Sunday, June 30, 2013

A You're Adorable

Our 4-year old son Nate performed in his first dance recital Thursday night. He performed again last night and has caught the performing bug. He absolutely loved it! Here's a video of his first performance on stage. I apologize for the bouncing. It was hard for me to record it and watch at the same time. Plus I was sweating like crazy as I was so nervous for him!

If you have trouble viewing the video, here is a link to YouTube .

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short Ribs

The first part of this week was rainy and cold. I always want hearty foods when that happens. I figured this would be my last chance for a good old stew or something similar before the Summer heat arrives. I'm attempting to slowly cook my way through our freezer as it is way too jam packed of who knows what. In my search for a good stewing meat I came across a package of bone-in beef short ribs, perfect!

I had a recipe from Bon Appetit that I've been wanting to try and I had nearly everything on hand. These were surprisingly easy to make, moist and very flavorful. The meat literally fell off of the bone so I removed the bones when serving. Also I didn't have parsnip on hand so used carrots, a delicious substitution. One more caveat, I didn't have Zinfandel but had 3 bottles of random red wines open. I simply added a little of each to equal a full bottle of wine. Perhaps someone with a really sophisticated palate could tell I mixed and matched wines but to me it tasted great!
Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short Ribs
3 T butter, room temperature,  divided
8 3-4" long meaty beef short ribs (about 4 pounds)
Coarse kosher salt
2 1/2 c. red onions, chopped
2 c. parsnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 bottle Zinfandel, 750-ml
2 c. low-salt beef broth
1T. flour

Preheat oven to 325°F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle ribs with coarse salt and pepper. Add to pot in single layer and sauté until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer ribs to large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon butter to pot along with onions; sauté until brown, about 6 minutes. Add parsnips; sauté until beginning to color, about 6 minutes. Mix in garlic, then rosemary. Add wine and broth; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits.
Return ribs and any accumulated juices to pot, arranging in single layer. Bring to simmer; cover and place in oven. Braise until ribs are very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Using tongs, transfer ribs to clean bowl. Spoon fat from pan juices. Boil juices until just beginning to thicken, about 10 minutes. Mix 1 tablespoon butter and flour in small bowl to smooth paste. Whisk into juices in pot; simmer until thickened enough to coat spoon, about 5 minutes longer. Season gravy with coarse salt and pepper. Return ribs to pot; spoon gravy over. Serve on top of mashed potatoes.
Do Ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over low heat before serving.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Snickers Bars

I made these awesome "Snickers" bars for Jim for Father's Day. He loves Snickers and especially loves them frozen so I knew that this dessert would be a hit. It took a lot of work but didn't disappoint. It doesn't have caramel like the actual candy bar and I thought about adding some but I think the caramel would freeze into a jaw breaking layer which is why it was left out of the recipe in the first place. The recipe comes from Breanne Varela of Tavern in LA and was in Bon Appetit Magazine a couple of years ago.
Note, I made this recipe over 3 days which eased the work load: Day 1 the base; day 2 the nougat and Bavarian cream; and day 3 the chocolate coating.
"Snickers" Bars
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 1/2 oz. high-quality milk chocolate, chopped
1 c. creamy peanut butter (not natural style)
3/4 c. puffed rice cereal
Peanut Nougat
1 large egg white, room temperature
1/8 t. plus 3/4 c. sugar
3 T. honey
1 T. light corn syrup
1/2 c. toasted salted peanuts, chopped
1/2 t. kosher salt
Milk Chocolate Bavarian Cream
4 T.  whole milk, divided
1 1/2 t. unflavored gelatin
1 c. chilled heavy cream, divided
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 T. sugar
9 oz. high-quality milk chocolate, melted

Chocolate Coating
9 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
2 1/2 T. unsalted butter

Base  Coat an 8x8x2" metal baking pan with nonstick spray; line with plastic, pressing to smooth out any wrinkles. Place chocolate in a medium metal bowl; set over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in peanut butter, the cereal. Press over bottom of prepared pan in an even layer. Cover; chill for 1 hour.

Peanut Nougat  Line a baking sheet with parchment; coat with nonstick spray. Place egg white in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until frothy. Add 1/8 teaspoon sugar; beat until peaks begin to form. Bring honey to a boil in a small saucepan. With mixer running, gradually add honey to egg white. Set aside.

Stir 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and 3 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat; boil until mixture reaches 275 degrees, 5-7 minutes.

Return mixer with egg white to medium speed. Gradually add syrup to egg white, allowing it to drip down sides of bowl. Beat until glossy and stiff, about 5 minutes. Fold in peanuts and salt. Spread nougat over prepared sheet into an 8: square (about 1/4" thick). Let cool for 1 hour.

Invert nougat over base in pan; peel off parchment. Spread over base in even layer.

Milk Chocolate Bavarian Cream  Place 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over; let stand to soften, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring remaining 2 tablespoons milk and 1/4 cup cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk yolks and sugar in a medium bowl; gradually whisk in hot cream mixture. Return to same pan. Stir over medium-low heat until thickened and a thermometer registers 175 degrees, about 3 minutes. Add gelatin; whisk until dissolved.

Place melted chocolate in another medium bowl. Pour cream mixture through a strainer into chocolate; whisk until smooth.

Beat remaining 3/4 cup chilled cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture in 2 additions, folding just to blend between additions. Pour Bavarian cream over nougat, spreading in an even layer. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Chocolate Coating  Place chocolate and butter in a bowl set oer a medium saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Invert 8: pan onto a work surface; remove pan and peel off plastic. Turn over. Cute into 6 slices, then halve each slice crosswise. Transfer pieces to prepared baking sheet, base side down. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate over tops and sides of bars. Freeze to set, 30 minutes.

Do Ahead: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with foil; freeze.

Note: I found the bars pretty rich and impossible to eat one whole bar. I halved the bars and made "minis" which were perfect.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Tips - Pan Storage

We made a life changing organizational move that I had to share. Our house is older so doesn't have much storage space. One of my biggest pet peeves was the way we stored our pans: piled on top of each other. It worked out alright if you wanted the smallest one on the top but if you needed the largest on the bottom you had to haul the huge pile to reach it. It was frustrating and heavy.

While at the Container Store (aka organizational heaven) I came across a cooking lid organizer. I was thinking of purchasing it for that purpose when I read the box and it showed an alternate use as a pan organizer. Our cupboards are abnormally narrow and short so we simply screwed the metal base to the wall of the cupboard. This is one of the most simple changes but has been seriously life changing. No more grunting and groaning or dropping heavy pans on my feet. I love it!

PS I've been cooking up a storm. Recipes I hope to get up later this week include: homemade Snickers bars, Blueberry Lemon Jam, and Zinfandel-braised short ribs.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


A hallmark of Summer are red drinks that stain you lips, tongue and anything else the super sweet drink touches. I've never given my kids Kool-Aid (in fact I had to Google how it is even spelled!) but at their cousins' graduation party they had strawberry daiquiri mock-tails.

The kiddos took such joy in drinking it that I felt a bit guilty that I'd never given them anything similar before. That guilt lasted all of 3 seconds when I saw the ingredients... Yikes. It was fun while it lasted but it isn't going to be something that we indulge in very often.

Happy Summer!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


The other day we had our friends the Tinkles over. Their son Isaac is one of Nate's best friends. Aren't they a couple of cuties?

It was a sunny day and Nate's been waiting for a sunny day to break out his squirt guns. They ran, they squirted each other, they squirted themselves, and laughed non-stop.

It was fun to watch from the sidelines.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday Tips - Bundt Cakes

Have you ever made a bundt cake and gone to take it out of the pan only to have a large portion stuck in the pan? Nothing is more frustrating. The number one reason for sticking is not greasing your pan properly.

The second reason is the timing of when you remove the cake from the pan. If the cake is too hot it will fall apart when you try to remove it. Too cold and it will stick in the pan. The ideal time to remove a bundt cake from a pan is 30-40 minutes after you take it out of the oven. I've been setting my kitchen timer each time I remove a cake from the oven and sure enough if you let the cake cool but not get cold it will come out of the pan with ease!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Wishing all of Papas, Daddy's, Grandpa's, Father's...

Gong Gong's, and dads-to-be a very Happy Father's Day!

Rice Pot Mama

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Strawberry Vanilla Jam

We went strawberry picking last Friday with our friends the Okerstroms. It was a fun sticky time. Gabby pretty much ate anything she, white or green. Nate practiced basketball with the strawberries tossing them into the buckets. In other words, there wasn't much else we could do with the strawberries but make jam. I've been wanting to get back into canning for years and this was our first foray back.

To start, the night before you want to make the jam, hull the berries and chop them roughly. 
Sprinkle 1 cup of sugar on top.

Slice open two vanilla beans and scrape out those little bits of heaven.

Mix the vanilla beans and their pods into the strawberry mixture. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so to get nice and juicy then cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, start the jam process by getting your equipment ready. Boil the jars and lids in a large pot of water to sanitize.
While the jars heat up take out the strawberries. Take two lemons and zest them. I used a microplane zester. I find that they get very little of the pith (white part of the lemon) which is bitter.

Mix the zest into the strawberries.

Then juice those lemons, pour in the juice and mix.
Pour everything into a large, nonreactive pot (not metal) and bring to a boil. It will foam like mad at first. Cook on high for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
You want the jam to be syrupy. If you take a wooden spoon and run it through the jam the jam should not run off in a steady single stream. If it does, keep cooking on high heat.

When the jam is ready it should form a bit of a sheet when dripping off of the spoon. See how there is more than one drip on the spoon?

It reduced quite a bit. Turn off the heat and remove the vanilla bean pods.

Take an immersion blender and puree some of the fruit. If you did a good job chopping the fruit you will only need to puree about on third of the jam.

Next add in the pectin and return to a boil. I used one 1.75 oz box of Sure-Jell. This will make the jam a thicker consistency but still loose.

Boil until the jam reaches 220 degrees.

Remove jam from the heat and fill jars.

Leave about 1/2" at the top as the jam will increase in height after processed. Put on lids and rings. The rings should only be tightened as much as you can with just your fingertips not your whole palm. This will ensure proper sealing.

Place the jars in a large pot of water and boil for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars and set aside. After a few minutes you will start to hear pinging of the lids sealing. Let rest 1-2 weeks before eating.
We haven't cracked open a jar yet but we licked the pot clean. One word...yum! If the jam is a little too syrupy for your liking simply turn it into an ice cream topping!
This recipe is from the book Food in Jars. A great canning cookbook!
Strawberry Vanilla Jam
8 c. hulled and chopped strawberries
5 c. sugar, divided
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
2 lemons, zest and juice
1 (1.75 oz) package of pectin
In a nonreactive bowl, combine the chopped strawberries with 1 cup of the sugar and the vanilla bean seeds and pods. Let the mixture sit at room temperature until the sugar begins to pull the liquid out of the berries, about 15 to 30 minutes, the cover and refrigerate overnight. If you don't want to wait overnight, even just 1 hour of maceration is better than none at all.
When you're ready to make the jam, prepare a boiling water bath and 4 regular mouth 1-pint jars (I did 8 regular mouth 1/2-pint jars).
Remove the macerated strawberries from the refrigerator and pour everything into a large, nonreactive pot. Add the remaining 4 cups of sugar and lemon zest and juice and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat (this jam will foam madly) and cook on high heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until it takes on a thick, syrupy consistency.
Remove the vanilla bead pods from the mixture. If you have an immersion blender, use it at this point to puree some of the fruit. Alternatively, transfer about a third of the jam to a blender and puree, then return the pureed fruit to the pot.
Add the pectin to the fruit mixture and bring to a rolling boil. Insert your candy thermometer into the jam and attach it to the side of the pot. Let the jam boil vigorously until it reaches 220 degrees.
Once the jam reaches 220 degrees and remains at that temperature for 2 minutes, remove the pot from heat and ladle the jam into the prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Tips - Cleaning Microwaves

Have you ever put something in the microwave to reheat and then had it explode? Not just a splatter but explode everywhere like something out of a movie crime scene? The hubby microwaved a tomato-based bowl of food earlier in the week that completely splattered everywhere. I discovered it two days later after it had cemented onto the walls of the microwave.

I could use a multi-purpose cleaning spray as I have in the past though that has always bothered me. I feel like the smell of the chemicals linger and then they will somehow get in any food I reheat after the cleaning. I remembered reading in the past that a quick fix is to microwave a bowl of water to steam everything off of the walls.

I decided to give it a shot. 2 minutes on the clock. Afterwards I got one nice steamy microwave.

Voila! A clean microwave. The steam did the trick and I easily wiped clean the splatters with a paper towel. The best part is that this cleaning solution is chemical free!

Monday, June 10, 2013

I *Heart* Instagram

Valentine's Day - February 2013
Back in November I got a smart phone after my beloved flip phone died. I was leery of getting a smart phone. Half a year later, I am so glad the hubby made me take the plunge. One of my favorite Apps is Instagram. It's a great way to share photos with family far away with instant and quick editing capabilities. Here are some of my favorite Instagram photos from the past 6 months.
Hawaii - November 2012
Universal City Walk - December 2012

Kiddos with our new fish (now RIP) - January 2013

Ice cream fun with Auntie C - January 2013
A chilly stroll in the stroller - January 2013
Bathtime - January 2013
Bandaged chin after getting stitches - February 2013
Exploring the Japanese Gardens with friends - February 2013
Pretty pout? - February 2013
Showing off his cap collection - March 2013
Coloring Easter eggs - March 2013
Cool kids - April 2013
I love my sparkly new sandles! - May 2013
Dance photo shoot with cousins - May 2013
Best friends - generation 2 - June 2013