Monday, September 14, 2015

Apple Crisp

Every once in awhile, I think Apple Crisp sure would hit the spot.  I asked my mom for her recipe awhile back and she said she uses the recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.  She's given me two of these books over the years.  These really are great books.

My husband bought big bag of Gala apples are awhile back and they were getting to the point where they were not very good to eat raw (getting a bit mealy).  So Apple Crisp seemed like a really good idea.

Every time I peel and slice apples, I think of my mom. I remember her standing in front of the sink, slowly and carefully peeling apples. We had apple trees in our backyard and they were seldom treated with chemicals or pesticides to kill bugs/worms.  So you had to peel and slice the apples VERY CAREFULLY if you get my drift.  The kitchen in the home was a galley-sort of kitchen and it was kind of in the middle of the house, so you had to pass through the kitchen to get from here to there. I remember walking through the kitchen, grabbing and gobbling up the apple slices. It probably took my mom twice as long to make an Apple Crisp or an Apple Pie because I kept taking the apple slices. Sorry, Mom!

We had a beautiful sunset outside as this Apple Crisp was baking.  I went outside to look at the sunset and to take a few photos, and when I came back inside each time, the house smelled amazing!

Here's the recipe. 

Adapted from the Better Homes and Garden's Cookbook (12th Edition)
Original recipe on-line HERE.

5 cups peeled and sliced apples (I used 5 gala apples)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (next time I'll use less)
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (I also added in a little fresh grated nutmeg)
1/4 cup butter

For the apple filling, combine the apples, sugar, flour, and cinnamon in an 8 " x  8 " x 2" baking dish.  Stir to coat.

For the topping, in a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut butter in until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle topping over apples.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Whoops! Iced Lemon Cookies

I really liked the Iced Anise Cookies I made last week. The recipe source is HERE.

I posted a photo of the cookies on Facebook and my friend, Mrs. W, said they looked great.  She asked what kind of cookies they were and I knew she did not like anise flavor one bit.  I told her they were anise and I promised to make her a lemon version.  She loves anything lemon! 

Mrs. W and I went out to lunch at our favorite Japanese place "MoMo's"  yesterday and I whipped up a batch of Iced Lemon Cookies for her. I pretty much followed the original recipe except added vanilla and lemon extracts to the cookie dough in place of the anise extract and again added lemon extract to the icing in place of anise extract.  Last time I made this recipe, I used extra large eggs; this time I noticed I only had smaller eggs and I worried the dough might be a little dryer.  As I was mixing the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, I kept noticing the dough seemed significantly  dryer compared to the dough last week. 

I kept on making the cookies, hoping they'd turn out okay. As I put the first tray of cookies into the oven and shut the door... doh! It occurred to me that I was supposed to add a 1/4 cup of milk to the dough. No wonder it was do dry. 

Despite my big flub, the cookies still turned out quite good.  I still recommend adding the milk; next time I will. 

Iced Lemon Cookies
Adapted from Iced Anise Cookies by Anna Ginsburg

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 3/4 cups flour (12.5 oz)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 scant teaspoon salt


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons milk plus extra if needed
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Multi-Colored Sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
Beat the sugar, melted butter, eggs, milk and extracts together using low speed of a hand-held mixer.
Thoroughly stir together the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the batter and stir just until blended.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons, shaping a little to form nice roundes, 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets and bake on center rack for 10 to 14 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are light golden. Cool on Cool on wire racks.

Make icing. Mix the sugar and melted butter together until the sugar is moist. Add the milk and beat well until smooth. Beat in the lemon extract. It should be thick but pourable. Place a piece of paper towel under your cooling rack so that the glaze can drip through, then spoon it gently over the cookies.
Sprinkle with candy sprinkles.

New Kitchen Flooring

We've had the same linoleum flooring for 23 years. This is the flooring that was installed when we purchased our home. 

We picked Moduleo Vision luxury vinyl tiles in "Sicilian Slate".

And here it is. 

Of course now we think we need new countertops and we need to paint the woodwork. 

I especially like the trim work the installers added around all the cabinets and the island in the kitchen.  Very glad to have this done. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Easy Minestrone Soup

Easy Minestrone Soup

My friend, Rene', came for a visit this past Thursday. Knowing she likes anise (black licorice) flavored cookies, I whipped up a batch.  These are Iced Anise Cookies. I've made the recipe just one time before and the recipe is from one of my favorite blogs, Cookie Madness.  What's great about this recipe is that it calls for melted butter.  This is good because, if you are like me, you might forget to set out butter ahead of time to soften so you can make cookies.

Iced Anise Cookies... I ate TOO many!

I sent some cookies home with Rene' but now I have had cookies in my house and I've been eating too many. They are so tender and soft and good and go great with coffee and tea (especially Earl Gray tea).  Here's the link for the Iced Anise Cookies recipe.

Tonight I was feeling crummy from eating too much sugar so I decided to whip up some easy minestrone soup with lots of vegetables.  I did not have a recipe to follow but I found everything I needed to make the soup in my refrigerator and in my panty. I even added in some zucchini; Rene' brought me some zucchini and some heirloom tomatoes from her summer garden. 

Easy Minestrone Soup


approximately 1/2 pounds hot Italian sausage (I used Johnsonville brand Hot Italian sausage)
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced (I used an orange bell pepper)
a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
a heaping 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
a heaping 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 jar (24 ounces) jarred tomato pasta sauce (I used Bertolli Organic Traditional Tomato & Basil)
1 carton (32 ounces chicken broth)
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 half of a zucchini cut lengthwise into quarters and then sliced into quarter circles
1 can (15 ounce size) dark red kidney beans, drained/rinsed
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (I used corn, green beans, and carrots)

Optional:  4 ounces pasta (I used acini di pepe or "frog eye" pasta)
Optional:  grated Parmesan cheese for garnish


In a large soup pot, over medium heat, cook and crumble the sausage until cooked through.  Remove the sausage from the pot onto a plate lined with paper towels (to remove excess fat), reserving just a little fat in the pot.  Saute the diced peppers and diced onions in the soup pot.  While the onions/peppers are softening, add in the spices including the oregano, basil, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and sugar; stir to coat the onions/peppers with the spices. 

After the onions/peppers have sauted for about 3 to 5 minutes (stirring occasionally), add in the tomato pasta sauce, chicken broth, and tomato sauce.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  At this point, add in the cooked sausage, kidney beans, frozen vegetables (no need to thaw), and the sliced zucchini.  Reduce to a simmer, cover pot with a lid, and allow to cook until vegetables are desired tenderness. (I did not let my soup simmer very long since I was making this for leftovers.  I ate one bowl for dinner and the veggies were still rather crisp, but the veggies continued to soften as the soup cooled).  Taste soup and add more salt, pepper, and/or sugar as desired.

If desired, add in a little bit of cooked pasta into each bowl of soup. I like to keep the pasta and soup separate, otherwise the pasta acts like little sponges when the soup is in the refrigerator and I end up with "gloopy" leftovers.  Any small to medium sized pasta will do. The acini di pepe is a very small pasta and gets lost in the soup a bit.  A small tube pasta such as "ditalini" would be perfect in this soup.  Also, garnish each bowl of soup with grated Parmesan cheese when serving (if desired).

A nice hearty, healthy, tomato-ey, brothy soup, and the leftovers are great!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Week 1: Empty Nesting

We've been Empty Nesters for one whole week.  Baby boy left for college a week ago.  I "liked" the University of Northern Colorado" page on Facebook which gives me a bit of insight as to what is going on on campus.  From the looks of it, the first weekend was one big "fun fest".  On Saturday, I sent a text to Zach on his cell phone to ask him if he was in the photo above.  This is the reply we got Sunday morning.  
Hey sorry I haven't texted.  Yeah. I'm in each of the letters wearing a gray shirt. I got a concussion last night and was in the hospital but everything is ok and I'm back on campus. I'll call you guys later this afternoon when I meet back up with my friends and they'll tell you what happened cuz  I don't remember .  I took a nasty spill and I'm having a lot of trouble remembering basic things.

Nice text for a parent to get from their freshman, right? 

Apparently Zach was at the fun fest and was playing on one of those bouncy house things in the back ground in the following two photos.  He said he jumped down the slide and missed the slide altogether, crashing into one of his new friends with his head. 

Scary to hear of this and difficult to be so far away and not see him in person to see if he is really okay!  So the first week was off to a rough start. 

Classes started Monday.  It's hard to not be a Mom.
"Did you pick up your parking permit?"
"Did you get your textbooks?"
"Have you unpacked yet?"
I am trying to not meddle.

While Zach is away at school adjusting to his new world as a college student, we are adjusting to our new world as Empty Nesters.  So far, so good!  My husband has been making good strides trying to lose some weight this summer so we are trying to not eat out too much.  This afternoon, we splurged a bit and we went up to Old Colorado City and one of our very favorite restaurants:  Jake and Telly's.  It's a Greek Restaurant.

We shared this appetizer which is a great way to sample many items on the menu. We also split an entrée which was a Gyro Platter.  It was gyro meat over a bed of sautéed cabbage, kale, and red potatoes.  I neglected to snap a photo of the gyro platter; we dove right in before I thought to take a photo.

We sat out on the balcony, overlooking town below. After dinner, we looked around at some of the shops in the area. It was a very nice afternoon.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Night on the Town in Denver


A few posts back I mentioned our trip to the big city (Denver) over Memorial Day weekend. It's almost Labor Day and I haven't gotten around to finishing telling about it.   

After walking around downtown all afternoon, our feet were tired. We stopped at Wynkoop Brewing Company. I loved the old building (photo above) with high ceilings, detailed crown moldings, and stamped tin ceiling. 

Wynkoop Brewing Company was founded by Colorado's Govenor, John Hickenlooper, in the late 1980's.  The beer was refreshing, but drinking in the afternoon goes against my "don't drink before 8:00 pm" rule. It makes me sleepy. 

We left Wyncoop's to have dinner. There were all kinds of steak and seafood places nearby. We had eyed a steakhouse about a block away. 

"Morton's: The Steakouse" had their menu posted in the window. The first thing I read was "Filet Mignon... $62".  We made a u-turn and went back to Wyncoop's for burgers and fries. Yep, I'm a cheap date. 

Turns out walking on asphalt and concrete is tough on our legs; we walk our dogs a few miles each day on dirt paths, but are not accustomed to such hard surfaces. Our legs were tired. We found ourselves back in our hotel room at 7:30 pm.  Party animals... NOT!

We decided staying in before 8:00 pm and not taking advantage of being downtown would be really pathetic and lame. So we headed to "The Cruise Room" which is a bar off the hotel's lobby. I have never seen a place like this. 

Photo above is from the Oxford Hotel website. 

The entire room had a peachy-pink glow. There are no windows in the room. The walls were lined with these Art Deco plaster panels (below). If you did not know better, you might think you'd been transported to a swanky bar in Miami in the 1920's.  The hotel staff tell folks this bar opened the day after Prohinition ended in 1933, but it was easy to imagine this place as a Speakeasy during Prohibition. 

I have not had drinks like this before. 
The menu really is white but the room's lighting colored the menu this way. 

I went for a Red Widow which is described below if you can make it out. Yep!  Those are pickled jalapeño slices floating in my cocktail!  The ingredients include peach vodka, champagne, elderflower liqueur, and jalapeño juice. Wild, right?  It was a strong drink and quite spicy. 

I found this little tidbit on the Oxford Hotel  website:  

"We have ghosts. You may see one in The Cruise Room on a snowy night. Don’t worry they’re friendly."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chickpea Curry

Chickpea Curry
Pretty, huh?

Oh my, where have I been?
What have I been doing?

When there is a large span of time and I don't post a recipe on this here cooking blog, my dad starts to ask me if maybe I have just been feeding my family food from McDonalds!

Yes, it's been a busy summer. I can't say it's any one thing that has had me busy, but it's been busy.  We have been eating out a little too often and I have been cooking less.  My baby boy had a full-time job this summer so it does feel like I have been cooking for him a whole lot less. 

My husband has been trying to lose a little weight this summer. I just can't muster up the motivation to change my eating habits much. I've worried about what I eat for the better part of 40 years. I am over it.  I try to eat pretty healthy and watch my portions, exercise regularly, etc.  When my husband announced that he just wanted to eat watermelon and protein this week (pretty much go on a low carb diet for a week or two), I knew I was on my own for some meals.  The Pioneer Woman had this recipe on her blog the other day and I grabbed the ingredients at the store so I could make this for myself.  I am glad I did. 

Chickpea Curry by Ree Drummond (

2 cups Basmati rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced fine
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons curry powder, any variety (next time I'll double the curry powder)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk (I opted for lite coconut milk)
1 tablespoon honey, more to taste
1 tablespoon Sriracha or hot sauce (I left this out, my Sriracha expired in 2013... doh!)
lime wedges, for serving (optional)... I had none
cilantro leaves, for garnish

Cook the basmati rice according to the package instructions.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, season with salt

and pepper and cook for a few minutes, until the onions are soft and starting to turn

golden. Sprinkle in the curry powder and garlic and stir, cooking for another minute or

so. Pour in the vegetable stock and stir to scrape up all the brown bits in the pan. Add

the coconut milk, honey and a squirt of sriracha. Bring to a boil, add the chickpeas,

reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding

more salt, honey, or Sriracha (or lime juice, if using).

Serve the curry over the rice. Garnish with the cilantro.

I ended up thickening up my sauce at the end with a little slurry of cornstarch and water.  Maybe my sauce needed a bit of thickening since I used lite coconut milk instead of regular.  Next time I make this, I will use at least 3 (maybe 4) teaspoons of curry powder.  Also, I think this would be really good with chicken thighs in place of the chickpeas). I used organic chickpeas in my recipe and I found the chickpeas to be a little too firm.