Mystery Weekend

Last weekend we decided we would get away for a weekend and do something fun. Eric thought that instead of "us" planning something, he would plan it and not tell me what we were doing. Sounds good to me! I did have my suspicions as to where we were going though...

Friday afternoon rolled around and we got the heck out of work and hit the road. Our weekend started off with a night at his aunt and uncles second home in Phillipsburg, MT. They won't be back until January so this was a good chance for us to make sure the (very old) house is in working order for them.

This small town is about 2 hours northwest of Bozeman with a beautiful drive to get there. They have a local place called "Friday Night Pizza" that we've been interested in trying. It's a local couple that whip up gourmet pizzas, but only on... you guessed it... Friday nights. You call in during the day and they schedule a time for you to come get it at their location built into the back of the local laundromat/car wash. We were thoroughly impressed and will definitely plan to get it again next time we are in the area.

That evening we ventured downtown to a local bar. Upon settling up at the bar and ordering drinks, a guy in his mid 20's came up, sat next to us and asked us where we were from. This guy was one of the nicest guys ever and had the full redneck, "I grew up in this town and ain't never leavin' again", personality dialed in. We had a blast talking to him about hunting, growing up in town and his job as a gold miner down south (and then moved home). I'd have to say the highlight of our conversation was hearing him talk about his uncle and how "that man is a mountain lion huntin' son-of-a-bitch, he is, yep". It was a great night! Oh, and did I mention that 9 beers (got a drink for our friend too), tips and 2 shake a days was $15? "YEP"

Jackson, MT Jackson, MT

The next morning we cleaned up the house, made sure everything was in working order and winterized the place. Eric had planned that instead of taking the quick route, we'd take a longer, more scenic route to my favorite place in Montana - Jackson. This drive took us directly through the middle of the Pioneer Mountains along a windy road, passing many hunters along the way. We surely thought that we would see some wildlife along the way, but just didn't get lucky.

You could easily blink and miss this tiny little town as you're driving through. The Jackson Hot Springs Lodge is basically the towns livelihood. We discovered this place several years ago when we were looking for a neat place to visit and have now stayed 3 times and visited during the day once over Jeep Week when we needed the mechanic across the street from the lodge.

Considering the lodge and it's accompanying hot spring pool and cabins takes up one full block of the 4 square blocks making up the entire town, you are certain to get to know a mix of locals and visitors as we did. In fact, we spent the evening partying with the owners. The greatest thing about this place, aside from being really inexpensive to stay, is that you have these really rustic accommodations, an amazing lodge to spend your evening in and then you have a high end gourmet restaurant. I'd have to say some of the best meals I've ever eaten have been in the restaurant here.

Needless to say it was a really fun weekend getaway with Eric. I know we'll be back to both places again and again. Trips like these remind me just how awesome the man I married truly is!



It's been quite a week! Between a fun weekend in Minnesota celebrating our friends marriage, plus a very busy week catching up at work and oh, yeah, the official election of a new president, I'm ready to relax. It's been getting quite chilly around here and with ski season just around the corner we are banking on some serious snowfall.

This afternoon we are having a few friends over for a BBQ. Eric is planning on grilling a variety of meat on the Big Green Egg, a friend is going to make her specialty mac & cheese and her husband is also bringing over Rock Band! Certain to be a good time! I can't have folks over though without the serious itch to make something myself. It's a perfect time to make some of my favorite recipes.

I have to say I'm a bit proud of myself for this recipe. It's one of the few I've put together on my own. The idea came from a combination of watching Rachael Ray make mini pizzas one afternoon and one of Eric's favorite kinds. These are a great appetizer for parties since they are colorful and super easy to make. I only wish the picture was better!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbls chopped garlic (we use the stuff in the jar)
  • 8 oz. mozzarella brick
  • 1 tub grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Roll out tube of pizza dough into a rectangle. You can either use a cup to form as many circles as possible or the easier method may be to just cut it into 3x3 inch squares or so.
  3. Brush each mini pizza with olive oil and rub about a 1/4 tsp of garlic on each one.
  4. Slice tomatoes in half length wise, and then slice each half again lengthwise. Slice cheese into 1/4 in thick slices into chunks that will almost fill the sections. Place a piece of cheese on each section of dough and arrange 3-4 tomato quarters on top so the stay put.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges of dough start to brown. Allow to cool slightly, sprinkle basil over top and drizzle with olive oil.

Enjoy!


Well we had the first real snow of the season! I guess that means ski season is just around the corner, yippee! While freakin' cold, it was absolutely beautiful today. Perhaps it's the fact that we were in the 80's last week and a sudden 30 degree day feels like 30 below, but it was FREEZING! The early season snow collecting on leaves still changing with the autumn season made it colorful yet amazingly white. Perfect for trying my hand at taking pictures. We went to the Bobcat/Weber State game today only to watch them get sorely beaten. I love to watch football in chilly weather, bundled up and toasty, but today pushed the limits. At halftime we decided to head to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the 2nd half in warmth while eating plenty of wings.

We also decided that the perfect way to end the first real cold day of the season was to have a chili cookoff, just the two of us. I'm pretty sure I won. Yep. Eric may argue, but in all reality you know I'm the champ. Ha! Seriously though, we both made very different but awesome batches of chili. Mine is more of a classic, thick meaty chili while his is more stew like and much more spicy. To counter a certain buddy of mine that thought I may only follow recipes, here is how I made mine (without looking at a single suggestion). :)

Main Ingredients:
2.5 lbs ground beef
1 Sweet Onion
3 cans stewed tomatoes (chopped)
2 cans chili beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1-2 cups mushrooms
Olive Oil
Garlic
One bottle Black Widow Oatmeal Stout

Add to taste:
Garlic Powder (around 2 tbls)
Chili Powder (around 3 tbls)
Cumin (around 2 tbls)
Oregano (around 1 tbls)
Cinnamon (yep!) (around 1 tsp)
Salt (around 1 tsp)

So I started with a tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron pot, added some chopped garlic and let brown slightly. Add onions and saute until softened. Add the ground beef and toss around until browned and the beef really breaks down (I like it in really tiny pieces). Sprinkle in some of the spices to let absorb with the meat. Finally add in the rest of the main ingredients and add spices until the taste is what you like. The more it simmers, the more the flavors come out, so go light on the spices until it simmers for a bit. Let it simmer for awhile to reduce the beer and thicken.

I'm really satisfied with this recipe, but the joy of chili is that you can adjust to your taste. Between the batch I made and Eric's we'll be eatin' chili for weeks to come. It freezes great too, so store in medium containers so you can pull out just enough to last a day or two.

I received this trifle bowl last year for Christmas and haven't yet put it to use. Searching for trifle recipes I ran across this one and knew I had to make it for my mom's birthday. It is, simply put, awesome! The perfect combination of strawberries, chocolate and fluffy cream made from cream cheese, pudding and whipped topping, layered with ladyfingers brushed with coffee. Try it and enjoy!

Oh, and yes, it did get rave reviews!

Ingredients

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries
  • 1 1/4 cups cold milk
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant cheesecake or vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons strong brewed coffee, room temperature, divided
  • 2 cups whipped topping (I used homemade)
  • 1 (3 ounce) package ladyfingers, split
  • 6 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate, grated
Preparation
  1. Set aside three strawberries for garnish; slice the remaining strawberries. In a bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth; gradually beat in 2 tablespoons coffee. Beat in pudding. Fold in whipped topping.
  2. Brush remaining coffee over ladyfingers. Line the bottom of a 3-qt. trifle or glass serving bowl with half of the ladyfingers. Top with half of the sliced berries, grated chocolate and pudding mixture; repeat layers. Cut reserved berries in half; place on trifle. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
On a side note, I realized I didn't have enough eggs and wasn't able to make the brownies. Guess there's a trip to the grocery store in my future.

Do I have a taster?

So, I've been a bit behind on the blogging. Well, wait a second, was I ever on top of it?

Anyway, for those few of you that check out the blog here and there I just had to share the recipe that popped up on SmittenKitchen today. I'm pretty sure I know exactly what I'm doing this weekend. It's definitely not going to be the long run and hike I was thinking for Saturday. No, I think these brownies are it. Considering the fact that I love baked goods with spices in them, plus the fact that they are brownies make them look amazing.

I'm probably going to need a few folks to sample them. Any takers?

On second thought, as good as these look I should probably plan in that run! Have a great weekend!


I can't believe it's already been a month since our "Jeep Week" trip. We gathered our friends, packed up 7 Jeeps and hit the trail in southwest Montana, each night bringing us to a different location. We camped in a beautiful meadow the first night and found amazing mountain lakes the other nights. While several folks stayed the full 9 days, we stayed only 5, which was plenty considering the amount of dirt we accumulated!

Our meals for the trip were planned so each couple only had to make one breakfast or one dinner. We had dinner and made pulled pork and this salad. I hadn't made it previously, so I put it together and hoped for the best. I was surprised by how much everyone liked it and how quickly it was wiped out. Based on this success I made it again for our trip last weekend to see Tom Petty at the Gorge (awesome concert both nights!). Again, everyone loved it. So, here I am posting it to share. Just a hint, I prepared all the veggies and combined in one bag, put the almonds in their own bag and stored within the veggie bag. The dressing was stored in a tupperware container and I just let folks add as much as they wanted.

Naturally I found it at Simply Recipes.

Ingredients

2/3 cup slivered almonds
8 cups (1 lb) coarsely shredded napa cabbage
12 ounces snow peas, strings removed, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 1/3 cups thinly sliced radishes
1 1/3 cups thinly sliced green onions (including greens)
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves

Dressing ingredients
3 Tbsp rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove peeled and minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 cup mayonnaise

Preparation

1 Spread almond slivers out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until nicely browned. OR toast in stick-free or cast-iron skillet on medium high, stirring frequently until browned. Set aside.

2 Combine cabbage, snow peas, radishes, green onions, cilantro in a large bowl. Can make this step a day or two ahead.

3 In a separate bowl, mix together the rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, ginger, and cayenne until sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the mayonnaise.

4 When ready to serve, gently combine the dressing and almonds with the cabbage mixture.

Serves 14-16.


This weekend was one of the most enjoyable Jeep trips I've been on yet. Giljeep held up great, ran on the mainer roads like a charm, and handled the trail really well! The route was one of the more gnarly trails I've ever been on, but the scenery was unbelievable. The wildflowers were in full bloom - pink, yellow, white, purple, and blue against the bright green of lichen covering the trees and lush growth everywhere. Cliff Lake was at the top of the trail, nestled in a mountain bowl. Saturday night we watched incredible clouds roll in over the mountainside while lightning illuminated the sky in the south. It was quite a sight! The sky was an amazing assortment of blues and grays and even some pink as it seemed the impending storm was competing with an attempt at a colorful sunset. Needless to say the picture opportunities were in abundance and I took full advantage of it. The link to my full Flickr pool is: http://flickr.com/photos/27707945@N05/.


Oh, and there was snow. Saturday afternoon was spent contemplating the idea of sledding down the snow fields into the chilly lake below. What seemed like a lot of talk proved itself a great idea as Sunday we gave it a shot. Enjoy the video...

PS - When this video is done, find the one along the bottom called "Sal & Elizabeth sledding at Cliff Lake". :)

Zeke!

What's so funny Zeke!? This is the laugh, the standard state of expression Zeke maintains anytime we're out in the woods. As Eric puts it, he's a "mountain dog" and can't get enough of 'em. The pup just loves to run free and explore the wild, sniffing every last twig and rock, chasing any animal that happens to cross his path. Watch out deer! I snapped this shot over the weekend on a family camping trip and thought it captured his laugh just right.


This weekend we camped with both sets of parents at a local recreation area and really had a good time. Between a hike to a nearby waterfall, catching up over margaritas and even a game of Loaded Questions around the campfire we had a great time!

Watermelon Margaritas


Lately I have a variety of recipes I really want to get up here, but just haven't had the time. Right now I'm relaxing after running a 10K race this morning and thinking these Watermelon Margarita's sound just about right. I made them the other night for our bimonthly girls dinner and was very very happy with them. Being a light and refreshing drink with a tasty watermelon flavor, I have to say I was impressed. I'm thinking these would be perfect mixed in a pitcher for a bbq, to be followed by something else, like oh, a cold beer. The recipe was found in an awesome cookbook my dad loaned me called Great Gatherings, which I'd really suggest picking up a copy of if you enjoy entertaining or just love good recipes. Each "chapter" features a famous chef and they put together a full menu for a themed affair, even suggesting music and wine pairings.

Enjoy!

Watermelon Margaritas

Ingredients
Simple Syrup
3/4 C. Sugar
3/4 C. Water

3 lbs watermelon with rind intact
1 1/2 C (12 oz) fresh lime juice
Crushed ice or ice cubes
6 shots (9 oz) tequila

Preparation
To make the simple syrup, in a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and then cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Cut off and discard the rind from the watermelon. Cut the flesh into chunks, removing as many of the seeds as you can. In a food processor or blender, process the watermelon chunks, in batches as necessary, to a smooth puree. Pass the puree through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl. You should have about 3 cups of watermelon juice. Add the simple syrup and lime juice and stir well. Transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.

Just before serving, remove the watermelon-lime juice mixture from the refrigerator and stir well. Fill 6 tall glasses with ice and pour 1 shot of tequila in each. Serve immediately. Mmmm!


Ginger Sugar Cookies


In case you're not seeing the trend, I like baked goods. They're a great treat and easy to share, preventing me from eating every last one myself. Which... I would do since my husband isn't all that into sweets. I actually made this batch for an event my mom has organized for Friday night. I sure hope they like 'em!

These turned out surprisingly tasty! I was definitely intrigued by the recipe, a bit skeptical and was happy with the results. They are some what of a cross between a ginger snap and a sugar cookie. Although, I'm sure you already picked up on that from the name.

Anyway, this recipe came from my Food & Wine magazine. I've had the page in my clippings recipe binder for some time and I'm glad I've finally gotten around to making them. They are pretty easy to make and roll out, even with my high end blue plastic rolling pin (Target $1 bins!). You do need to watch them carefully while they are baking since they tend to brown really quick once they start. The original recipe called for 20 minutes, but I backed it down to 16-18 minutes. I'd still suggest keeping an eye on them.

Enjoy!
Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks ( 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preparation
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the ground ginger, baking soda and salt. In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, or using a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla, scraping the side and bottom of the bowl. Beat in the dry ingredients at medium-low speed. Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into a round, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough 1/8-inch thick. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, stamp out rounds as close together as possible. Arrange the rounds on large baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Gather the scraps and reroll, cutting out more cookies.
  3. Bake the cookies in batches for about 16-18 minutes, until golden; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Pretty in Pink

Just when I don't think I have enough hobbies that involve collecting random things that are nearly impossible to organize, I found sewing. I guess I shouldn't say I just recently found it... I was quite impressed by the bags I made my 3 cooking buddies for Christmas, but I have recently decided I want to sew more things.

I think what really spurred this was the discovery of the Pink Penguin blog. Seriously, the girl can sew! Plus, her style is totally what I like. I love the vintage, retro look and feel, as well as handmade items that don't look TOO handmade. The way I actually stumbled across her blog was through a newsletter I receive from Photojojo. They sent the link for making this cute camera bag.

Anyway, she has a great tutorial that I was finally able to use this week. I, of course, had to scour eBay for a good deal on cute fabric, wait for it and then find time to make it. I have to say I'm proud of my buttonhole and shaping the corners of the bias tape. I love it and have already received nice compliments on it (not that I was showing it off). And naturally, it's pink.

PS I'm baking some Ginger Sugar Cookies right now. If they turn out, I'll share the recipe here.



Not only do I get excited to find I have all the ingredients on hand to whip up a batch of cookies, it's even more thrilling to find I can make something other than your basic standards. I ran across this recipe and thought they sounded interesting and quite possibly pretty good. Fortunately, I was not run astray and was delighted to find something I will make time and again. Not only are they quick and easy to whip up, but you can even vary them using lemon or maybe adding a hint of vanilla and omitting the citrus and seeds. These particular cookies taste like a sugar cookie with a hint of orange and the slight nuttiness of poppy seeds.

This recipe was found, naturally, at the Simple Recipes blog. As you'll see it was only yesterday's post.


Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon of orange zest
  • 1 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds

Preparation

1 Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

2 Add the egg and the orange zest, beat for thirty seconds, scraping down the bowl part way through to ensure even mixing.

3 In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly sift it into the butter mixture until just combined. Fold in the poppy seeds.

4 Place heaping teaspoonfuls on a non stick baking sheet, allowing them space as they will spread as they bake.

5 Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes or until just turning golden around the edges. Remove from oven. Let sit on the baking sheet for a minute or two to let the cookies solidify a bit, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Oh, and I have to say I'm thrilled with how perfectly round they are and I didn't even try!

Sandpoint, Idaho

This weekend I discovered my next "home"! I cruised up to Sandpoint, ID to visit one of my best friends and fell in love with the town. They have everything we do here in Bozeman (skiing, hiking, biking, exploring), plus a huge lake providing endless opportunities for recreation. Anyway, this gal and I have been friends for over 10 years and while we don't see each other all that often, we always pick up where we left off.

Even though I was actually there for less than 48 hours, we certainly packed in our fair share of fun. Between hiking (and getting lost), 4-wheeling and cycling along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, I came home absolutely exhausted. The abundance of rain recently, followed by an outburst of sunshine has made everything unbelievably green and colorful! While there were numerous photo ops, I just wasn't very satisfied with my results.



For some reason this stretch of railroad made me think of old time movies. I picture kids racing down the middle of them on their bikes, hopping off into the bushes to watch a train rush by. I gave it an antique look to better reflect this image. The flowers on the right struck me because, of course, they're pink!



One the highlights from the weekend was 4-wheeling around the Wyman Wildlife Preserve. We were actually invited out to the property by the 85 year old owner. While we didn't exactly get going very fast, it was interesting to listen to the history this gentleman has experienced in his 85 years. This cabin was used by his ancestors many years prior. Just a bit further down the trail we also visited the home they lived in, though it was in much the same condition as this cabin. There is something about these old buildings that always fascinates me. You just have to wonder what those walls have seen, heard and experienced. This is the first time I've come across one with someone that can remember when it was a part of everyday life. The last fascinating tidbit was him telling us about his days in the Army up in Sitka, Alaska. We found out that he is friends with Sig Hansen of the Northwestern (Deadliest Catch fans...) and he actually invented the part of the fishing pots that prevent the "catch" from escaping the pots. Cool!

That about sums up the weekend. I wasn't happy with my pictures of the lake, but might post one anyway.


Don't let the name worry you, Haricot Vert are merely long french green beans. I made this recipe last Sunday night while my husband smoked a rack of what was easily the most amazing ribs I may have ever eaten. He used his beloved Big Green Egg and basted them with Zeke's BBQ sauce (at World Market). We both agreed that this dinner was one of the top five we've ever cooked. This little side dish is super easy to prepare, quick and pretty healthy. The two of us have very different tastes in food (him - spicy, bold flavors/me - comfort food and sweets), so it's always great to find something we both agree on, like this. It's actually great cold too so you can have it as leftovers if, on the off chance, you don't finish them. Unlike us...

This was found at SmittenKitchen (another favorite site). The picture there is fantastic! Mine on the other hand, let's just say I'm still learning...

Haricot Vert with Shallots

1/2 pound of haricot vert, trimmed and tailed
2 teaspoon butter
1 small shallot, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons diced tomato
Wedge of lemon

Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil. Boil haricot vert for 3.5 minutes (yes, that's three and a half). Plunge them into an ice bath and drain the beans.

In your empty pot (might as well save a dish) melt two teaspoons of butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute them until they’re just translucent, not browned–about one to two minutes. Add the drained and cooled haricot vert back into the pot and reheat them in the butter and shallots. Season with salt and pepper. Spread haricot vert and shallot onto a plate, throw the diced tomato over them and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over the dish. Serve immediately.

After a long week of work, there is something rewarding about a weekend to do anything you want or nothing at all. We manage to fill our weekends quite full, so finding myself sitting on the couch with nothing to do on a Saturday is wonderful! Last night, my mom had a "wedding party" to gather a few of us girls and remember our big days. It was a nice night and quite fun to look at dresses and reminisce over pictures and stories. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites.


We built a "shotski" for the wedding party to toast with!




There is some sort of true pleasure in finding I have all the necessary ingredients on hand to whip up a batch of cookies on a moments notice. Nevermind the fact that I "stock" for this purpose, but we'll leave that alone. I recently decided to whip up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies to take with us camping for Memorial Day weekend. Knowing I could easily find a decent recipe in my seldom used Joy of Cooking cookbook, I summoned the inner (and not so hidden) computer geek in me and scanned my favorite foodie sites for a new recipe. Turns out the one I found is not so "new", but the resulting cookie was absolutely fabulous and went over very well with all our camping companions. I found the recipe on Simply Recipes (again... love that site!!) and only added a bit of nutmeg since I love what I call the "pumpkin pie" spices - nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, etc.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups oats (I used "quick" oats)
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (use 1/2 cup if using raisins) (optional)

Preparation

1 Cream shortening and sugars, add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

2 Sift flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add to first mixture and mix well. Add raisins and nuts. Add oats last.

3 Spoon out by rounded tablespoonfuls on to greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350°F. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove to wire rack. Cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

PS. This was my first attempt at photographing food. Definitely need some practice...

Jeeps

One of our other hobbies is "Jeepin'!" We recently just purchased our first Jeep and no longer have to rely on our friends for a spot in their rigs. This was the first time out with ours and we had a great time. We really enjoyed our Memorial Day weekend with 3 days of camping and a total of 4 Jeep runs through the hills. It was also a fun time for me to practice with the camera.



On Sunday, a couple friends met up with us just for the day. Unfortunately in this picture, ours is behind the tree. I just couldn't seem to get it out of my way, or photoshop it out for that matter!

Lined up...


"Experts Only"

Mexican Lasagna

Well, I suppose my great aspirations to maintain this fantastic "food, photography and whatever else strikes me" blog has not been well played. I suppose it's fine right now since no one even knows I exist. Regardless, I've decided which recipe to use as my first.

This recipe was first discovered by a friend of mine who also loves the Simply Recipes blog (truly addictive). Three girls and I get together on a biweekly basis to cook dinner and share favorite recipes. Every time we meet each person has a different part of the meal - appetizer and drink, side, main or dessert. It is always a great meal as everyone has a certain "taste" for different types of cuisine. We ultimately end the evening satisfied and truly stuffed, relishing girl time and good food. That being said, the gal that had main dish last time made this Mexican Lasagna and we all loved it. I even made it for a Cinco de Mayo gathering a week later to rave reviews. Everyone went back for seconds! I have made some modifications to the recipe to make it a bit easier, but if you'd like to do everything from scratch, you can view the original recipe here.

For the Mexican lover, this dish is truly comfort food. You won't find lasagna noodles and ricotta cheese here, but you will find a combination of everything that makes great tacos, enchiladas and tostadas in one easy to prepare and share dish. I set it out and let people create their own, topping it with shredded lettuce, sour cream, homemade guacamole and cilantro.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lbs ground turkey or ground beef
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt
  • 2 14-oz can refried beans
  • 1 can green chilis
  • 1 24 oz jar salsa (I used Pace, but you can try about anything)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 8 oz)
  • 2 cups coarsely grated mild cheddar cheese (about 8 oz)

Extras

  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Cilantro
  • Iceberg lettuce

Preparation

1 Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly oil a 13x9x3-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

2 Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large cast iron frying pan on medium high heat. Add the ground meat, breaking it up as you add it. Sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle on the chile powder, cayenne, cumin, and coriander. (Tip - mix the spices together in small bowl ahead of time, you can avoid the hassle with containers at this point) Increase the heat to high. Add another 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Do not stir the meat unnecessarily. Allow it to brown on one side, and then stir it so the other side can be browned. As soon as the meat is browned, remove the pan from the burner. The meat will continue to cook in the heat of the cast iron pan. Once you are sure that the meat is cooked through, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan to a bowl. Set aside.

3 While the meat is cooking, warm the refried beans in a saucepan. When the are warmed and stirring consistency, add green chilis. Keep heat at low so they stay warm.

4 Brush both sides of the tortillas with olive oil and place on baking sheet (about 4 at a time depending on size of baking sheet). Warm in oven for 5-6 minutes until slightly softened. Repeat until all tortillas have been done.

5 In baking dish arrange 4 tortillas in one layer, overlapping slightly (tortillas will not cover bottom completely). Spread half of bean mixture evenly over tortillas in dish and top with half of meat mixture. Sprinkle one third cheese over the meat and spread half of the salsa over the cheese. (Note: I started this process right after first 4 tortillas were done in the oven, I let the second batch go while I spread the other ingredients)

Repeat layering of tortillas, beans, meat, cheese, and salsa and top with remaining 4 tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese over tortillas. Bake casserole on the middle rack in the oven for 35 minutes, until the casserole is heated through and the cheese is completely melted and bubbling. Let the casserole stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, chopped cilantro, and thinly sliced iceberg lettuce.

Getting Started!

After many hours spent scouring the blogging world for great recipes and photography ideas, I finally decided to start a little blog of my own. My purpose behind this is to share my favorite recipes with the world. I know there are many others out there, but I have found I never get sick of finding tried and true recipes. I am also learning my way around my SLR camera and intend to post a few pictures here and there. I welcome any comments and words of suggestion. After all, I'm learning!

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