Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Potato Salad


It's time to say goodbye.

I have one more week until school starts; one more week until summer ends.  It seems like it wasn't that long ago that I was writing about how I had only one more week until summer would begin.  How did those seemingly endless three months pass so quickly?

As a farewell gift, I am giving you one last summer dish:  Potato Salad.  The name itself just conjures up images of backyard barbecues under swaying palm trees, chubby babies in watermelon juice stained overalls, and colorful beach balls.  That's how my mind works, anyway.

Summer.  Potato salad makes me think of summer. 



Even with a carbo-comforting dish like Potato Salad, it certainly doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye to something so good as this summer.  I'm going to be corny and cliché and just say it because it's true and it's the only way to say it: This summer was the best summer of my life.

So long, Summer 2012.  You will be missed and reminisced.  


Potato Salad

Yields: about 10-12 side dish servings

Ingredients:

6 medium russet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
about 1 tablespoon white sugar
5 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1/3 cup chopped green onion
Paprika

Directions:

Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water covering them.  Add 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Bring water to a boil and reduce heat.  Simmer with the pot covered for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender.  Drain the potatoes and allow to cool enough for comfortable handling.  Peel potatoes and cube them.

To prepare the dressing, stir together, mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, vinegar, and sugar.

Add chopped eggs and onion to the potatoes.  Pour dressing over the mixture and toss lightly to coat.  Avoid over tossing or the potatoes will become mashed.  Sprinkle potatoes with paprika.  

Cover bowl and chill for 6 hours up to a day in advance before serving.  






Saturday, August 25, 2012

White Chocolate Chip & Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies


These are dainty cookies.  These are cookies you eat while wearing lace gloves at a tea party in a quaint English garden.  In just a few polite bites, you can eat one (or two or three) of these cookies without looking like a glutton.  You can look like a proper, fancy lady.

Unless you're me.  I eat one of these cookies and end up with powdered sugar on my nose and white sugary dust all over my black pants.  "Why yes, I did just finish plastering that house over yonder."  

A small price to pay for several bites of a sweet and satisfying, bejeweled oatmeal cookie.  

These cookies allow me to indulge both my sweet tooth and my fantasy life as a fancy lady.  In my imagination, I can eat dainty cookies like these because I myself am a dainty lady.  In reality, I'm kind of a klutz:  

"No, those are not marks of abuse on my legs.  I just ran into that ________ (insert inanimate object of your choosing) for the umpteenth time."

Running, running, running along the bluffs overlooking the ocean--"Hey, look at that pelican over there."  Trip. Ow.

"I'll eat with the fork in my left hand because that's what classy Europeans do."  Do classy Europeans also manage to toss their sautéed squash into their laps? Fancy ladies like this girl do.

Eat a cookie, dream away, use a napkin.


White Chocolate Chip & Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Ocean Spray

Yields: About 50 small cookies

Ingredients:

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chips
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium sized bowl, cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract using.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking soda, and spices.  Gradually add this mixture to the egg mixture, a cup at a time.  Blend well with an electric mixture.

Stir in cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a slightly greased cookie sheet.  Optional: gently flatten dough with a fork dipped in flour.  Dough will not flatten much on its own.

Bake cookies at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove cookies from cookie sheet immediately and cool on a wire rack.

When cookies have completely cooled, dust cookies with powdered sugar.  Add several spoonfuls of powdered sugar to a wire mesh strainer and gently shake and tap strainer to make it snow.







Thursday, August 16, 2012

BLAT Pasta Salad


When I was nine or ten years old, I watched Miss Congeniality for the first time.  I loved the make-over scene where Agent Gracie Hart transforms from a tom-boy who never grew up into a beauty queen strutting her stuff--until she falls over her high heels onto the asphalt.  I would laugh, and rewind and laugh again.

Still, when I was a kid, I didn't understand why Gracie needed a make-over in the first place.  She had the straight hair that my frizzy-haired self longed for.  In fact,  I remember my childhood prayers for a month or so after watching the movie being along the lines of, "Dear God, please make me look like Sandra Bullock, especially my hair."

I chased after this dream for several years.  Momma became my accomplice, taking me to an African American Hair Salon on the north side of town when I was in sixth grade to see if they could relax my hair.  The hair dresser gave one look at my hair, and fearfully shooed us out of his salon.  "I might make it fall off."  


One day, somebody did straighten my hair.  It took 8 hours.  I ate a mini-pizza in the barber chair as the hair dresser put a third coat of straightening goop onto my soggy curls.  At the end of it all, I finally had my Sandra Bullock hair.  I was happy--until the humidity hit.  

Five years after the first straightening, I realized that I didn't want Sandra Bullock hair.  I wanted curls, glorious crazy exploding cascading boinging curly-q curls.  

Make-overs can be fun, but they can never beat the original.  Take BLAT pasta salad, for example.  A   make-over of an already perfect sandwich becomes a refreshing and light salad great for summer.  Creamy avocados sauce it up with some colorful pasta, cherry tomatoes, and of course, bacon.  We're not necessarily making-over (the original is fine as it is), rather, we're paying homage and cutting out the lettuce.


BLAT Pasta Salad

Yields: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

1 12 ounce box of tri-color rotini
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 avocados
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper
water
6 slices bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Boil pasta according to package directions in salted water until cooked al dente.  Rinse in cold water and drain well.

In a blender, puree 1 1/2 avocados with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and pepper until creamy.  Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until "sauce" reaches desired consistency and thickness.

Toss pasta and cherry tomatoes in pasta sauce.

Before serving, mix crumbled bacon and parmesan cheese into the pasta.  Top pasta with avocado chunks from the remaining avocado half, and sprinkle extra parmesan over the top.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Best served cold.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Bucket List 2012 - Checking In

It's good to have a goal.  At least, when starting out it is good to have a goal.  But, the thing about having a goal is that when you realize that you have yet to reach it, and you have to face the reality that you probably won't reach it, well, that's kind of depressing.

About two months ago, I ambitiously outlined by bucket list for the summer.  A normal summer bucket list might include goals such as "get tan," or "read a new book."  The 7th-grade-overachiever within me would not allow such insipid items to fall upon the list.  Maybe I should have though, because now 7th-grade-overachiever me is cringing as I look at my bucket list from the beginning of the summer and see that I've pretty much failed.

Time to own up!





Summer Bucket List 2012 - Checking In

1. Love People


"I want to hand out compliments left and right, and maybe a hug or five."

Have I done that?  Not exactly.  I have loved people, though.  I have loved people who I never would have thought I would love and received love from people who I never thought would have loved me back--if that makes any sense.  I'm giving myself half-credit on this one.

2.  Love Jesus...really Love Jesus.

"Why wouldn't I want to spend more time then with the God who loves me so much that he sent his son to die for me so that I could be in relationship with him and experience that love?"

Precisely.  And what does it mean to love-really-love Jesus?  To be obedient, to trust, to have faith despite distractions, despite life.  It is hard, but it has become easier, especially when He fills my thoughts when I wake and when I rest.  

But this still is not from anything I have done, it is the power of His Holy Spirit dwelling within me that continuously pulls me near the Father's love.  God has grown me this summer, and while I cannot claim achievement of this second goal upon my list, I can claim that it has been achieved--achieved by Him.


"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his might power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think" Ephesians 3:20.



3. WRITE.

"This summer I will work on my novel."


Nope.  The notes and drafted passages of my cheesy-but-deliciously-fun-to-write love story still sits upon the shelf, untouched.  I'm writing this post though, and I've written in my journal quite a bit (even if I may still be a month behind as far as recording significant life events is concerned). Third-credit?  Quarter-credit?  Have mercy.

4. Blog.


Half-credit.  courtneyhlebo.com still lies dormant, but I have at the very least updated this beast regularly.




5. Read.

"I plan to finish reading ... this summer."

At least two-hundred more pages to go.  Why is this so painful?  I like parts of it, but.  I have read though--and edited for my internship.  I suppose I'll let that count.

6.  Bake, cook, eat, and share.

"I will be making a fruit tart when I go home in the next week and a half (Gma's favorite)..."

That still hasn't happened, and I somewhat doubt it will.  I did make a decadent dessert though. See here.  So, once again, half-credit.

FINAL SCORE: 3.75/6 = 63%

Oh dear, and I only earned that because of my full credit on the second item, credit that I didn't even earn really but received by the grace of God. 

 But if summer is meant to be a time of vacation and laziness, I'll allow myself to believe that barely passing is OK.









Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quadruple Chocolate Cake


Let's talk about equations.  I'm not a math major, but I miraculously passed Calculus, so I suppose that gives me some authority to discuss these things.

Chocolate cake = yum.  (Chocolate cake) ^ 4 = exponential yum

Here are some other important equations you should memorize:

100 x [(hours before 8-page research paper is due) - (hours spent on Facebook) x (hours spent watching funny cat videos on Youtube) x (hours spent watching laughing baby videos on Youtube) = percentage screwed

Price of a small cup of your favorite herbal tea + a sunny late afternoon + a good conversation with a friend = a lot more than the price of that cup of tea

(Some big and important number) x (depth of laugh lines around the mouth (in millimeters) + depth of laugh lines around the eyes) = a number indicating life's joy (note: this number does not signify, as some wrongly believe, ounces of anti-aging cream to be applied to the face).

(number of swipes of homemade frosting eaten off your finger from the bowl) / (number of baby carrots and good green things eaten) = who's counting, right?

That's enough math.  A piece of cake to cheer you up, perhaps?

Quadruple Chocolate Cake (chocolate cake ^ 4)
Slightly adapted from allrecipes.com

Yields: about 16 slices

Ingredients:

1 (18.5 ounce) package Devil's food cake mix
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
2 scant cups sour cream
1 cup butter, melted
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 strawberries (optional)
powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan well.

Stir together cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Make a well in the center of the bowl with the dry ingredients.  Pour the egg mixture into the well and beat with a mixture on low speed until well-blended.  Scrape the bowl and beat mixture on medium speed for about 4 minutes.  Mix in chocolate chips.  Pour batter into Bundt pan.  

Bake cake at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Then, carefully loosen cake from the side of the pan with a small spatula, invert, and gently shake to remove cake from pan.  Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

For glaze 

In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips with honey and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Stir until chips are completely melted and the mixture is smooth and satiny.

Dip strawberries in glaze.  Drizzle glaze over the top of the cake and use it to "glue" the strawberries onto the top of the cake.

Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar just before serving.  

Cake stores well for up to a week when covered with aluminum foil.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mashed Taters

[Prettier words to follow this hideous photo, I promise and apologize.]


Comfort food.  That's all well and good, but sometimes it is good to be uncomfortable.  

No, I'm not suggesting that you eat a salad instead of this pot of creamy, buttery, starchy goodness.  By all means, skip green stuff from time to time (although, if you are thinking a salad sounds better than spuds during these hot summer months, might I suggest you try this sweet and tangy Chinese Napa Salad or a creamy, bacon-studded Broccoli Salad?)

When I want to feel numb, I could eat comfort food.  I could also stay put in my comfort zone.  In my comfort zone, I don't have to feel scared or awkward.  I can just bundle up, hunker down, and exist.  

That's what I used to think, anyway.  Except, sometime within the last six months, I realized that existing comfortably is pointless.  Plants exists.  You know, like weeds.  Here are some other things that exist: dust mites and mongooses (mongeese?).

Do I really want my existence to be lumped in with that of a rodent-like mammal?  Not really.

Yet, the days that I choose to exist uncomfortably prove to be the most rewarding days of my existence.  Uncomfortable days are days with stories because they are not of the norm. 

 Harry Potter--for example--his life was so uncomfortable (but awesome) that it was worth seven books of stories.  And then there's Jesus.  Jesus lived upon this earth for a mere thirty-or-so years, and yet his story was so out of the norm each day of the thirty years that he lived that over 2000 years later, it is a story still being told.  A God who became man to die so that all who believe in the truth of this sacrifice for their redemption can know Him personally and live for eternity saved from the results of their sin?  That definitely sounds uncomfortable, but it also sounds extraordinary.  

So, I want to live extraordinarily, abnormally, uncomfortably because then I can actually be alive.  And I will do so while I eat some mashed taters.  Join me?

[And because I feel sorry for you, a pretty taste from my summertime, and a hint at what I'll be discussing next week.]


Mashed Taters

Yields: about 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

6 or 7 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-2" sized chunks
1/4 cup butter
about 3 tablespoons milk (add more for thinner potatoes)
salt and pepper to taste, or seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Add chunks of potato to a large pot of salted water (enough to cover the potatoes well with water).  Bring pot to a boil, and allow potatoes to cook for 20 to 25 minutes until easily pierced with a fork.

Drain potatoes and return to the hot pot.  Add in chunks of butter and begin mashing with a potato masher.  Add in milk and desired seasoning.  

Continue mashing until potatoes reach desired consistency.  For creamier potatoes, add milk a tablespoon at a time and alternate between mashing and stirring with the masher.

Serve with extra butter, of course.  


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Broccoli Salad


There are some things in life that are inherently good, easily appreciated without any frills, exemplary from existence.  Allow me to provide some examples:

A sunny summer's day is wonderfully warm and relaxing.  But, a sunny summer's day with ice cream dripping from its cone down the side of your hand, and not having to care about the sticky trail it leaves as you indulgently lick your skin clean, that is summer perfection.

Reading a long book while curled in bed after noon in your favorite flannel pajamas is a nice treat.  But, reading in bed while a warm kitten sits atop your stomach and kneads the dough of your flabby abs is a lazy morning at its finest.

Getting a new job--and a job you actually love--is like winning the Grown-up Award of the Year Ever.  But, wearing a spiffy new outfit to a new job, feeling like you're moving in the right direction, knowing that you're walking down the life path that you're (probably, hopefully, Lord-willing) meant to take, that's not good, it's great.

And so, broccoli.

Broccoli is good.  Well, broccoli is good for you, at least.  But, Broccoli with bacon is best.

This broccoli salad takes a good vegetable and makes it goooooood.  This transformation easily comes about with some bacon, and other goodies.  But, best of all?  It's ridiculously simple to make and tastes too good to be so easy.  Best just became bestest.

[On a side note, can I just say that I love how Trader Joe's makes me feel like I'm being a classy lady and buying a bottle of red wine instead of, well, vinegar.  That's something good--an adorable bottle--made better--a catalyst to imagine a fantasy life].


Broccoli Salad

Yields:  about 14 side-dish servings

Ingredients: 

6-7 cups of broccoli florets (about 3 crowns of broccoli, chopped)
1 cup mayonnaise (I like Kraft mayo with olive oil)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup roasted and salted, shelled sunflower kernels 
8 slices applewood smoked bacon, crumbled

Directions

Chop and rinse broccoli, set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, and sugar with a whisk.  Stir in chopped red onion.  Add broccoli to bowl and toss until broccoli is well-coated in the dressing.  Refrigerate bowl for 2 to 24 hours.

Before serving, cook bacon until crispy and allow to drain.  Stir raisins and sunflower seeds into the salad.  Crumble bacon on top of the broccoli just before serving.  







Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sweet Cornbread Muffins


Let's talk about names.  These little cornbread muffins have sparked some thinking about the subject.  

When I was a wee child and people would ask me my name, I would timidly reply, "Courtney."  Only, because of being soft-spoken, I would often get called, "Corny?"

No.

Corny.  Courtney.  Cornbread.  Do you see my train of thought here?

Since my youth, I have learned to enunciate (sort of) and most people now correctly call me Courtney.

Occasionally, I'm called "Court."  I once hated the diminutive, thinking people's usage of it simply showed their laziness in failing to pronounce my entire name.  I've come to find it endearing.  It's a name I respond to only from the mouths of the dearest friends and family members.  If you take the risk of calling me Court and I don't protest, chances are I like you.

At the very least, Court cannot be misconstrued as Corn.

And so, muffins.  Cornbread becomes even more addictive when morphed into cute muffins studded with bits of corn bursting with sweet corn juice.  

Mmm, corny. 


Sweet Cornbread Muffins

Yield: About 15 muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup fresh sweet corn, cut from the cob

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  With cooking spray, grease about 18 muffin pans (extra just in case).

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a smaller bowl, beat together milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and melted butter.  Be careful to add the melted butter last and slowly to avoid scrambling the eggs. 

Make a well in the flour mixture, and pour egg mixture into the center.  Gently stir the mixture until partially wet.  Add in corn, stirring just until all the dry ingredients are completely wet.  Do not over-mix.

Pour batter into muffin pans about 2/3 full.

Bake in an oven heated to 350 deg. F. for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.  

Cool muffins in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes.  Then, remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on the wire rack completely, or serve warm.




Friday, June 29, 2012

Hummus


Hummus.  Humble.  

This recipe is nothing special, but that doesn't mean it isn't good.

I hope that statement holds true for the new apartment I now call home.  The window blinds were covered in black dust, the smoke detector didn't work, and somebody had punched in the bathroom door.  Still, its little quirks, once fixed (and even once more were discovered), ultimately made it endearing to me.

Like my abode, hummus may be humble.  Yet, it certainly has a lot to boast about.  Chock full of protein and flavor, but without any fat, hummus makes for a delightful spread on your sandwich or pita, a creamy dip for your veggies, or a refreshing cool bite eaten with a spoon directly from the fridge.


Hummus

Ingredients:

2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of water reserved from chickpea cans
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika, plus more for topping
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Blend chickpeas and can liquid in a food processor until slightly mixed but still grainy.  Add in spices.  Blend until smooth, scraping sides of food processor if necessary.

*Note: this recipe can be easily adjusted to fit your taste.  Ingredients for which I have listed "1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon..." can be added to this recipe as much or as little as you desire.





Thursday, June 21, 2012

Butterscotch Banana Bread


Summertime conjures up images of relaxing, resting, and recuperating.  I think of hammocks and lemonade, and books with the corner of a page turned down.  

Sounds nice, doesn't it?  I wouldn't mind napping on the beach for an hour or two.  At least, I think I would like that.  When it comes to actually resting though, I have a hard time; and, my first week of summer has  made me realize that I often view rest as a euphemistic form of waiting.

A week at home is not a time to relax and read books and write and bake and play piano and and and.  It is a holding cage until I move into a new apartment, until I start a new internship, until I start fulfilling responsibilities and doing things again.  Honestly, that's what I feeling up until last night.

The reality is I'm meant to wait.  I wouldn't wait--rest--on my own, so God made circumstances such that I have no choice but to wait.  And that's a relaxing thought.


What does all of that have to do with banana bread?  Not much, I suppose, except that this "quick bread" really isn't too quick to make.  But it is easy.  

Whip together a batter, pour it into a pan, and bake.  

Bake, and wait.  

Then, enjoy.  Bite into a slice and enjoy a burst of butterscotch upon your tongue.  

Waiting has its rewards, I suppose.   


Butterscotch Banana Bread


Yield: 1 large loaf (9"x5")

Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup oil
4 ripe medium/large bananas, mashed
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions:


Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9"x5" loaf pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat sugar, oil, bananas, and eggs together with an electric mixer.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon together.  Add this mixture to the banana mixture, stirring just until wet.  Fold in butterscotch chips.

Pour batter into loaf pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle chopped pecans on top of the batter.

Bake bread for 65 to 70 minutes at 350 deg. F. until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove bread from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before storing bread wrapped in aluminum foil and a plastic bag.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cherry Cheesecake Squares


A week or so ago I made this fancy-ish dessert for a fancy shin-dig for which I too had to look fancy.  I love fancifying simple recipes or staples and making them shine a little brighter.  Pancake mix? Fancified.  Ramen? Fancified.  Boxed caked mix? Fancified.

I would prefer making recipes fancy than having to endure the process of "dolling up" myself on a regular basis.  Still, seeing the end result can be amusing (especially when I reflect upon the blank and unfortunately frizzy canvas with which I typically begin).

Here is a little look at what a fancified woman must endure to become thus:
  • Hunting for and sometimes painfully removing all insurgent hairs often found upon the legs and surrounding the eyebrows.
  • Crafting, through trial and error, a strict formula that allows her to calculate at what time she should wash her hair in order for it to dry before her fancy event and still appear the most devoid of frizz.  
  • Checking for runs in tights and applying clear nail-polish to the baby snags threatening to mature.
  • Carefully painting the nails on her right hand red with her less-than-steady already painted left-hand and somehow managing to avoid looking like she has ripped the bloody entrails out of a dying animal when finished.  It's just her fire engine red polish, she swears.  
  • Make-up-ing.  Knowing how to apply just enough to highlight the good stuff and play down the not-so-good stuff.
  • Deciding between the light black skirt or the dark gray skirt.  Yes, there's a difference.  
  • Walking in pointy heels without toppling over and breaking something or poking somebody's eye out.

Even the fancified woman requires a recipe.  Thankfully, this one usually just improvises.  


Cherry Cheesecake Squares
Adapted from Betty Crocker

Yields: 24 squares

Ingredients:

Crust and Topping
1 (1 lb 1.5 oz) package Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1/4 cup cold butter, in chunks
4 oz (half a package) of cream cheese, in chunks
sprinkle of sugar

Filling
20 oz cream cheese (2 and 1/2 packages), softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 can (20 oz) cherry pie filling

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  With cooking spray, grease the bottom and sides of a 13"x9" baking pan.

Empty the sugar cookie mix into a large bowl.  Using two forks or a pastry blender, cut in 4 oz of cream cheese and butter into mix, until dough resembles the size of small peas and feels crumbly.  Set aside 1 and 1/2 cup of the mixture for the topping.  Evenly press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the baking pan, and slightly up the sides.  Sprinkle lightly with extra sugar.  Bake cookie crust for 12 minutes.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, and eggs on medium speed with a mixer until smooth.

Scoop cream cheese mixture onto the cookie crust and spread it out evenly.  Gently spoon pie filling evenly across the top of the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the reserved cookie crumbles onto the cherry filling.  

Bake squares for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown.  Remove pan from oven and cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.  The puffiness of the squares will deflate during cooling; do not be alarmed.  Refrigerate the bars for 3 hours or overnight until set.  Slice squares and serve, or store squares covered in the fridge.  










Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Bucket List 2012


In one week, I will officially be on summer vacation--until the end of September.  This may very well be my last summer vacation ever.  Next year, I enter my senior year of college, and after that, summers seem to disappear from existence, being replaced by two week vacations from "real world" jobs.  So, this summer, I'm going to make it count.

I'll be staying here by the beach all summer, doing an internship related to books, marketing, and publishing (i.e. dream job).

I have a trip or two planned to go home, but I'd rather not think about that.  Living in the Salad Bowl of the World really isn't all that Steinbeck wrote it to be.  It'll be nice to see Momma, Crumpet, and Gma though.

No, by the the beach is where I'm meant to be.  I have great community here, to which I'm starting to feel I belong.  Oh, and did I mention that the sun is always shining?

So, what will I be doing besides interning, gallivanting around, and "hangin' out"?

Summer Bucket List 2012

1. Love people.
It's a sad but true fact that loving people falls by the wayside when the busyness of school picks up.  I hate that I let that happen.  But that won't be true for the summer.  I want to hand out compliments left and right, and maybe a hug or five.  I want to invite you--yes, you--over for dinner.  Why?  Well, because these verses keep coming to mind: 
"Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

2. Love Jesus...really Love Jesus.
Substitue the name "Jesus" for "love" in the above verses, and it would still make sense.  Why wouldn't I want to spend more time then with the God who loves me so much that he sent his son to die for me so that I could be in relationship with him and experience that love?  Put that way, it seems simply silly for me not to.  That's not to say that I haven't been loving Jesus all quarter.  I love Him everyday, but distractions have their appeal...yeah, but not really when I think about it.  

and now for some fluff...

3. WRITE.
This summer I will work on my novel.  I will sit in a café with this laptop, sipping on a latte or some herbal tea, and I will write.  I will write until I can write no more!  Muahahahah.


4.  Blog.
I bought that thing today.  OK, so maybe it was a bit of an impulse buy.  Still, the idea has been percolating in my mind for several months now that I may be outgrowing culinarilycourtney dot blogspot dot com.  It's quite a mouthful, and I have interests beyond food.  The recipes would still be weekly, but hopefully, in sharing my name, my new blog will also share more aspects of me.  This is a summer project to be sure.  Somehow I  need to figure out how to migrate posts from here to there, along with comments, stats, and oh dear...I'm getting scared.  I guess it's a good thing that summer will be three months long.

5. Read.
I plan to finish reading East of Eden this summer.  It has been lazing around on the bookshelf all quarter whilst I read other tomes of despicable size.  I would also like to finish reading the Hunger Games, not because the first book was stellar or anything, but just because I hate leaving a series unfinished.  I want to pick up Mere Christianity too, and I will attempt to finish the Old Testament this summer.  I have been stuck in Jeremiah for far too long.

and of course...

6. Bake, cook, eat, and share.
I will be making a fruit tart when I go home in the next week and a half (Gma's favorite), so stay tuned for that.  I would also like to make a pizza once from scratch; some Tzatziki sauce (I could eat that stuff on it's own with a spoon); and some such decadent dessert (suggestions?).

Summer cannot come soon enough.  Farewell for a bit as I go write papers and study for finals.

What are your summer plans?





Saturday, June 2, 2012

Avocado Pasta


When I was in 7th grade, I went through a phase where I really liked green things.  Green converse tennis shoes, green mechanical pencils, green apples (well, I still really like those).  

Want to know an embarrassing fact about 7th grade me?  At some point during that most unfortunate of middle school years, I started to use a word of my own creation to describe these pleasingly green things.

"Greeniliscious."


My non-Merriam-Webster-approved adjective nicely describes this dish.  

Let's combine avocados, broccoli, and edamame and call it a green trifecta.  Or dinner.   


On another note,

This goes against everything the "writer-me" has been taught about keeping a set focus, etc., but I'm going to digress a little.  

Green.  Green also makes me think of gratitude.  Gratitude, grace.  The gr-gr-gr thing, I guess.

I've been gr-gr-growing in these areas lately, and as this school year comes to a close (2 weeks, eek!), I look back on this year and cry, and laugh, and then cry a little more, and ultimately smile when I think of all this.  

So anyway, bon appétit.


Avocado Pasta, aka green trifecta

Yields: ~3 dinner size servings, or 5-6 smaller size servings

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ripe, medium sized avocados
1 1/2 tablespoons water (or lemon/lime juice would be good too)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
sprinkle of black pepper

1-2 crowns of broccoli
1 cup frozen edamame, thawed
6 ounces pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
Parmesan cheese 

Directions:

In a blender, puree avocado slices with water, garlic powder, and salt and pepper until creamy.  Add additional water for a thinner sauce.

Rinse and chop broccoli into uniform sized pieces.  Steam until just tender.  Set aside.

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Drain well and add broccoli, edamame, and avocado pasta sauce.  Toss pasta in sauce until well covered.

Top pasta with Parmesan cheese and additional salt and pepper if desired.  I enjoy this dish cold, but it can be eaten as a hot meal too.  



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Raspberry Lemonade Granola


It's a shy one, this recipe.  Raspberry Lemonade Granola has been hiding from you for two months, sitting in my freezer, waiting for the perfect still-spring-but-almost-summer day to appear.  

Spring seems to be a time of unveiling.  

Flowers pop out of the ground, sharing their beautiful colors with passersby.  

Not one Facebook friend, not two Facebook friends, but numerous Facebook friends share their secret with the Facebook world: "So-and-so is now in a relationship."

Maybe you surprise yourself.  A dormant, timid, little trait of yours appears with boldness; a part of yourself that you never knew existed inside you until the moment it came out.  That happened to me this spring.  

Let's celebrate the newness with a still-spring-but-almost-summer cocktail, or at least some Raspberry Lemonade Granola.  


Raspberry Lemonade Granola

Yields: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup raspberry preserves
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt

Other additional mix-ins:
Freeze-dried raspberries
Dried cranberries
Slivered almonds

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together oats and coconut.

In a microwave safe bowl, stir together oil, lemon juice, preserves honey, zest and salt.  Microwave for twenty seconds and stir again.  Pour liquid over oat mixture.

Stir oat mixture with liquid until well absorbed.  Spread oats evenly onto pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and gently stir granola, but be careful not to break up any large clumps.  Return to oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until granola has reached a light golden brown. 

Cool granola in pan for 20 minutes and then transfer to aluminum foil to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.  

Serve atop plain/vanilla/lemon yogurt, vanilla ice cream, or eat it as a snack on its own.  

Granola lasts for 2 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature, or for up to two months in the freezer.