A Note and a Thank You …

Sorry for the lack of posts this weekend.  For various reasons, I didn’t get a chance to get the final post up for the Race Day series.  Since Race Day is over, I’ll just say congratulations to Dan Wheldon — winner of this year’s Indy 500!

 

Have a wonderful day today, whether you are celebrating with your family, getting some great deals, or just relaxing off work.  Tuesday is my last day of work for the school year, and it’s a teacher work day, so I’ll be relaxing all day!  But while you’re celebrating, make sure to spend time remembering the sacrifices made for you by men and women all over this country.

 

To those who have served their country, I thank you!

Race Day Week: Decor Ideas

Well, here in Indianapolis we all have Indy 500 fever!  So I’ve decided to do a Race Day Week series with recipes you can use for your upcoming race day party.  (And if you don’t care about race day, these recipes are perfect for Memorial Day festivities as well!)

Monday: Appetizer – The Perfect Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Entree – Pulled Pork
Wednesday: Sides – Easy Mac & Cheese and Baked Beans
Thursday: Desserts – Chocolate Chip Cookies and Lemon Bars
Friday: Decor
Saturday: Bloggy Roundup – More Recipes and Ideas

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of the plastic black and white checkered tablecloths, plastic flags, etc.  I wanted to use some ideas that make it a bit cozier and a little less like a party supply store.

Fabric Paper Thread has an easy tutorial for a super simple table runner.  Instead of using a floral print, you could use a simple black and white gingham or a large black and white check pattern.  Finish it off with some black bias tape, and you have an easy table runner.

Make a bunting like the one at A Mad Scientist’s Musings.  Make it using checkered fabric, or contrasting black and white fabric.  You could even add a “Welcome Race Fans” message on the flags as well.

Use big metal buckets to serve bottled and canned beverages.  Do the same for the silverware to create a cohesive look.  You could even take some chalkboard paint to the front of each bucket and label with a chalkboard marker.

If you’re serving beverages like tea and lemonade, use some beverage dispensers like this.  Attractive and easy.

Serve drinks up in mason jars.  So much cuter than plastic cups and these are easily reused for other purposes later.

Invest in some large white platters to serve your food on.

Serve up desserts on a stand like this.

If you don’t want to use paper plates, serving your food on glass plates would be really nice.

These are all really nice ideas to use for your race day party and all are easily done.  Enjoy preparing for your race day party!

Race Day Week: Lemon Bars

Well, here in Indianapolis we all have Indy 500 fever!  So I’ve decided to do a Race Day Week series with recipes you can use for your upcoming race day party.  (And if you don’t care about race day, these recipes are perfect for Memorial Day festivities as well!)

Monday: Appetizer – The Perfect Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Entree – Pulled Pork
Wednesday: Sides – Easy Mac & Cheese and Baked Beans
Thursday: Desserts
Friday: Decor
Saturday: Bloggy Roundup – More Recipes and Ideas

This afternoon I’m featuring Ina Garten’s Lemon Bars.

You’ll need:

To start, go ahead and zest all your lemons.  You’ll need 2 tablespoons of lemon zest, which is about 4-6 lemons.

Zesting is shaving off the peel (the yummy part), but not going so far as to get the pith (the bitter part).  Your lemon should look something like this when it’s all zested.

Now we’ll go ahead and make the crust, since the hard part of the recipe is done.  (Maybe not hard, but a bit tedious.)

Cream some butter and sugar together.

Combine the flour and salt and mix with the butter and sugar.

Gather the dough into a ball and plop it right down in your greased pan.  A 9×13 baking pan or bar pan would be fine for these.  (The recipe actually calls for you to combine the dough on a well floured board before plopping it on your pan.  I found this step totally unnecessary.)

With your fingers, press the dough down and push up a 1/2 inch on all sides.

The recipe says to chill the dough.  Since I like to play it fast and loose with the term chill, I’m pretty sure I didn’t chill the dough.  I just baked it for 17-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once it was done baking, I let it sit for a little bit to cool down.

Now for the filling.

I would suggest juicing your lemons at this point.  You’ll need about a cup of juice.  You can get away with about 3/4 cup, though.  Not that I would know that.  Since I didn’t spill any of the juice on my countertop or anything.  Ahem.

Now whisk together the eggs and sugar (no one said this recipe was healthy!).  This recipe calls for 6 extra-large eggs.  Since I really only buy large eggs, I added about 3.5 tablespoons of water to supplement the liquid.  If you have a full cup of lemon juice, I wouldn’t worry about adding the water.

Then add the zest, juice, and flour.

Pour it over your crust and bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes.

And when they’re set they’ll look like this:

Once they’re cool, sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top, cut into pieces, and serve on a platter.  (Or if you can’t resist, just eat straight out of the pan.  No one’s judging here.)

Lemon Bars (source)
Crust Ingredients:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp. salt

Filling Ingredients:
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Powdered sugar, for dusting the bars when done (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

For your crust, cream together the butter and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Add to the butter/sugar mixture.  Form into a ball and press into a greased 9×13 baking pan, building up a 1/2 inch of crust on all sides.  Chill (if desired).

Bake for 15-20 minutes and let cool for a little bit.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, zest, juice, and flour.  Pour over the crust and bake for about 35 minutes.  Allow the bars to cool.  Dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares.

Come back tomorrow for some decor ideas for your race day party!

Race Day Week: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Well, here in Indianapolis we all have Indy 500 fever!  So I’ve decided to do a Race Day Week series with recipes you can use for your upcoming race day party.  (And if you don’t care about race day, these recipes are perfect for Memorial Day festivities as well!)

Monday: Appetizer – The Perfect Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Entree – Pulled Pork
Wednesday: Sides – Easy Mac & Cheese and Baked Beans
Thursday: Desserts
Friday: Decor
Saturday: Bloggy Roundup – More Recipes and Ideas

I know what you’re thinking — chocolate chip cookies?  I can get a recipe from the back of my Toll House chocolate chips.  BUT WAIT.  Make these and you’ll thank me.  These could be the best chocolate chip cookies you ever ever ever eat.  Ever.

Ever.

(Also did I mention these are giant cookies?  Cause they are.)

What you’ll need:

(Please note that from here on out my pictures show a WHOLE LOT more ingredients than called for.  I was making 3 batches of cookies at one time; something I would not necessarily recommend, as I think it affected the outcome a little.  But I digress.)

Cream your butter for a bit and then add your brown and white sugars.

Then mix in your eggs and vanilla.

Then add in your flour, baking soda, and salt.

OK, I’ve been asked a couple times if I use special ingredients for these cookies, even asking if I’m loyal to specific brands.  The answer is no.  However, I do use finely ground sea salt in all my recipes.  I don’t really like regular table salt and I use it more for that reason, but if you need an idea of what I’m talking about I’ve included a picture.

Mix in your chocolate chips.  I use milk chocolate.  I am one of those weird people who has an overall aversion to plain dark chocolate.  Unless of course it is covering a Milky Way Midnight.  In which case, yes please, I’ll have another.

Using a large cookie scoop (I use the Pampered Chef version), scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets.  If you don’t currently use parchment in your baking, you should start.  I can’t sing its praises enough, simply for clean up reasons.

(For reference, the large scoop holds a heaping 1/8 cup of dough.)

I can fit about 6 cookies on a baking sheet at a time.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.

(I know.  It doesn’t seem like long enough, but it really gives the cookie the perfect texture.)

Let these cool on wire racks and then serve yourself a modest portion.

(I jest.  Maybe don’t eat 6 at a time.  4 would be more reasonable. 🙂 )

Now, if you want to take this dessert REALLY over the top?  Serve it up Diddy Riese style.

When I used to live in the Los Angeles area, my friends and I would occasionally drive down to UCLA and buy $1 custom ice cream cookie sandwiches from there.  (OK, now they’re $1.50, but who cares.)

Take an ice cream scoop and put a large scoop or two (at this point, who is really counting?) of ice cream on top of one of the cookies.

Take the other cookie and smoosh the ice cream down (technical term, no?).

Dig in!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
8-12 ounces milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugars.  Add in eggs and vanilla.  Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Take a large cookie scoop (heaping 1/8 cup) and drop onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Cool on wire racks and resist the urge to eat them all at once.

Stay tuned for another dessert recipe later today!

Somewhat Simple

Race Day Week: Baked Beans

Well, here in Indianapolis we all have Indy 500 fever!  So I’ve decided to do a Race Day Week series with recipes you can use for your upcoming race day party.  (And if you don’t care about race day, these recipes are perfect for Memorial Day festivities as well!)

Monday: Appetizer – The Perfect Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Entree – Pulled Pork
Wednesday: Sides
Thursday: Desserts
Friday: Decor
Saturday: Bloggy Roundup – More Recipes and Ideas

Earlier today I showed you how to make my famous mac and cheese.  Now I’ll show you how to throw together some yummy baked beans.

This is what you’ll need:

Take your pork and beans and empty them into a bowl, draining off the excess liquid that has formed at the top of the can.

Take your ketchup and squirt into the bowl for a 3 count.  (I am nothing if not precise with my measurements.)

Take your mustard and squirt into the bowl for two 3 counts.

Using a tablespoon, scoop your light brown sugar into your pork and bean mixture.  I usually put about 5 tablespoons or so into the bowl (not heaping).

Mix everything well and taste.  Add more ketchup, mustard, or sugar as needed.

Pour into an 8×8 baking dish.

Now for the best part — top with BACON!

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, until hot, bubbly, and the bacon is cooked through.

Enjoy!  Stay tuned tomorrow for two delicious desserts for your race (or Memorial) day cookout!

Race Day Week: Mac & Cheese

Well, here in Indianapolis we all have Indy 500 fever!  So I’ve decided to do a Race Day Week series with recipes you can use for your upcoming race day party.  (And if you don’t care about race day, these recipes are perfect for Memorial Day festivities as well!)

Monday: Appetizer – The Perfect Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Entree – Pulled Pork
Wednesday: Sides
Thursday: Desserts
Friday: Decor
Saturday: Bloggy Roundup – More Recipes and Ideas

Today there will be 2 posts.  The first is some DELICIOUS homemade Mac and Cheese.  I get requests for my recipe all.the.time!  You will love it, too.

This is what you’ll need:

(You don’t actually need elbow noodles & fusilli noodles.  Just choose one.  In this case I made the mac & cheese gluten free, but I wanted to show you it can be made both ways!)

Get a large pot on the stove with some water and get it boiling.  Put a lid on it to make it boil faster.  Add a bunch of salt to the water.  Make it taste like sea salt — this is your only chance to really flavor the pasta.

Add your gluten filled or gluten free pasta to the water. (Since I have friends with Celiac, I used gluten free.)  Feel free to mix it up with rotini or cavatappi noodles, too.

Boil according to the directions on the package.  My pasta took 10-12 minutes.  Most regular pasta won’t take that long.

Drain the pasta.

Take the drained pasta and add it to a bowl.  Or, if your pot is big enough, add it back into the pot.

Add the sour cream.

And the cottage cheese. (I know it sounds weird, but it’s ah-maz-ing!)

And an egg or two (I usually only use 1)

Add in a little salt (if you properly salted your pasta water you won’t need much) and ground black pepper.

Add your cheese (the best part!)

Pour into a 9×13 baking dish and top with some extra shredded cheese.  Resist the urge to eat it before you cook it 🙂

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Until hot and bubbly.  And if you’re like me, put it in a carrier to take to a cookout with friends!

Mac & Cheese
16 oz. macaroni noodles or other curly pasta
16 oz. sour cream
24 oz. cottage cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese + extra for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook pasta according to directions and drain.

In a bowl, combine pasta, sour cream, cottage cheese, egg, salt, pepper, and 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese.  Mix well.

Pour into a 9×13 baking pan and top with extra shredded cheese (about 1 cup).

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until hot and bubbly.

Wanting some mac and cheese but don’t need that much?  Use this recipe:

8 oz. macaroni noodles or other curly pasta
8 oz. sour cream
16 oz. cottage cheese
1 egg
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese + extra for topping
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients.  Pour into an 8×8 baking pan and top with extra cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Stay tuned later today for another cookout recipe you can use!

Photobucket

Race Day Week: Pulled Pork Entree

Well, here in Indianapolis we all have Indy 500 fever!  So I’ve decided to do a Race Day Week series with recipes you can use for your upcoming race day party.  (And if you don’t care about race day, these recipes are perfect for Memorial Day festivities as well!)

Monday: Appetizer – The Perfect Deviled Eggs
Tuesday: Entree
Wednesday: Sides
Thursday: Desserts
Friday: Decor
Saturday: Bloggy Roundup – More Recipes and Ideas

Today I will show you how to make some delicious pulled pork.  I’ll show you not only how I cook it but how to make the dry rub.

For the dry rub you’ll need:

In a bowl, combine the paprika …

Kosher salt …

Sugar …

Ground mustard …

Chili powder …

Ground cumin …

Black pepper …

Granulated garlic …

and cayenne pepper.

Mix well, making sure to break up any clumps.

And since this recipe makes more than you’ll need for one roast, go ahead and put it in a container to keep it fresh for use later.

OK, now we’re ready for the pork!!

You’re going to want to get a pork shoulder roast or a Boston butt roast for this recipe.  I got a shoulder roast because that’s what my butcher has.  Get between a 5-7 pounder, bone-in.  Mine is nearly 7 pounds.

I like to trim off some of the excess fat from the roast.  Not a lot of it, as the fat will help flavor the roast while it’s cooking, but some of the fat is really too much.  This is what mine looks like when I’ve trimmed it a little.

Now add a little oil to the roast.  Get your hands on there and rub it all over the roast.  This will help the dry rub to stick.

Sprinkle on your dry rub and rub it all over with your hands, making sure to cover the whole thing.

Now take your roast over to your roasting pan and set it on the rack.  If you don’t have a roasting pan, just set it on an oven-safe wire cooling rack on a sheet pan.  That’s what I did until I got my roasting pan last year and it totally works.

Cook your roast in your oven at 350 degrees F for 2 hours.  Then lower the heat to 275 degrees F and cook for another 3-4 hours, until the meat is tender.

To check the meat for doneness, sit a fork into the meat and twist.  If it twists easily, it’s done!

Let the meat sit for at least 30 minutes.  You can even let it sit longer, but make sure you don’t let it sit long enough to cool off all the way.

When it’s cool enough to handle, take two forks and start shredding the meat.

You can even pull the meat into pieces and pull it with your hands.  I do a little of both.  And you’ll end up with this:

I usually serve it plain with some barbeque sauce on the side (I love Sweet Baby Ray’s).  You could serve it as pulled pork sliders with some barbeque sauce as well.

I’m not one to cook my pulled pork in sauce because I never like that much barbeque sauce on it.  But, if you want to, feel free to do that as well.

Pulled Pork Dry Rub (source)

1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup ground mustard
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1/4 cup granulated garlic
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a shaker.  Great on everything!

Pulled Pork
5-7 pound pork shoulder roast or Boston butt, bone-in
Dry Rub
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover roast in olive oil, making sure to rub it all over.  Add your dry rub and rub it all over the roast.

Place on a roasting rack in your roasting pan and cook for 2 hours.  Lower heat to 275 degrees F and cook for 3-4 hours more, until meat is tender.

Let sit for at least 30 minutes and when the pork is easily handled, start pulling the meat with 2 forks or your hands.

Enjoy!

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