Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Baking and Holiday Plumbing

Last weeked I had the oppotunity to bake some things for the upcoming holiday get togethers Brian and I will be attending.  I actually had the house to myself for a night, so it was the perfect time to get my cook on!  Brian was down in Emporia doing part of the bathroom remodel- plumbing to be exact.  He got a lot of practice sweating pipes, fitting joints, fixing termite damage, etc.  Look at the great plumb job:



So while Brian was plumbing I was baking.  I made three different treats- Oreo Truffles, Salty Nutty Peanut Bars, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Crunch.  They are all very, very good.

Oreo Truffles
1 package Oreo cookies (not double stuffed)
8 oz. cream cheese
2 8 oz. packages semisweet baking chocolate, melted

Crush cookies to fine crumbs using a food processor (or however you want) and place in a medium bowl.  Add the cream cheese and mix until well blended (you shouldn't see any white from the cream cheese or oreos).  Roll the cookie mixture into about 42 balls, 1" in diameter.  Dip the balls into the melted chocolate and place on a wax paper covered cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Salty Nutty Peanut Bars
Cookie Base
1 pouch Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix
3 T vegetable oil
1 T water
1 egg
2 cups dry-roasted peanuts (salted)

1 bag (10 oz.) miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1 bag (10 oz.) peanut butter chips (1 2/3 cups)
2 cups dry-roasted peanuts (salted)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray bottom and sides of 13x9 pan with cooking spray.  In large bowl, stir all cookie base ingredients except peanuts until soft dough forms.  Press dough in bottom of pan.  Sprinkle evenly with 2 cups peanuts; press lightly into dough.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes until light golden brown.  Cool 30 minutes.

In 3-quart saucepan, heat marshmallows and butter over medium-low heat, stiring frequently, until melted.  Stir in peanut butter, milk and peanut butter chips until smooth.  Immediately pour marshmallow mixture over cookie base; spread evenly.  Sprinkle evenly with 2 cups peanuts; press gently into marshmallow mixture.

Refrigerate about 1 hour until firm.  Cut into bars.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Crunch
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 sticks plus 1 T unsalted butter
One 16 oz. jar creamy peanut butter
3 cups crispy rice cereal
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups confectioners' sugar

Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper.  In a medium saucepan, melt half the chocolate and 1 T of butter over low heat; stir in 1 cup peanut butter, then 2 cups rice cereal.  Spread the mixture evenly in prepared pan; refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.  Wash out the saucepan.

In the saucepan, combine the remaining 2 sticks butter and the salt; melt over medium heat, stirring.  Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining peanut butter and the confectioners' sugar.  Spread half of the peanut butter mixture over the cereal layer.  Top with the remaining 1 cup cereal.

In a small bowl, microwave the remaining chocolate at medium power until melted, 1.5 minutes.  Stir into the remaining peanut butter mixture.  Spread evenly on the cereal-topped peanut butter layer; refrigerate until set, about 45 minutes.  Cut into 16 pieces.

Later on this week I will be baking a pecan pie for Christmas dinner and preparing spinach artichoke dip for an appetizer.  Yummy!  I love the holidays simply for the excuse to eat all kinds of wonderful food.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Grilling Technique Makes for a Great Dinner

This past Saturday evening my cousin Kate came up to visit and spend the night.  We had a blast eating, drinking, talking and playing a few rounds of Guitar Hero (with singing).

There were a couple of firsts that happened on Saturday.  Kate got to see our house for the first time and hang out in our basement.

Kate also brought homemade absinthe that her friend made which Brian and I tried for the first time.  It's definitely not something you could drink a lot of, but it was very tasty and hopefully when her friend finishes up another batch we will be getting some.  And no, we did not see a green Kylie Minogue fairy flying around.

The third first was grilling salmon on cedar planks.  We went to Home Depot and bought a piece of cedar which Brian cut into several smaller 12" sections (who wants to pay $15 for a couple of small, pre-cut boards when you can make your own?).  We soaked the planks for about 2 hours (you don't want the boards to burn up on the grill) and pre-heated them on the grill to get them smoking to start letting out the cedar "flavor".

I had bought a 2 pound, skinless salmon cut into two pieces which had been marinating for about 15 hours in a 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup honey, 1 T freshly grated ginger, a couple of chopped green onions, a couple of dashes siratcha (hot sauce), and 1/2 T ground mustard.

The combination of the marinade and cedar planks made for some of the best tasting salmon I have ever had.  Every time we would go to check on the salmon the smell coming from the grill just absolutely made our mouths water!  We cooked the salmon for about 20 minutes (until they reached 130 degrees internally), adding more marinade after 10 minutes.  What is nice about the cedar planks is that you don't even have to flip the salmon- they just cook up perfectly.

I honestly cannot wait to make more salmon on the grill with the cedar planks.  I also cannot wait to eat my dinner tonight- it's a salad made with the leftover salmon.  Yummy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Old School

This post is old school for two reasons:

  1. I am writing it.

  2. I can't cook like Courtney, so I will not speak of food.

Now on to bidness, I got a new toy that I have wanted for some time:

What is this and why is it significant you may ask? This badass mutha is a 12 inch sliding compound miter saw with laser doo-dads and a penchant for success! Did I mention I got a portable stand too?

The sliding part it cool because it means I can cut large objects (like my friend Hogs) in a single pass. I have a co-worker that has mentioned he has the pricier DeWalt version no less than 700 times (I had mine delivered to work). It has taken great restraint not to either kick him in the balls or remind him I will actually use mine.


  • I installed a car stereo in my parking lot at work today (only took 10 minutes).

  • Next weekend I have to go to my Mom's house to redo the plumbing in her bathroom (next phase of her bathroom remodel).

  • Last week I painted 120 linear feet of casing, chair rail, and crown molding for the aforementioned bathroom remodel- I despise painting.

  • I'm creating the system for this rather exciting project at work that will allow students to access virtual lab computers and individual remote applications from anywhere in the world.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Songs for John II Concert and a Traditional Greek Dinner

Two great things, one great weekend!

Saturday night, Brian and I attended a benefit concert in honor of my late cousin John held at Spivey's Bar and Grill in Lenexa, KS.  John died this past February at a very young age from neck cancer.  Last year my cousin's friends put together a benefit concert to raise money to help with the cost of his treatment, and this year they decided to do it again to raise money for many different families in need of help.  It was a blast!

There were six different bands performing including the duo of my cousin Kate, on accordion and vocals, and her friend Mike, on guitar and vocals, as the Minstrel Periods.

They did an amazing job!  They had a set that consisted of all cover songs, including a rap song (not sure which one, I will have to find out) in which they put down their instruments and danced and rapped to a beat.

It won them a standing ovation, as well as an overwhelming response for a repeat performance- which they did!  Great job Kate!  Hopefully we can see them perform again.

Another act was Anthony, who played the acoustic guitar and sang all original songs.

He is very, very talented.  Definitely someone who could make money playing music if he wanted too.

We also saw one of John's old bands perform.  They played many songs that John had written including his famous song "Embyo Dog".  They are a rock/blues/jazz band that loves to just jam.

There was also a band that came down from Des Moines, Iowa to play.  I can't remember their name right now (hey, I'd had like 3 beers and 3 rum and cokes!), but I know they were good.  I am only mentioning them because their piano player had a really cool suit on, and I wanted to post a picture of him.  Very "Killers"-esque.

On Sunday, Nate and his cousin Trent came over to watch the Chiefs game and we smoked a chicken, made a great salad, twice baked potatoes and garlic bread.  It was a nice relaxing way to finish out the weekend.

On Monday I made a great traditional Greek dinner.  Earlier this year, my brother went on a cruise around the islands of Greece and he brought me back a cook book full of traditional greek dishes.  So in honor of my brother (he better be reading this!) we made a few of the recipes.  We had a traditional greek salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, black olives, capers, feta cheese, oregano, and olive oil), roasted potatoes with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper, and baked fish in tomato sauce (and olive oil of course, lots of olive oil!).  It was all very good.  Now I just need to learn how to make some of their traditional desserts!  Yuuummm, baklava.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beef Stroganoff

This recipe is great for those long, cold days of winter.  It is very easy to throw together before you leave for work, and takes minutes to finish preparing once you get home.  It is also a Cooking Light recipe, so I guess it is somewhat healthy for you.


1 lb. top round steak, 1 inch thick, trimmed
1  cup  chopped onion
2  tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley
2  tablespoons  Dijon mustard
3/4  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  dried dill
1/2  teaspoon  black pepper
1  (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms (about 2 cups) (*I used 16 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms)
3  garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz. can fat free cream of mushroom soup
1/3  cup  all-purpose flour
1  cup  beef broth
1  (8-ounce) container low-fat sour cream
2  cups  hot cooked medium egg noodles (about 4 ounces uncooked)
1. Cut steak diagonally across grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place steak and next 8 ingredients (though garlic) in a 3-quart electric slow cooker; stir well.

2.  Place flour in a small bowl; gradually add broth, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add broth mixture to slow cooker; stir well. Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting, and cook 7 to 8 hours or until steak is tender. Turn slow cooker off; remove lid. Let stroganoff stand 10 minutes. Prepare noodles while waiting.  Stir in sour cream. Serve stroganoff over noodles.