An Update

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a wonderful last-of-2014 this has been! The past two weeks have been chock-full of family time, good memories, music, inspiring discussions, great friends, skiing, singing around the table, tasty meals, and SO much more. I am grateful for many things, and today I'm especially grateful for the amazing year God has given us.

I realized the other day (with chagrin) that I neglected to post my last two recipes of Ethnic Food Week... oops. :) Well, to be honest, neither of them turned out very well. One was Seafood Lo Mein, which was simply awful due to some really raucous seafood, and the other was Chicken Curry, which was just okay. The thing is, we've been quite spoiled by so many amazing curries made by Curtis' Indian classmate, so this one didn't make the cut. Oh well. :) It was such a fun project! And I'm loving the cookbook - America's Test Kitchen does a great job coming up with reliable recipes.

[coffee with the best sister in the world]

[Dakin Farm is such a cute little place... and so is the sis!]

[for these two starving people, the free samples were a life-saver...]

Happy New Year, everybody!

Recipe #4: Homemade Hodge Burritos

Friday, December 19, 2014

Whenever the boys are hungry and hankering for some comfort food, they usually ask me to make a Hodge. A hodge is simply an Adams version of a tasty, comforting concoction made from whatever ingredients are on hand, and it can take the form of anything - chili, soup, enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, you name it. It probably originated from all the years we spent on Les Îles, when the size of the grocery store made cooking substitutions the norm...

Anyway, the ethnic recipe on the menu for last night's dinner was "Middle Eastern Beef Pita Sandwiches." But at about 5:00 p.m., somebody wandered into the kitchen to see what was for dinner, and asked hopefully if I might be making a hodge, at which point everyone starting clamoring for it. :) I was very happy to comply! And since I would have posted about the sandwiches, I'll post instead about the burritos I ended up making...

E's Hodge Burritos


4 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped 
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 lb colby-jack cheese, grated
10 fajita-sized tortillas
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish


Preheat oven to 400. In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp oil and add the onion. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the bell pepper and the beef, breaking it up with a fork. When the beef is browned, drain excess fat, then add all of the spices to the meat and mix well. Add the beans, tomatoes, cilantro, and cheese.

Oil a large baking sheet. In a small bowl, melt the butter, then add about 2 tbsp oil, stirring well to combine. Fill tortillas with the meat mixture, making the burritos as fat or skinny as you like. You can use bigger or smaller tortillas - remember, it's a hodge, so anything goes. :)

Place the burritos snuggled into each other in a row along the pan, putting any extra burritos along the edges if needed. Brush tops of tortillas with the oil-butter mixture, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the burritos look nice and crispy. Garnish with cilantro and serve with burrito accompaniments.

Note: A hodge is, by nature, adaptable. You can take the same ingredients (minus the tortillas), add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and more beans, and you've got a chili. Or smother the burritos in enchilada sauce and voila! Enchies. So... go ahead and use this recipe as a guide, and make the boys in your life happy with hot & tasty hodges! :)

Recipe #3: West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'll admit that this was another recipe that gave me many doubts during the cooking process. I love sweet potatoes, and I love peanuts, but in a soup together?? Nevertheless, it looked really interesting, so I gave it a try. And I am SO glad I did! Everyone absolutely loved it and said it was definitely a make-again. Curtis brought some to school today for a classmate, and his response was "I could eat this every day for a year!"

So here is the recipe for your cooking pleasure...

West African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup


3 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, minced
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 tbsp peanut butter
black pepper
3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro leaves


Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, coriander, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the broth, water, sweet potatoes, and peanut butter. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low and cook, partially covered, until the sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until a desired consistency is reached - I think it tastes best to puree about half the soup, for a smooth consistency that still has body. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in the cilantro, and serve.

Recipe #2: Colcannon Soup

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Colcannon soup is based on a traditional Irish dish of potatoes, cabbage, and leeks, and was a perfect fit for recipe #2 of Ethnic Food Week. The write-up looked tasty and quite intriguing, so, armed with a sharp knife and a roly-poly cabbage, I set to work. Just in case you decide to make this soup, don't be alarmed at the way the soup looks half-way through! I snapped a phone picture to prove the point - it doesn't look like a soup at all yet.

Also, I recommend cooking at least one extra piece of bacon, because if you're like Ibs and I, well... that hot sizzling bacon disappears fast. :) Here is blurry Exhibit No. 1 of somebody grabbing a piece. [I decline to mention who placed the cabbage leaf on her head.]

And finally, here is the finished soup. Now, before you run screaming away after one look at this picture, let me put a disclaimer: the color really does look awful! In fact, I was thoroughly convinced that this was NOT a do-again recipe, until I took a taste. Yes, it is actually amazingly good! Just another easy, good-for-you soup that's perfect for a freezing winter day.

Now for the recipe...

Colcannon Soup


6 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and rinsed thoroughly
1 medium head cabbage, cored and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
9 cups chicken broth
5 medium potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
Minced fresh chives, for garnish


Cook the bacon in a large pot over medium-low heat until crisp, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the rendered fat in the pot. When the bacon is cool enough, crumble it into small pieces.

Meanwhile, add the onion, leeks, and cabbage to the bacon fat and stir to coat. Cover and cook on medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute.

Stir in 1 cup of chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until it has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rest of the chicken broth and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Portion the soup into individual serving bowls and, before serving, sprinkle with the reserved crumbled bacon and chives.

Ethnic Food Week!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I was in a little thrift shop the other day, and was SO excited to find America's Test Kitchen's "The Best International Recipes" cookbook, for only $2!

So of course I want to try out a bunch of the recipes... and I've decided that this week is going to be Ethnic Food Week. I'm going to try out at least one new recipe from the book per day, and let y'all know about them here. Last night was Day One: Mole Chicken, from Mexico.

It turned out quite well! We had it over potatoes with lots of guac. And lots of cheese. :) Here's my rendition of the recipe:

Mole Chicken


2 ancho chiles
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped coarse
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tsp butter
salt and pepper
3 lbs bone-in chicken pieces (I used thighs)
Chopped cilantro, for garnish


Heat the oven to 350. Place the ancho chiles on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant and puffed, about 6 minutes. Remove the chiles from the oven and let cool; when cool enough to handle, seed and stem the chiles, and break into small pieces.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering . Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the toasted chile pieces, cinnamon, cloves, and chocolate and cook until the spices are fragrant and the chocolate is melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, raisins, and butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chile mixture to a blender or food processor and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Season to taste.

Adjust the oven temp to 400. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer in a shallow baking dish and cover with the mole sauce. Bake, uncovered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 170 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest in the sauce for 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Serve. Enjoy. Go back for seconds. Dream of how amazing ice cream would be after this meal...

All in a day's work

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I was doing dishes a few minutes ago when I suddenly heard the roaring and coughing of an engine out in the garage, and went to investigate. I found Curtis hard at work fixing our very-sick snow blower, in an effort to get the driveway cleared of nearly two feet of snow. By the look on his face, I think the roaring of the engine finally starting was a good sign. :) And yep, this is after already putting in a long day's work with the medical studies.

I snapped a quick (and blurry) pic...

By the way, this is what our trees looked like this morning, hence the need for the snow blower:

Absolutely Amazing Brownie Recipe

Friday, December 5, 2014

Knock-You-Naked Brownies
[picture courtesy of]

Ree Drummond has done it again! A few weeks ago I received her cookbook, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" as a gift from a dear friend (love you girl! :), and this recipe was the first one I made from the book. They were absolutely AMAZING. My family gobbled them up at record speed. Quote from Augs: "I think we need to have these on hand ALL the time!!"
So here is her recipe for your cooking (and eating) pleasure...


1 stick butter, melted, plus more for greasing
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1/3 plus 1/2 cup evaporated milk
One 18.5-ounce box chocolate cake mix
1 cup finely chopped pecans [I used walnuts]
60 caramels, unwrapped [minus one that somebody snitched]
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-by-9-inch baking pan.

Begin by pouring 1/3 cup evaporated milk into a bowl with the cake mix. Add the melted butter and the chopped pecans. Mix the ingredients together - it'll be pretty thick!

Divide the dough in half down the middle. Press half of it into the bottom of the prepared pan to make the first brownie layer. Bake until slightly set, 8 to 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and set aside.

While the brownie layer is baking, in a double boiler (or glass bowl set over a bowl of simmering water) combine the caramels and the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Stir occasionally until the caramels are totally melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour the caramel mixture over the first baked layer, spreading so it's evenly distributed. Sprinkle the chocolate chips all over the top.

Next, on a clean surface or a sheet of waxed paper, press the remaining dough into a square shape slightly smaller than the baking pan. Carefully set it on top of the chocolate chips. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the brownies cool to room temperature. Cover the pan and refrigerate the brownies for several hours to allow them to set.

When you're ready to serve them (or give them to someone you love!) sprinkle generously with the powdered sugar and cut them into large rectangles before removing from the pan. These are absolutely killer, my friends. Make them for someone you really, really love... or someone you want to love you back. :)
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