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Our taxi is not totally clean

In fact, not many toys in our house are clean. Most things have some level of crud on them. Slobber, dried food, you name it.

I was sitting on the couch last night relaxing, something I do not often do. My husband was at a movie with a friend. The boys were in bed. I looked around the room at the toys that were sitting out, and, aside from realizing that most of them were dirty, I realized how incredibly blessed we are. Our boys have everything they need, and then some. It is so important to me that they understand how blessed they are, how blessed we are.

Since having children, I have struggled with Christmas. All of the expectations surrounding this season make me feel heavy. It becomes so easy to lose sight of what is truly important, and I hate that. I don't want that for my family.

We make an effort to do good deeds for others, especially this time of year, to detract from the "I wants" that we see all around us. I want Christmas to be fun for our boys, and I'm confident that it is, but that doesn't mean we have to shower them with a ridiculous amount of gifts. And we don't. That is not what Christmas is about. It is about Jesus! And celebrating him!

So this is a little reminder to myself to keep focused on that because truly, it is the only thing that matters.


Takin' on a challenge

Flipping through my new Food & Wine 2010 cookbook (which is awesome, by the way), I found myself pointing to recipes and saying, "Oh, that looks tasty! Buuut I would never make it." Then I thought, "Well, that's silly. Why not?" I tend to get stuck in ruts, only making things within my cooking comfort zone. I want to break free of that! To make things that I typically wouldn't make! To challenge myself!

So this is my attempt at that. It's my small scale Julie & Julia-esque challenge that will help me to broaden my cooking horizons.

Every week during the year 2011, I will make one new recipe from the Food & Wine 2010 cookbook and document it on this blog. I will post the recipes every Wednesday. And hopefully by the end of 2011, I will be a much more well-rounded cook!

I randomly selected 52 numbers (one for each week of the year) between 1 and 365 (the number of pages in the cookbook) from I then flipped to each of the 52 pages in the cookbook and picked the recipe on each page (if more than one was listed) that I would be least likely to make. I wrote them down and sorted the recipes by season (salads in summer, squash in fall, baked goods in winter, etc.) and compiled my list.

I'll post the first P&TC recipe on January 5th, 2011 and the last on December 28th, 2011. I won't share the entire list ahead of time, but here are a handful of the recipes I will make in 2011:

Sake-steamed halibut with ginger and cabbage

Minted watermelon popsicles

Greek baked pasta

Chicken sofrito

Bacon, onion and rye bread stuffing

Yogurt-zucchini bread with walnuts

Spinach and pork wontons


Red velvet whoopie pies with peppermint filling

Do you know how whoopie pies got their name? The story goes like this. Amish women often baked these cake-cookie treats (then called hucklebucks) and secretly placed them into the lunchboxes of their farmer family members. When they were discovered, the farmers would yell, "Whoopie!"

If you like cake and cookies and delicious, creamy frosting, you will love these whoopie pies. They were yet another treat that we in our house immediately labeled: DANGEROUS! BRING TO WORK ASAP!

(Source: 100 Best Cookies magazine)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.


1 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat until combined, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl.

Beat in 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until just combined.

Add a total of 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup at a time, and beat on low speed until combined.

Add a total of 1/2 cup of buttermilk, 1/4 cup at a time, and beat on low speed until combined.

Add a 1-oz. bottle of red food coloring.

Stir. Wow! Red!

Drop batter by rounded teaspoons onto a lightly greased (or parchment-covered) baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 7-9 minutes, or until edges are set. Allow whoopie pies to cool.

Spread Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting onto the bottoms of half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies, bottom side down.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.

And then yell, "WHOOPIE!"

Click here for a printable recipe!


Peppermint cream cheese frosting

This frosting is very similar to this one, but ever-so-slightly different. I would willingly take a bath in either one. They are both totally yummy-scrumptious-delicious.

(Source: 100 Best Cookies magazine)

In a large bowl, combine:

6 oz. cream cheese

3 Tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Gradually add 3 cups of powdered sugar, beating well.

If necessary, stir in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, in order to make it of spreading consistency.

I'll let you know the measurements after I fill my bathtub and bathe in it.

Click here for a printable recipe!


Beef stroganoff

For the past twenty years, I have not been able to think about or speak of stroganoff without giggling. When my little brother was a toddler, his favorite meal was beef stroganoff. He would sit at the dinner table and say, "FROGA-SNOFF, PWEEEASE!" Frogasnoff. So cute! He was such a cute little boy. I loved him dearly and I still do. My sweet sweet little brother who loves his froga-snoff.

To change the subject a bit, my husband recently shot an unsuspecting deer while sitting in a tree in the cold cold woods of Northern Minnesota. Or maybe it wasn't cold that weekend, but it certainly is now. Cold cold freezing cold Minnesota. Remind me again why I live here?

Oh, right, the poor dead deer. Well, we have been consuming the meat from said deer in large quantities as of late. Venison is very lean and delicious! Venison burgers are way juicier than I ever expected them to be. As are venison fajitas and venison dipped in pesto and venison and cheddar omelets.

And venison stroganoff! It's just as tasty as the beef version, with much less fat!

Cut 2 pounds of beef or venison into bite-sized cubes or strips.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the meat to the skillet and brown the outsides. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on the meat for flavor.

Push the meat pieces toward the outsides of the skillet, with insides still pink. Add the white parts of 4 sliced green onions to the center of the pan.

Stir the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of flour to the skillet.

Pour in a 10.5-oz. can of beef broth. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.

Lower the heat and cover pan with a lid. Let simmer for an hour, or until the meat is tender.

While the meat is simmering, saute an 8-oz. package of mushrooms. Ten or so minutes before the meat is done cooking, cook a large bag of egg noodles in boiling water until al dente. Drain.

When the meat mixture is finished cooking, add the mushrooms along with:

1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup white wine

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook for 3 more minutes and serve over egg noodles. Top with chopped green onion pieces. And here you have a plate of delicious froga-snoff!

Click here for a printable recipe!