Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

In which I confess to eating truck stop cookies.

There is just something about a macaroon.  Not those fancy French macarons.  (Although my friend brought me back some from Paris that were amazing.  That little caramel one…)  But an almost overly sweet, slightly gooey coconut cookie.  There is a truck stop we know that has the most amazing chocolate dipped macaroons.  They are beautiful dense balls of coconut robed in dark chocolate.  All of their baked goods are amazing, but the macaroon is my favorite.  (This sounds like it should be on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.)Chocolate Coconut Macaroons top

So what do you do when you are craving one of those cookies, but are not going to drive 45 minutes just to get one?  You scour all of great-grandma’s recipes because you know you saw a macaroon recipe in there somewhere.  (It was in the cookbook I made for my grandma of her mom’s recipes).Chocolate Coconut Macaroons on Wedgwood

These ingredients do not seem like they would make a cookie.  They kind of don’t.  The end result is a lightly held together ball of coconut and chocolate.  I’d recommend using mini chocolate chips instead of the chopped chocolate. And definitely use a Silpat or whatever sort of non-stick cooking mat you have.  Chocolate Coconut Macarooons

I’m not going to lie.  These are not as good as the macaroons at the truck stop, but that didn’t stop me from eating at least my share of them.  I doubt these store well.  It’s probably best not to even try.  Kind of like kringla.  Chocolate Coconut Macaroons Cutting board

 

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Combine milk and coconut.  Add chocolate, vanilla, and almond extract.  Mix well.  Drop by teaspoons on greased baking sheets 1 inch apart.  Bake in moderate oven, 350°, 10-12 minutes.  Remove from pan immediately cool.  Makes 24.

Pork Chops Jimmy

In which I want to know “Who wants to know?”

The recipe opens with the line “Son Jimmy’s favorite pork dish.” It’s things like this that prick my imagination.  Who was Jimmy?

He probably wasn’t Jimmy Ray.

 

I can’t quite imagine Jimmy Ray eating a pork chop topped with apples, maraschino cherries, and brown sugar.  But I have a feeling that the Jimmy that these pork chops were named after was a Groovy Teen.  How could he not be?

I originally made this recipe in the fall when my apples were ripe.  If you don’t know about my apple trees, you can find out more about them here and here.  I made so many apple recipes at the time, but figured that you may not want to read about nothing but apples, so backlogged this one.  Pork chops Jimmy Stacked

The pork for this recipe came from the sale bin.  I love seeing what is in the reduced meat section of the grocery store.  Sometimes there are things like beef shanks or pork neck bones.  I love to get those cuts of meat and slowly cook them until they fall off the bone and have made magical gravy to serve over mashed potatoes.  Usually I’ll throw some garlic in there to roast.  That either gets incorporated into the sauce or spread on homemade bread.

None of which is relevant to this recipe.  I only brought it up because I did not have 3/4 inch pork chops.  I had tiny little thin cut pork chops because they were on sale.  Pork Chops Jimmy framed

That part is important because thin pork chops cook much quicker than thick cut pork chops.  Which means that they can overcook quickly if you aren’t watching them.  Nobody likes a dry pork chop.  To try to mimic the effect of the thicker pork chops, I sandwiched an apple slice between layers of pork.  I feel like they were still a little dry, but not too bad.  It wasn’t quite that experience of biting into a nicely marbled pork chop on the bone where the fatty edge is just sort of melting into the rest of the meat.  (And all the vegetarians that are accidentally reading this are cringing).

This is a solid meat and potatoes sort of dish.  It’s sweeter than I like an entree to be, but not so sweet you feel like you need insulin.Pork chops Jimmy up close

Speaking of potatoes…I ran into Target while my husband stayed in the car with the kids (one of whom needed a nap like you wouldn’t believe).  While he waited he read an article of genius facts or something like that.  When I got back in, he attempted to impress me with the fact that everything in the world could be labelled as a potato or not a potato.  Of course I started brilliantly discussing how not everything we label as a potato is actually a potato and yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing.  Then I asked “Would it be a better classification if we labelled everything as “tuber or not tuber?”  To which my clever husband replied “That is the question.”  I retorted that that wasn’t funny, as I laughed and he snort-laughed next to me.  We never fail to amuse ourselves.  (If you don’t get why this was not funny, review Hamlet).

And don’t serve sweet potatoes as a side dish for this meat.  It’s just too much sweetness. Pork Chops Jimmy

Weeknight Dinner Chicken Tetrazzini

I have major spring fever.  As frequent readers know, I have a new house with quite a lot of yard that we are unaccustomed to.  Last year, we were moving in and settling at the time planting was supposed to happen and I ended up with a small, haphazard garden that was eaten by my stupid groundhogs (woodchucks). This year I have plans in mind.  I have ideas to make it better. Chicken Tetrazzini pan Last year we converted an old dog kennel into a raised bed garden.  All the viney things on one side and all the other stuff on the other.  I made some mistakes.  I didn’t put down enough weed blocker or mulch or compost.  I didn’t really think about where things were supposed to be planted or garden design.  I just wanted to get things into the ground.   One of my lovely friends took an afternoon and helped me.  Because of the lateness of getting things into the ground, I bought most of my plants from the greenhouse instead of planting things from seeds.  All of that is about to change.  My husband knows to be wary of me when I get these ideas in my head.

I have this plan…Chicken Tetrazzini CloseI have this obnoxiously large jetted tub in my bathroom.  We don’t use the tub unless we put all the kids in swimsuits and let them swim for a while.  It is too much water for one person to bathe in.  With people in Capetown, South Africa on the verge of lining up for water and one of my colleagues telling me about places in India where they can only get non-river water every other day, I feel terribly guilty having a tub large enough to let 3 children “swim”.  Plus the tub is hard to get in and out of and my water heater isn’t large enough to fill the tub with hot water.  I haven’t even mentioned the part where the tub is located underneath 2 windows on the front of the house (on a busy street) and 2 windows on the side of the house all of which are very look-inable from the wrap around porch.  (This whole thing sounds obnoxious now.) I’m not in a place to remove the tub at the moment.  It’s time I just don’t have.

Ok, so let’s tie all this together because if you’ve gotten this far with me already, I know you are in for the long haul and are probably reading this for the content anyway and not just for the recipe.

I have this plan…

There is absolutely no reason in the world that this tub would not make the best ever place for starting seeds.  In seed trays, not just filling the tub with dirt.  And I need you think about this with me because I might be completely crazy.  It’s in a place in my house where there is natural light, but could also support a grow light.  It could be covered with a clear shower curtain or something like that to create a “greenhouse” and keep the moisture in.  And it has the added bonus of having a water source and drain right there.  Is this nuts?  Chicken Tetrazzini Plate

Ok, so how does the recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini relate to any of this?

I’ve got a lot going on lately.  I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans and lots of things that I want to do.  I’m a working mom and don’t have the time I used to have to prepare the exact meals I want for my family.  It’s a lot harder than when I worked at home.  Being done at 4 PM these days (if I’m lucky) doesn’t mean that I get to leave my desk, go to the kitchen, and start making supper.  Which means meal planning and figuring out how to make leftovers last through the week and planning ahead and all of that fun stuff.  And it all has to be done at a reasonable time because people have things to do and kids have bed times and the kitchen still needs to be cleaned.  Are you exhausted reading this?

With the spring coming (in another 4 weeks according to the groundhog’s prediction), I want to be able to do projects and play around in the yard when the sun is out.   Which means I need dinners that can be prepped in 30 minutes or less.  With a little pre-prep this one can be.  (Actually, with some extra liquid, a rotisserie chicken, and some aluminum foil, I bet you could do this whole recipe in the oven while you did something else.)  Chicken Tetrazzini log

I have a friend that goes to Italy frequently.  He has a favorite restaurant in Rome that he visits on each trip.  As Italian as this dish sounds, I doubt they make it this way in Italy (or probably much of anywhere else).  If he’s reading this recipe, he’s thinking of ways he could make it better.  Truth be told, I am too.  Which is not to say this is not something to make.  It’s good.  It’s comfortable.  It’s like yoga pants and bare feet at the end of the day.  Chicken Tetrazzini

If you want other good weeknight supper ideas Sausage Bean Casserole, Hot Chicken SaladSupper In a Bread Loaf,  but if at this point you are just overwhelmed, perhaps a nice Whiskey Slush is more your speed.

Unexpected Side Dish: Sour Cream Lima Beans

In which I don’t lose anything.

I got a text from my friend telling me she lost her car keys.  Clearly this is one of those weeks for her where nothing goes quite right, but that’s her story to tell, not mine.  As I was reflecting on her lost keys, I started to laugh.  Initially this could seem like a very insensitive thing to do, but out of nowhere I remembered something I hadn’t thought about in years. Frying Bacon My mom used to lose her keys all the time when we were teenagers.  It was a regular occurrence.  I don’t remember when she started to pray to St. Anthony, but it became the default.  Whenever something went missing, my mom would ask if we’d prayed to St. Anthony.  (Except it was common enough that we just called it “talking to Tony”)(We aren’t even Catholic).  More often than not, the answer would be “no”.  To which she always reminded us that we should be doing that and perhaps we shouldn’t bother her until we had.  This is not to imply in anyway that my mom was not sympathetic to whatever it was we had lost.  She was, but she didn’t have time to keep track of all of our stuff on top of everything else she had to do.  And besides, like I say to my kids all the time, “if you put your stuff away properly…”  We all know how it goes and if you don’t, come be my Yoda and teach me how to improve.  Anyway, back to my mom’s keys.  She would seriously lose them all the time.  It wasn’t because she wasn’t organized, but we know how women’s purses are.  And when you are in and out of the car and it’s winter and kids and chaos and life.  Even if I didn’t get it then, I do now. Sour Cream Lima Beans before BakingIt was around that same time that my sister and I had the opportunity to go to Italy.  I am still grateful for that opportunity.  While there, we visited Padua.  (St. Anthony is from Padua.)  During the visit to the church dedicated to St. Anthony,  (who is the patron saint of all sorts of lost things.) we stopped at the gift shop.  We already had in mind what it was that we wanted as a souvenir.  Arriving home we couldn’t wait to present our dear mother with her very own St. Anthony keychain.

I’d like to be able to say that she never lost her keys again.  But I doubt that’s true.  Also, I am not sure that she didn’t lose the St. Anthony keychain.  She’ll have to confirm for me.  Regardless, we tried.Sour Cream Lima BeansMy friend texted back later to say that she did find her keys.  I tried telling her about St. Anthony.  She said that Lutherans don’t do that.  (I’m going to take credit for invoking the name of St. Anthony for her.) Lima Beans baked in Sour Cream

So what does any of this have to do with side dishes?  Sometimes you don’t even know that you’ve lost something, but when it’s presented to you, you realize that you were missing it all along.  And sometimes it’s in unexpected places.   Like old newspaper clippings pasted inside an old, red Freshman Handbook.  DSCN2861This recipe grabbed me from the first time I saw it.  There is nothing in it that I don’t like.  Rosemary, maple syrup, mustard, bacon, sour cream and lima beans.  Yes, please!  But that’s not a guarantee that the recipe is not going to fail.  (See Sweet and Sour Bean Combo and “Japanese” Chicken if you don’t believe me.)  And sometimes, the recipes leave something out.  (Christmas Sugar Cookies, for example)  This recipe didn’t disappoint.  It was maybe just a little dry.  This could easily be combated by adding more sour cream or thinning it with milk.  It was such a nice change from regular baked beans.  The creaminess and the bacon together was a bit like a carbonara (speaking of Italy…).  Sour Cream Lima Beans

The Best Broccoli Casserole You’ve Never Made

In which I ask you to support your local CSA.

Broccoli is my kids’ favorite vegetable…pause for the sharp intake of breath from the crowd…I know, right? Broccoli Casserole farI know what you all are thinking.  First of all, you are totally impressed that my kids eat veggies at all. Secondly, you wonder what I did to get this behavior from them.  Third, you assume I’m lying.  Want to know something else?  My kids eat and enjoy most veggies.  The youngest impressed my grandma by sucking down asparagus as one of her first foods.  The diapers were gross and smelled weird, but that’s not what we are going to talk about.  These are those brag-worthy moments.  There are lots of things that my darling little angels are good at, but one of the things they are best at is trying new foods.  Instead of taking complete credit for it, I’m going to rely partially on genetics and partially on my boredom with eating the same foods over and over.  This is the part where I remind you that we have the rule for the kids about needing to try everything and if they refuse, they have to eat twice as much as I would normally make them eat.  (We are talking teaspoons of food, not full servings.  Enough to get the idea of it without overfilling bellies and causing children to puke.  We aren’t monsters.)  This is also the part where I highly recommend subscribing to a CSA.  Broccoli Casserole meltyAh…I bet a bunch of you are unfamiliar with what a CSA is.  CSA is Community-Supported Agriculture.  It’s an opportunity to purchase a vegetable “subscription”.  With our last one from High Meadow Farm, we got a box of farm fresh vegetables every week.  This meant that we ate seasonally.  In the spring, after a long winter, my body craves as many greens as I can possibly hold.  Luckily this is the time when greens are best.  I got to eat spinach sauteed with balsamic vinegar, garlic, and sundried tomatoes as often as I wanted.  My breakfast consisted of eggs and greens most days.  We had salad at dinner every night.  Then there were the beautiful French radishes.  We liked them sliced with a little salt, sauteed, or mixed with some spring onions and spices to make a “salsa” type condiment.

I could go on and on about how wonderful the vegetables were throughout the entire growing season, but that isn’t my point.  My point is that we had a lot of stuff that we didn’t know how to use.  Veggies that I never would’ve put in my garden.  We tried them all.  When we had too much of something that we could preserve, we’d do small batch canning or freezing so that we could have good veggies in the deep winter.  It helped broaden our horizons to the possibilities of flavors and textures of vegetables.  It helped us get our 5 servings a day without issue.  It cut down our overall grocery budget for the summer because I didn’t have to buy much more than meat and staples like flour.  This also meant that in my garden, I could focus on things that I knew my family would eat or things I wanted to use for canning.  Broccoli Casserole TopMy kids are great veggie eaters.  The only qualm I had about trying this recipe out on them was the blue cheese factor.  Blue cheese can be somewhat polarizing.  I’ve always loved it and would chose blue cheese dressing for my salad over anything else.  The kids are slightly less sure of it.  Let me assure you, unless you are using the stinkiest of cheeses, a single ounce of blue cheese combined with the cream cheese, the milk, and the heavy flavor of broccoli goes mostly unnoticed.  It’s a background flavor.  If you are still unsure, use a different cheese. Broccoli Casserole Saltine topThe broccoli casserole is a beautiful thing.  It’s creamy and melty and has the same sort of comfort factor as broccoli cheese soup.  Broccoli casserole is a great side with a grilled steak or other grilled meat (or mushroom if you don’t eat meat).  The oval crackers the recipe mentions is like a TownHouse cracker.  You can use whatever sort of cracker appeals to you.  If you want to raid your kids’ goldfish stash, those would be great on top also.  This is a weeknight recipe.  Broccoli CasseroleCheck out my post about Skillet Potatoes Au Gratin for another weeknight side dish.  If you need a quick dessert idea for the middle of the week, you might want some unbaked cookies.

Sky Rockets at Night, Tropical Delight (Salad)

In which I settle on Jell-O as a more practical option.

You know those days where you just feel like a tropical vacation would cancel the subscriptions to all of your issues?  Where you just sort of want to run away and be responsible for nothing and no one? I don’t.  I’ve never had one of those moments in my entire life.  I have never wanted to sit on a sunbaked beach with nothing around but the sound of waves crashing.  Never wanted to relax with an icy drink in my hand brought to me by a super cute cabana boy with a slim, tanned body, who I know is not just something pretty to look at, but should be respected for his mind and his hustle.  Never have I ever not wanted to get up early every morning, make sure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to do while I try to get myself ready and do what I can to prepare us for the evening.  The very idea of not having to commute and…I can’t go on.  If someone told me that I was going to be trading all of this for an all-expenses paid trip to a tropical island, I might hesitate while I decided if I really wanted to go swimsuit shopping.  I’d probably try to find a bunch of excuses as to why I really shouldn’t, but I don’t think I would pass it up.  Tropical Delight Salad top

As I stare out at my snow covered yard and see my children cuddled up on the couch in matching blankets, I realize that while I would love to get away, the closest I may come for a while is probably going to be in something like the Tropical Delight Salad.

I have always been attracted to tropical flavors.  Pina Colada and I have been hitting it pretty hot and heavy since I was a young girl.  When picking out yogurt with my mom, I would always opt for the pina colada fruit on the bottom yogurt.  It seemed like a special treat.  After realizing that the red food coloring in Jolly Good Fruit Punch and Faygo Red Pop made me throw up, I discovered Jolly Good Pina Colada soda.  They don’t even make it any more, but there is something about that sickly sweet pineapple coconut combination that satisfies me.  Sadly this recipe does not call for coconut, but it would be a nice addition, especially if it was toasted.Tropical Delight Salad gnomesAnd now I have an idea for a roasted pineapple and toasted coconut something…cocktail? Bread?  Meringue Pie?  This is an ongoing problem.  I start out doing something and then get majorly inspired by something completely different and get too excited to start that and want to forget about what it was I was doing in the first place.  I am working harder at trying to finish things before I start something new.  It’s killing me in my knitting right now.  The biggest problem I have is that I have too many ideas and there is only me that can carry them out.  It’s all just time and money, right?Tropical Delight Salad Chinese LanternOk, back on track.  A couple of things to note.  Pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple probably works better than pineapple chunks.  And if you haven’t read the Jell-O package (and these are small ones, not big ones in this recipe), do not attempt to use fresh pineapple.  Most tropical fruits contain enzymes which counteract the gelling property of gelatin.  If you want something like a slimy soup, that’s probably fine, but even despite my protests of not caring for Jell-O, I still prefer it to be gelled.  The enzymes are useful for other things, though, like tenderizing meat (mmmm…al pastor). But this is also the same thing that makes some people very sensitive to eating too much raw fruit. Tropical Delight Salad angleAlso…The topping of the Tropical Delight Salad is really good.  Don’t skip that step.  Even if you decide you want to change the flavor of the Jell-O, or decide not to use bananas, or oranges, do not change the topping.  Tropical Delight Salad

If you are hardcore on Jell-O recipes and want to see what else I’ve done, check out these posts.  Cooked Cranberry Salad and Frosty Lime Salad.  If you really want to gelatinize everything check out the Peach Cottage Cheese Loaf.  (Although I don’t actually recommend making it, but you should see that this exists.)