!

I think I got carried away with the marshmallows but husband didn't complain!

Then we took a drive and traveling husband took some photos for me to share with you.

This guy is a couple of miles from us near the battlefields. 
He has quite the collection of antique tractors and every year he lines them up and decorates them with lights and Santa.

Tiger is on the orange tractor since he is mostly orange.

Another shot of the line-up.

This house had a variety of colors and themes.

You can see this house from a long way off!

They put a lot of effort into their decorations.

Very pretty complete with Santa!

Love the gingerbread men!

Favorite Hot Cocoa
 (adapted from the Hershey's Cocoa container)

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
Dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in saucepan; stir in water.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils.  Boil and stir 2 minutes.  Stir in milk and heat.  Do not boil.  Remove from heat; add vanilla.  Serve!

Merry Christmas!
Thanks for stopping by!  Tricia

December 24, 2010

Russian Tea Cakes

Merry Christmas! 

This is the last cookie recipe I'm making for Christmas and the last cookie I'll post for a while.  Seriously, I promise!  I have some other ideas and a plan for 2011 so please check back after Christmas for the SRFD announcement :)

Russian Tea Cakes are sometimes called 'Wedding Cookies', 'Snowballs' or just 'Tea Cookies.' This recipe is very old and barely held together with tape.  I work from a photocopy so it won't deteriorate any more.  This recipe has been loved for a long time.

My mom used to make these and they were always a family favorite.  The cookies are described as crunchy, sugar-dusted nut balls.  That says it all!

The ingredients are simple:  butter, confectioners sugar, sifted flour, salt, vanilla and chopped nuts.

I use pecans and instead of chopping, I grate the nuts for a very fine, powdery consistency.

I believe grating the pecans is the secret to making these a great, melt in your mouth cookie. 

Blend all ingredients together with a mixer.

Roll into 1" balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet or parchment paper.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 14 to 17 minutes.

The cookies don't dramatically change their shape nor do they need to get overly brown.  Check the bottom of a cookie for a light brown color.

Immediately roll the hot cookie in additional powdered sugar.  I gently place a few cookies in the bowl so they will begin to melt the powdered sugar and form a coat of icing.

Place the rolled cookies on a wire rack to cool.

You can see how the powdered sugar melts to the cookie.
Once completely cool, roll again in the sugar and enjoy!

Pretty Christmas cups of cookies!

I try to make these 'bite sized' to help prevent a sugar mess on the front of your shirt.

For a printable copy of this recipe click HERE.

Russian Tea Cakes  crunchy, sugar-dusted nut balls

1 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (grated)

Mix all ingredients together until blended.  Form into 1 inch balls.  Bake at 400 degrees for 14 to 17 minutes.  While hot, roll in additional confectioners sugar.  Cool, roll in sugar again.  Makes 5 dozen.

Thanks for stopping by! 

I hope you have a magical Christmas with family, friends and loved ones.
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