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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blue Apron Three Cheese Cannelloni

Kevin and I decided to start a subscription with Blue Apron . This is basically a food delivery service, using the finest fresh ingredients to create wonderful meals at home. Everything you need is included in the weekly box. Since we got the first week for free, we thought it would be a good idea to explore this type of service. I also wanted the chance to try some new and fresh recipes.

We received our first box last week. It is a very sturdy box, lined with a refrigerator bag and several ice blocks to keep the food fresh and cold. All of the produce were top of the line- nothing was damaged or wilted or not in perfect condition. Considering we had things like lacinato kale, collard greens, beets, frisee, fresh pasta sheets,fontina cheese and coconut yogurt, I'd say that was quite an accomplishment!

 This was the contents of the first box...

I made the first recipe, goat cheese, beet and apple sliders with a warm frisee and fingerling potato salad on the day it was delivered. YUM! Each recipe has a clear and detailed recipe card with color photos and step by step instructions. It also has a list of ingredients, the cooking time and the calories per serving.

This actually made 4 servings.

Last night, I made the Three Cheese Cacannelloni for dinner. It also made 4 servings. Guess what we are having for lunch today? Ha ha!

First, I laid out all the ingredients and the recipe card.

I prepped the fresh ingredients....butternut squash, thinly sliced red onion and garlic and stemmed and chopped lacinato kale...I was also enjoying an adult beverage while cooking...

I cooked the vegetables and added the parmesan and ricotta cheese to make the filling...

prepped the fresh pasta sheets and stuffed them...

made the bechamel sauce with fontina cheese...

and baked the cannelloni for 30 minutes.

It was amazing!

I added a small salad and a glass of wine, and we had a delicious dinner!

So far, both of the meals I have made from Blue Apron have been delicious, unique and fairly easy to prepare. Each box has three complete dinners, which will help with meal planning. I think I am going to get it delivered twice a month, but this is an easy for folks like us! The 2 person plan is about $60 a week.
I am very pleased with our meals so far...stay posted for more updates! #blueapron

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Magic Dust

Every once in a while, don't you wish there was some actual Magic Dust you could spread around to make everything right? Yah, I know. We all think it- we just don't say it out loud. We are 'grown up', after all.

Well, I found some Magic Dust that you can spread around...and it makes an awful lot of things right!

I was so intrigued by this post I got from Tasting Table about Shane Lyon's Magic Dust that I decided to try it!

I used nutritional yeast quite a bit last Lent when I ate a vegan diet for 7 weeks. I loved the sort of salty, funky-but-delicious flavor and have bought it on a regular basis to add to savory spice blends.It's available in health food stores in bulk- which is the way to buy it...much cheaper! I also found out that it is the secret ingredient in of my favorites for years! Anyone remember going to Rutabegorz Restaurant in Fullerton, CA back in the late 70's? It was on every table and that's when I fell in love with Spike!
This is nutritional yeast...AKA 'noosh'.

Anyhow, the only thing I couldn't find is gochugaru...which apparently is a spicy smoked paprika-type Korean spice. Well, I found it on Amazon of course, Here but I don't think I'd use a POUND of it in several years, so I took Shane Lyon's suggestions and substituted smoked paprika. I only had the regular smoked paprika, so I added 1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes to the cumin seeds and toasted it a bit and ground it up in the spice grinder.

Yum! This is like Frank's Red Hot can put this on everything!

We tried it on popcorn, and let me tell you, it magic.

Tonight, it's going on our grilled zucchini and Jacques Pepin's 'Smashed Potatoes'.  I might even sprinkle some on the pan fried, thin cut, rib eye steaks...served with grilled onions and garlic. I'll let you know how it turns out!

I hope you try this- it is truly delicious!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


We smoked a pork loin yesterday with apple wood and an apple juice baste. It was delicious, but a little dry. It's the first time we've smoked a pork loin- we wanted to make sure it was cooked through...and ended up over cooking it a bit.
That's OK, it was still tasty! We ended up with a LOT of leftovers, so I decided to make BBQ pork on buns for dinner tonight.
I put all of the smoked pork leftovers into the slow cooker with a bottle of Trader Joe's Carolina Gold BBQ sauce and let it simmer all day. It was DELICIOUS!!! We like the mustardy-vinegary flavor of a carolina sauce, so this worked out great on some sesame hamburger buns!
I wanted something different for a side dish, so I made some homemade tater tots.
I didn't want to fry the tots, like so many recipes suggested. I wanted to bake them to crunchy goodness.
I found this great recipe for parmesan-garlic hand formed baked tater tots on Food 52's website.
Instead of using grated baked potatoes, I used a bag of Trader Joe's shredded hash browns. I microwaved the potatoes for about 2 minutes, grated 2 large cloves of garlic into the potatoes and added 1/2 cup of grated Comte and mild cheddar cheese. (Hey, they were leftover from the appetizers today!) I also added a dash of fleur de sel and mixed it all together with my hands for a good mix.

Then, I rolled little balls of goodness and put them on a WELL-OILED parchment sheet on a tray.

They actually tasted pretty good like this!

Then, I baked them at 425 for 15 minutes, and then, rolled them to the other side and baked them for another 15 minutes.

Holy Smoke!!!! Delicious!

As if that wasn't enough, I also made my special dipping sauce- 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1 tablespoon of sambal olek and 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise all whisked together.

I could have eaten this whole tray for dinner...but I restrained myself and had just a few...along with some steamed haricot verts and the bbq pork.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

What Can WE do?

I have a plea for you on a Saturday night.
I am pretty jaded when it comes to hard luck stories after nearly 15 years in law enforcement, 18 years in ministry and 1.5 years as a retired old fart working with Juvenile Probation kids...I have seen it all, heard it all, and have been unimpressed by it all.
Yet, the kids, the KIDS, they tug at my heart.
I am not so jaded that I don't hear pain, or suffering, or resignation, or fear, or hunger or, loss.
I need some advice.
What can I do?
Today, I heard some stories from the kids that really hurt. There is nothing I can personally do, but my GOD! We must do something for the youth of our country who are slipping through these giant cracks!
I have kids who have really, really, crappy parents and are being raised by a moderately crappy grandparent(s). I have kids who are living in motel rooms instead of the 'hobo camps' that we trashed this weekend...but they are one weekend away from an outdoor hobo camp. I have kids who show up each week with no breakfast (there's no food at home) no lunch (there's no food at home) and  no transportation (there's no one at home to wake them up, or drop them off, or pick them up). There are kids who don't have anything warmer than a hoodie. (I'm not cold) I have kids who have serious mental problems and are struggling with reality, let alone, life.
I know that the Probation Officers are doing their best with home visits, busting the kids when they do wrong, offer classes for all kinds of things, but something else is missing.
What can I do? What can we do? A LOT of these kids just need....something. I am not sure what it is, but not a handout. They have the opportunity to go to school...they have clothes, they have some food, they have some shelter, they have someone who is trying to give them a relationship, but what can I do to really make a difference? These kids don't need to become statistics in a couple of years- those who just get through the system, fail and end up on the streets, in jail, in prison, or stuck in a short and hard life of drugs, alcohol, welfare and 3 children by age 19 with no spouse or significant other who cares.
I don't want to call out 'the system' because the 'system' is doing all it can- within the limitations that exisit- and I want to keep my job so I can do something. I don't want to do a letter writing campaign, I don't want a Church adoption program where most of these 'families' will not qualify (they don't go to Church, they are not interested in Church, the parent - guardian are drug or alcohol addicted and don't give a shit about anything more than free crap) and I don't want to be a patronizing jerk who tells them that 'with Jesus, it will all be OK'...because, you know, it won't.
It's not that I don't have joy in my faith and that I don't believe in the salvation that Jesus offers- but most people in these circumstances (especially teens) just don't care.
So, any answers?
I need some help to do what needs to be done.
What can I/we do? I need suggestions!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I've been cooking for a long time, but I just found out about this ancient proof-bowl a couple of months ago. Well, I am not much of a baker, so that's probably why I'd never heard of a banneton. A banneton is a wicker bread proofing bowl used for very wet dough. It contains the dough and prevents the dough from spreading while proofing, and creates a beautiful pattern on the finished product.

I just bought a set of two for my daughter in law for Christmas, since she loves to bake. I saw one at Cost Plus World Market last week, so I decided to buy one and use the banneton to bake a loaf of bread.

First, I made the very wet dough. Take 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of dry yeast (not instant) 2 teaspoons of salt and mix together in a mixing bowl. (I used my KitchenAid Mixer) You can do this by hand, but it's a pain. Add 1 2/3 cups of warm water to the flour mixture and mix well. I mixed for about 1 minute on medium speed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

In the meantime, use a spray bottle of water and lightly spray the banneton. Add 1/2 cup of flour and turn the banneton around and around, making sure you get flour into all the little nooks and crannies of the circles of wicker rattan. Dump out the extra flour.Set the banneton aside overnight to dry out.

The next day, spray the banneton again lightly with flour and add another 1/2 cup of flour. Repeat the turning process and make sure you get the flour into the rings again.Dump out the extra flour. Let it dry for about an hour before adding dough.

Transfer the wet, bubbly dough to a well-floured surface. (I dumped it onto my giant Boos Block cutting board) Fold the dough in half and dust with flour. Form the dough into a ball by stretching and tucking the edges of the dough underneath.

Dump the dough ball into the banneton, with the seam side up. Sprinkle with flour. Cover with plastic wrap.

Let this rise for about 2 hours. I put a tea towel over the top because it was a little chilly in the house.

After 1 1/2 hours, find your Dutch Oven with lid. I have a gorgeous 6 quart RED Lodge Enamel lined Dutch oven. I use it for EVERYTHING. I can't live without it. Well, that sounds a little desperate, but it is one of the most useful items in my kitchen!

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and add your dutch oven with the lid on.

When pre-heated, remove the dutch oven using heavy duty pot holders. It will be smoking hot! Remove the lid and set on a heat-proof surface.

Carefully remove the dough from the banneton. You might have to start one of the edges with your fingers. Dump it into the dutch oven with the seam side down and the beautiful circle pattern facing up.

Using a VERY sharp knife (or a one sided, brand new razor blade) slash the top of the dough. I slashed a cross shape into the dough.

Put the lid back on and put it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 450. Remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Remove the loaf from the dutch oven and let it cool for at least 30 minutes on a rack.

Aren't the circles beautiful?

Cut with a bread knife. You can see the gorgeous loaf has big beautiful hole for lots of butter!

Add some homemade pea soup, and you have a delicious, filling meal.
The loaf also makes fantastic toast!

I can see a loaf a week in our future! Since this was SO easy, I will probably make bread more often!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day

I always knew that the day after Christmas was called, "Boxing Day". ( Catholics celebrate the feast of St. Stephen on Dec. 26th as a minor holiday and not an obligatory day)

I mistakenly thought it was the day you  boxed up all the items that you hadn't used for a year or items that were still usable, but had been replaced with new Christmas gifts, were boxed up or bagged up and donated to a charitable organization. Whoa. Just read that, "Boxing Day" is the day that the servants got their gifts.
No servants in this house!

Anyhow, the day after Christmas has always been the other kind of Boxing Day in the Laughlin household. I went through every single drawer, closet and cabinet in the entire house- including all the boxes in the garage- and collected all the items that we really don't use. Bridget the Yorkie and I packed them all into the car and drove them over to the Salvation Army (which is about a 20 minute drive away) . This is a little nod to my friend, Rosita, who pointed out to me earlier this month that Salvation Army gives a higher percentage of the proceeds to the poor, as opposed to Goodwill (which is only 5 minutes away). Since gas is so cheap, I felt like I could drive the extra 17 minutes to take my donations to a place that will be better stewards of the donated dollar.

On the way, home, Bridget was whining for something yummy for lunch, and she cannot handle anything at Del Taco, so we drove through In N Out. She got a burger patty with no salt, and I got a protein style, extra pickles, mustard fried, no onion burger. YUM. She also got a couple of pets and exclamations "LOOK at this CUTE puppy!!! (she's 12) She is so ADORBS!" Well, yes, in her little plaid jacket and her cute little Christmas bow, she is exceptionally cute. The manager yelled at them to not pet her since they were handling food...well, my life has been covered in dog I can sort of sympathize. I don't enjoy dog hair in my food, and I supposed no one else would like it, either.

 We scarfed it down in the parking lot of Home Depot.

After sharing the french fries, we waddled into Home Depot to be stopped by pretty much every employee with a dog cookie, a pet, and other high-pitched exclamations of love for a darling Yorkie...and even some pets from some really surly-looking dudes pushing full carts of wood and paint products. Not me, of course, Bridget got all the petting! Ha ha ha!

Anyhow, we got home and decided it was time to plan for tonight's cocktail.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the delicious cocktails from Christmas Day...

I made a wonderful drink for us called, French 75".

Last year, our son Chris, gave me a wonderful book called, "The Craft of the Cocktail". I LOVE this book! I have it on my kindle and the recipes, stories and photos really make this a great resource.

The French 75 was named after a French artillery piece. Rumor has it that Captain Harry S Truman told his men, just minutes before their French 75 guns rattled 75-millimeter shells at the Germans, " I'd rather be right here than be president of the United States!"

I had all the ingredients so I decided to try it as an afternoon cocktail on Christmas Day- between the breakfast Bloody Mary and the wine at dinner.

It's delicious!

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice:

1 shot of brandy
1/2 shot of fresh lemon juice
1/2 shot of simple syrup

and shake well.

Pour over ice, and top with Prosecco. STIR gently. Drink two or three of these before dinner.

Today, I decided on a 'Whisky Sour' for, l'heure de l'apĂ©ro or les happy hours" .  Oops, sorry, I've been reading my new cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. I am in love, once again, with all things French...well, except this cocktail- which is also amazing.

To a cocktail shaker full of ice add...

2 shots of whisky
1 shot of simple syrup
1 shot of fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons of cherry liquor (from either the maraschino cherry juice or Trader Joe's dark Morello Cherries, which is what I used)

Shake, shake, shake and pour over ice into a glass. Garnish with a lemon slice and a cherry- or not.

You will drink several of these! Quite good!

Anyhow, Boxing Day is over and we are happy that Christmas was a lovely day. Quiet, but lovely. We missed Pat and Chris and their wives, but I suspect that this will be the only quiet Christmas we will have for a while!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

O, Holy Night

Time for a Christmas Eve cocktail here at the Laughlin home!
The presents are wrapped, the meals planned for the next couple of days, and the house is clean and ready for Christmas!
We miss the family this year, but we are hoping to get in some skiing on Christmas morning. We'll get to the gifts and the Bloody Marys later in the day!
We are expecting snow tonight, which will be a lovely thing for our Christmas Day wake-up!
Here's wishing you a Holy Night tonight, and a blessed Christmas Day.