Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tasty Treasures

             On Saturday Steve bought lunch for his team at work.  His employer provided him with the money because his team had the highest scores for quality for the whole department the previous week.  House of Q was the restaurant Steve decided to use and asked me to deliver the food.  House of Q is a great local restaurant but that's not what I'm writing about today.  As many of you know, to me food is comfort, love, and a stress-reliever.  It's also the carrot that dangles in front of Steve's team so they'll continue to do well.  I made Steve's team cookies this past weekend as a bribe.  I want them to continue to do well because it makes Steve look good.  It took me a week to decide which cookies to make.  Chocolate chip? Or peanut butter?  Or something new?  It went like this for days.  I wanted something that would showcase my skills as a baker.  Something that wouldn't be compared to their mom's/friend's/sister's cookies.  Chocolate chip cookies were out.  There's too many variances with chocolate chip cookies.  Everyone has a family recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I flipped through the family cook book and finally settled on Caramel Cookies.  This recipe is from my great grandma who was great in the kitchen.  I never have to worry when I see a recipe with her name on it.  I know it will be great because she didn't keep crappy recipes... truth be told, I'm not sure she ever tried any recipes that were crappy.  The caramel cookies had a very delicate flavor as most of her cookies do.  The secret is real maple syrup and brown sugar.  The recipe was very simple which is another thing I love about her recipes.  Great Grandma's recipes don't require a lot of fussing but always produce elegant tasty results.  Her recipes are also famous for her directions.  This recipe said "Chill dough.  Shape into balls. Dip in sugar after dipping in water.  Bake at 350 degrees until light brown."  If you notice, there are no directions to cream butter and brown sugar, etc, etc, etc.  You are supposed to know this.  There is also no time given.  You're supposed to know this as well.  In fact, I'm surprised the temperature is given.  These directions are not a finger wagging at us but rather general family knowledge.  Great Grandma was the second oldest of 12 so she had been baking for the majority of her life and lengthy directions were simply not needed.  Her recipes remind me so much of her which comfort me and make me sad at the same time.  I miss her tremendously and her recipes are all I have (well besides the cookbook...).  I feel her in the kitchen with me when I bake her recipes.  Her recipes are a tangible reminder of her.  A reminder that I don't give out to just anyone.  Special close family friends, perhaps, but not just anyone.  I just can't bring myself to do it.  I know it's silly to hold onto recipes so tightly but I just can't let them go.  I do however share her tasty creations with people.  I called Steve at work to see how my cookies were doing.  He said people loved them.  One of his employees asked him "If I give your wife 20 bucks, will she make me more?"  Um yeah!  For 20 bucks, I'll make whatever cookies you want!   I've been harboring a secret dream to open a bakery for awhile now and this might be my start.  My mind swirled yesterday thinking of ideas, recipes and supplies that I would need.  Steve is going to double check with this guy about how serious he is.  If he's serious and I get more orders, you might be seeing more of my Tasty Treasures in the future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Restaurant Review: Greek to Me!

       Today Steve and I tried a new restaurant in Sioux City.  Greek to Me! is close to Target on Sunnybrook Drive across from a very familiar fast-food joint with the golden arches.  (I will not say it!)  We've never had gyros before.  Steve's coworker highly recommends them.  He actually eats at a restaurant called Opa Time on Hamilton Blvd.  But that's all the way across town, Hamilton Blvd is under construction and the exit to Hamilton Blvd from I29 is closed because it's under water.  Greek to Me! is 5 minutes from our apartment making it the clear winner.  I had the gyro platter with a Greek salad.  Steve had the Philly Cheese gyro with a Greek salad.  I briefly considered getting the chicken gyro but decided to be authentic the first time I tried a gyro.  Now I realize that I said I would never eat lamb... I lied.  Gyros contain lamb.  The gyro had a great peppery flavor and was topped with Greek yogurt, tomatoes and onions.  It also had a couple pieces of feta cheese... which as it turns out, I'm not that fond of.  The salad was fantastic.  It had lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a Greek dressing.  The dressing!  It was a vinaigrette with Greek spices.  (Ok, so I don't know exactly what they were but it tasted great!)  Steve didn't especially care for it but vinaigrette dressings are not his thing.  I, however, want to learn exactly what was in it so I can make it at home.  Steve's gyro had lamb, green peppers, onions and provolone cheese.  Normally it would have mushrooms but he ordered it without them.  He let me have a bite of it and it was pretty good.  I'm not a fan of Philly cheese steaks so I have to admit that I preferred my gyro.  My meal also came with 3 black olives with the seeds in.  The seed was a surprise after I popped the first olive in my mouth.  In Spain, olives are served with practically every meal, drink, etc and always contain seeds so I'm used to eating around them.  Black olives with seeds actually taste a lot better than black olives without seeds.  I have no idea why.  Greek to Me! had pictures of Greece along the wall and Greek music playing which I thought was pretty cool.  Other than the pictures, the decor was pretty generic.

Final review: B+ Great food, speedy service, clean restaurant, reasonable prices.  We will be eating here again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ode to the Crock-Pot

             I may be in over my head.  I found the website for the Crock-Pot brand slow cookers.  The website has a recipe section.  You can all see where this is going, can't you?  As we all know, I love browsing recipe websites and magazines.  However I usually end up collecting more recipes than I can actually make.  I'm also planning on hosting Thanksgiving again this year and would like to use the crock-pot a little more.  I enjoyed making all of the dishes but using the crock-pot would make the process even smoother.  I know it's way to early to think about Thanksgiving.  A lot of people think I'm a planner out of obsessiveness but the truth is I get so excited about the holiday/party/whatever that I can't help myself.  I hosted my first Super Bowl party in February and I already want to do it again.  If I can plan a party around food, I'll do it and look forward to it for months.  But back to the Crock-Pot recipe section.  I found recipes for: Bread Pudding, Cranberry Orange Sauce (Darcy, I know it's not Grandma's but we have to try it anyways!) and Cherry Delight.  I can make a dessert called Cherry Delight in the crock-pot!!!!!!!  I love cherries!  So does Dad.  If it tastes as good as I hope it does, I'm making it for him at some point.  There's a bunch of other recipes that I'm really excited to look at as well.  I also think that I should get a smaller crock-pot too.  A lot of the side dish recipes use a smaller one.  The crock-pot that I received as a bridal shower gift (thanks Nancy and Jen!) is a 6-quart crock-pot that I registered for.  I wanted a bigger one because I plan on having kids and big crock-pots are great for families.  I love my big crock-pot and have used it a lot.  I think a smaller crock-pot would come in handy too.  I could have two different recipes in crock-pots at the same time!  Right now, the crock-pot sleeve is sitting in my refrigerator with Minestrone soup ingredients ready to go for tomorrow.  I can't wait!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thank you Great Grandma

At work we have a grill-out the first Friday of every month.  Employee Committee supplies the burgers and hot dogs and employees are supposed to bring something to share.  I usually participate because it's fun.  This week has been a little weird though.  I've gotten some new assignments at work and trying to learn them has left my brain a little tired.  I forgot about the grill-out until Thursday night at 9:20pm when I was thinking about getting ready for bed.  Steve also informed me that we don't have any eggs.  Wacky cake! I can make wacky cake! I thought.  Wacky Cake does not use eggs or milk.  I knew it would probably be in my family cookbook.  As many of you know, I have my great grandma's copy of the family cookbook.  She totally saved my butt Thursday night.  I flipped to the index and saw Wacky Cake p 56 in her beautiful handwriting.  (Side note, why don't schools teach us to write that way anymore?  It's so pretty!)  The recipe was not in the cookbook but she had added it to her notes section.  I never realized that Wacky Cake called for a teaspoon of red food coloring.  I only added 1/2 teaspoon because it seemed to be enough.  Wacky Cake doesn't have a specific frosting recipe.  It simply calls for chocolate frosting.  I decided to use the Texas Sheet Cake frosting recipe.  Steve agreed to make it.  Everything was fine until I realized we didn't have any powdered sugar.  I had to send Steve to HyVee to get powdered sugar.  I was really trying to avoid that.  I didn't go because the cake was already in the oven.  Steve came back with powdered sugar and finished the frosting.  The recipe says to frost while cake is warm.  We took that at face value and poured the frosting on right after the cake came out of the oven.  I do know better than that but it was almost 10:30 and we were exhausted.  The cake was a hit at the grill-out.  Thank you Great Grandma!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Back in the Saddle

            I've finally baked again after my marathon baking for Darcy's party.  Last weekend I made S'mores bars while Nathan (Steve's twin) was visiting and yesterday I made yellow cake.  Last weekend I told the boys to pick something out and I would bake it.  About an hour later, they still hadn't decided.  I think they did more talking than looking at the recipes while they flipped through cookbooks.  I picked out S'mores bars because I know that the Krueger boys will take hours to make a decision if left to their own devices.  We went to HyVee and got the necessary ingredients.  The bars are so easy it's ridiculous.  Make a graham cracker crust.  Save a half cup for the top.  Press the crust into a square pan.  Layer chocolate bars over the crust.  Spread marshmallow fluff on that.  Sprinkle the saved crust on top.  Pop in the oven.  Easy, right?  But on the flip side, how hard is it to microwave a s'more?  (And I say microwave because there wasn't a campfire anywhere close.)  The bars were good but the marshmallow fluff was a bit too sweet.  Maybe next time, I'll use real marshmallows and see how it turns out.
           Yesterday our friends Matt and Abby had us over for a BBQ.  They made pork burgers (or for my family, pork patties) from Tiefenthaler's.  Tienfenthaler's is a meat locker in Holstein and everything I've tried has been delicious.  I so miss having meat locker meat.  Side story, when I moved away from home and actually had to buy my meat at the grocery store, I didn't have a clue what to get.  At home, the meat was always there and it was always yummy.  I decided to bake a cake for my friends since they were supplying the rest of the food.  I made yellow cake because I love it.  I used store-bought chocolate frosting.  I'm still not ready to dive back into the everything from scratch bit after making all of Darcy's cupcakes.  Matt and Abby have the most adorable twin girls.  It was so cute to watch their girls try to eat the frosting off the cake.  Diem actually said she needed more cake when she ran out of frosting!  We had such a great time playing with the girls and talking to Matt and Abby.  I can't wait to do it again.

Side note, I just checked out Tiefenthaler's recipe section on their website.  There's a recipe for their smoked turkey! It's been printed and will be filed with my other Thanksgiving recipes.  I love trying new recipes!