Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wanted: Travel Advice (SoCal)

I know that y'all are a well traveled group of people so why not ask your advice??  And you're all attractive and smell really nice too!

We're planning a trip in a few weeks, to Knott's Berry Farm to be exact.  
So, here's some things we're wondering about.

*Where is a good place to stay?  Think cheap, no frills.  Just mostly clean and not scary.  Free breakfast is a plus too :D

*Do you have any info on harbor tours to see sea lions (or whales)?  There are a million out there to chose from, what's a good one in the Newport or Long Beach area.

*What about beaches that aren't horrendously crowded?  We'll be there during the week (as opposed to the weekend, so maybe that will make it a little better)

*And last, yet most important, where do you just have to eat if you're in that area.  Once again, think on the cheap-ish side.  Like slightly more expensive than Wendy's but not as much as Chez Giveusyourwallet.  

Thanks a million!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

PW's Homemade Salsa

Had a big game to watch today so I felt like I needed a little snack to go with it...there's a shocker, I know!  PW just bumped her salsa back up to the top of her line up, so I decided to give it a try.

Look at this cast of characters and see if you can figure out what I forgot...

Yep, it's the onion.  No wonder it didn't make my eyes water!
Since I left it out, my review will have to be taken with a grain of salt, but here goes anyway.  I actually really liked it, but I'm very glad only used half the jalapeno called for instead of the whole!  My husband said he didn't think it was hot at all, but I definitely was feeling the burn.
I liked this better than any jarred salsa I've ever had, but not quite as much as my favorite Mexican place.  (That would be Manuel's, if you're ever in the area)
I will say that my salsa was really watery.  The recipe directs you not to drain the tomatoes, but I ended up draining off about a cup of liquid after mixing it all together.  No biggie, just something to know.  
And just for the record, we hardly had any left over.

Here's the recipe:

  • 1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice
  • 2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies)
  • ¼ cups Chopped Onion
  • 1 clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin  *use 1/2 if you are a weenie like me*
  • ¼ teaspoons Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • ½ cups Cilantro (more To Taste!)
  • ½ whole Lime Juice
Preparation Instructions
Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Basil Oil

It's a fun filled Saturday night in the Sporadic Cook household.  One of my facebook friends suggested we all "get our freak on".  I'm not really sure what he meant by that, so I decided to make some basil oil I had noticed in the latest Food Network magazine.

speaking of facebook, I have a page there...check it out! 

I have a little basil plant that seems to be floundering so this seemed like a great chance to pluck all the leaves off and use them up, since this uses a large quantity of basil at one time...two cups.
The recipe says you can strain it if you want to, but I like the chunky look.

I wished I had a cool little glass bottle or jar to put it in, but the rubbermaid container will have to do.  

Of course after making it, I had to give it a try. All I could find was some bread, so I just drizzled some on strips of toast.  I really think it's yummy, and if you've got some basil that needs to be used up, this is a great way to go.  
I think later in the week I'm going to try it with some grilled steak possibly.  

Here's the recipe for ya.

Basil Oil (by Emeril Lagasse)

2 ounces fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups packed)
3/4 cup canola, grapeseed, or other vegetable oil

1.  In a small bowl, combine 1 cup ice cubes with 1 cup water.  Set aside.

2.  Bring 2 cups water to a boil.  Add the basil leaves all at once, and stir to makes sure they are submerged.  Cook for 10 seconds.  Immediately transfer them,  using slotted spoon, to the ice bath.  Once cooled, remove the leaves and set them on paper towels.  Squeeze the paper towels gently but firmly in your hands to absorb as much liquid as possible.

3.  Pour the oil into a blender, add 1/8 tsp salt and mix on high speed.  While the machine is running, add half the basil leaves and process briefly.  Then add the remaining basil and puree.  Transfer the basil oil to small container, cover and refrigerate up to one week.  (If you like, strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve).

So, what are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

BBQ Chicken and Cheddar Sandwiches

I saw this recipe at Recipe Shoebox not long ago and knew I wanted to try it right away.  In fact I think she just posted it on Tuesday!  

These were really easy to put together, and were just delicious on the onion rolls.  I just adore those.  

I seasoned the chicken before cooking with some of this Maple Smokehouse seasoning I bought a little while ago, and it smelled awesome cooking.  Can't wait to try it on something grilled outside.

Here is Lara's recipe.

The ingredients:
4 strips bacon, halved crosswise
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 lbs)
salt and pepper
1 cup favorite BBQ sauce
1/2 chipotle pepper, minced (optional)  (I guess I was feeling saucy, I used 3!)
1/4 cup water
4 large onion rolls, split (we used onion hamburger buns)
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 

Directions:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Fry bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat.  Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Cook chicken in bacon fat until browned on one side, about 4 minutes.  Flip chicken and add barbecue sauce, chipotle pepper (if desired), and water.
Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. 
Remove chicken from skillet and slice into bite size pieces.  Arrange onion rolls cut side up on baking sheet.  Divide chicken among bottom haves of rolls and top with sauce, cheese, and bacon. 
Bake open-faced sandwiches in oven until cheese melts and rolls are golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Top each sandwich with toasted roll top. 

Just something funny/sad I noticed a few days ago.  I was putting some laundry away and noticed a hole in my son's shirt.  Remembering it was the same shirt he wore on his birthday back in November, I pulled up the pictures from that day, and sure enough...

He's probably worn that shirt a million times since then too.  Way to go, mom!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Quinoa and Tomato Salad

I've been wanting to jump on the quinoa bandwagon for a while, and finally did so over the weekend.  This salad is the result.

According to wikipedia, quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain; and is closely related to the tumbleweed.  When I told my daughter our salad was made out of tumbleweeds, she quickly told me that you just can't eat those.  She may be right, if tumbleweed tastes like quinoa.  Which is...bland.  So I suppose it's a good base for any dish you want to make as it should take on the flavor of whatever is going on around it.

Here are the grains after they are cooked.  Or "dots" as the girl called them.

As for this salad, it wasn't bad.  Definitely had potential.  It needed a little "oomph", a little something.  I'm just not sure what.  I substituted basil for the chives it calls for to salvage what I could from my little dying basil plant.

Here is the recipe from Weight Watchers.


1 cup(s) uncooked quinoa   

2 cup(s) grape tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes, red and/or yellow*   
1 Tbsp olive oil   
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar, or more to taste   
1/2 tsp table salt, or more to taste   
1/4 tsp black pepper, or more to taste   

2 Tbsp chives, fresh, minced   


  • Put quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve or fine strainer. Place under cold running water until water runs clear (this eliminates the bitter taste contained in quinoa's coating); drain well. (Or you can buy certain brands of quinoa that are pre-rinsed.)
  • Place rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 cups of cold water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the grains are translucent and the germ has come out of each grain, about 15 minutes. Cover and remove from heat; let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Spoon quinoa into a large bowl and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, finely chop tomatoes, reserving 2 tablespoons of the tomato juice; set tomatoes aside.
  • In a cup, combine tomato juice, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and chives; stir well.
  • When quinoa is at room temperature, stir in chopped tomatoes; add tomato vinaigrette and toss again. Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chilly Chocolate Cheesecake Nuggets

I know, I know, they kinda look like little piles of poo.  But if you can get past their appearance, they're really tasty!

This is another Hungry Girl recipe, and it's easy and yummy.  Perhaps a little too yummy, and too easy to pop into your mouth.  
The recipe makes ten, only eight made it into the picture.  Very curious.

3/4 cup cool whip free
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp fat free cream cheese, softened
One 25 calorie packet diet hot cocoa mix
1 tbsp sugar free chocolate syrup
1 tbsp splenda

Using electric mixer, blend all ingredients together.
Evenly distribute mixture mixture into 10 sections of an ice cube tray.  Place tray in freezer until nuggets are solid...about 2 hours.  
To help loosen nuggets, run bottom of tray under water for a few seconds.

Calories: (2 nuggets) 42, fat 0.5, 0 fiber

I was a lucky duck a few weeks ago and won this cool grater/zester from Melody at Cheat Day Cafe

Can't wait to start zesting stuff...been wanting one of these forever! Thanks Melody.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Magazine Winner, etc...

As promised, it's time to announce the winner of the cooking magazines.  Using the random number generator the winner is:  #8  (I wasn't quite smart enough to copy and paste that little box, you'll just have to trust me :)

you should check out her latest dumpling recipe...yum!
I'll be contacting you to try to get your mailing info to get these to you.
Thanks to everyone for playing.  There are still a lot left of my stash, so keep watching!

Just a couple of things that I baked up for Operation Baking GALS.

I found this recipe for Lemon Ricotta cookies at a blog called Plain Chicken.
I just converted them to cookie bar form for easier mailing.  Of course I had to test a bite before mailing them off and they are quite yummy!

And then I also made a double batch of the cocoa pb rice krispies like a I made a few posts ago.  I tested the longevity of these (because the packages take a really long time to get there) by double wrapping a couple the last time I made them, and sat them up on top of my refrigerator for about seven days. I thought they lasted pretty good.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

PW's Vanilla Bean Scones

Don't forget to enter my little cooking magazine giveaway that is going on through this Friday at midnight.  Click here to enter if you haven't already.

I made these scones this weekend for my MIL for Mother's Day.  I thought they were pretty tasty, but they turned out a little more cookie-like than scone-like.

I had a fairly difficult time with the crumbly-ness of this dough.  To help deal with this, I added extra cream so I would be able to work with it, and I think this caused them to spread out more like cookies, and also make the finished product very tender and prone to breaking.

See these broken ones below?  They had to be sacrificed.  It was a tough job, but I managed to take care of it.

I did love the sweetness and the vanilla.  The flavor was really wonderful.  I think if I make these again, I would use Ina Garten's recipe, (leaving out the fruit) and add some extra sugar and the vanilla bean.  I've made hers many times and never had any problem handling the dough.  

Here's PW's recipe:
  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour
  • ⅔ cups Sugar
  • 5 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 Pound) UNSALTED Butter, Chilled
  • 1 whole Large Egg
  • ¾ cups Heavy Cream (more If Needed)
  • 2 whole Vanilla Beans
  • 3 cups Powdered Sugar, Sifted
  • ½ cups Whole Milk
  • 1 whole Vanilla Bean
  • Dash Of Salt
Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Split the vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise and scrape out all the vanilla “caviar” inside. Stir caviar into cream. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Sift together flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Cut cold butter into pats, then use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour. Keep going until mixture resembles crumbs.
Mix vanilla cream with egg, then combine with flour mixture; stir gently with a fork just until it comes together.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle. (Mixture will be pretty crumbly.) Use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Use your hands to help with the forming if necessary.
Use a knife to trim into a symmetrical rectangle, then cut the rectangle into 12 symmetrical squares/rectangles. Next, cut each square/rectangle in half diagonally, to form two triangles.
Transfer to a parchment or baking mat-lined cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes, removing from the oven just before they start to turn golden. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
To make the icing, split one vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the caviar. Stir caviar into milk; allow to sit for awhile. Mix powdered sugar with the vanilla milk, adding more powdered sugar or milk if necessary to get the consistency the right thickness. Stir or whisk until completely smooth.
One at a time, carefully dunk each cooled scone in the glaze, turning it over if necessary. Transfer to parchment paper or the cooling rack. Allow the glaze to set completely, about an hour. Scones will keep several days if glazed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Berry and Yogurt Phyllo Nests (and a magazine giveaway)

Greetings all...I trust you had a restful Mother's Day weekend.  I spent my day baking like a fool, and watching the Suns sweep the Spurs..oh yeah! (If you're a Spurs fan, I apologize for that little outburst.)

I actually made this cute little dessert a few nights ago.  I think the whole family liked them (no berries for the girl, though!) and they were pretty simple.  I especially loved the yogurt filling.  

The directions for making the cups in the recipe sounded a little more complicated than it needs to be.  Basically, you layer 2 sheets of phyllo, spraying butter flavored spray between the sheets, and cut them into squares (approx 4-5 inches). Then layer 3 of these squares and push them down into a muffin cup to make a nest.  Make sense?  I hope so.  

butter flavor cooking spray
6 sheets phyllo dough (14x9inches)
2 1/2 tsp sugar, divided
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1 tsp grated orange peel
1 tsp orange juice
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, halved
1/2 cup fresh raspberries,
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1.  Place the layered squares of phyllo dough (as explained above)  in each of six muffin cups coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle 1/4 tsp sugar into each cup.  Spritz with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool.

2.  In small bowl, whisk the yogurt, orange peel and juice, and remaining sugar.  Spoon yogurt mixture into cups.  Top with berries  (I couldn't find the combo of fresh berries the recipe called for, so I used some frozen ones.)

3.  Top with whippy cream of your choice.

Nutrition info (without whipped cream):  calories 72, fat 1gm, fiber 2gm.

I've got some more cooking magazines to pass on to you.  There are nine in all, and they all include light/healthy cooking.  I got the above recipe out of one of the Taste of Home magazines in this batch.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment telling me what you do to try to maintain a positive attitude.  Not that I personally need to know, just research ya know :)
Only open to US addresses please.  (I love all you peeps out of the US, I'm just insanely cheap).
I'll leave this open all week through Friday night at midnight, and announce a winner sometime this coming weekend.
Thanks for playing!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mini Lime Cheesecakes

I'm late to the party as usual, but this was our Cinco de Mayo treat.  This recipe comes from Kim at The Ungourmet.  They looked so scrumptious and cute, I just had to try them.

I cheated a bit when it came to the lime juice and used mostly bottled, and just squeezed the juice out of two fresh limes into it.  I took these to work, and they got wonderful reviews. (forget for a moment that we work in a hospital and think jello and saltines is a treat)

2 cups gingersnap cookies (I used graham crackers with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar)
10 tbsp melted butter
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups softened cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup lime juice
2 tbsp lime zest

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place 24 paper baking cups into muffin pans.

Put the cookies into a food processor and pulse until you end up with course crumbs. Stir in the butter. Place a tbsp of this mixture into each paper cup and press firmly into the bottom. Chill until set.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the ricotta until smooth. Add the cream cheese, vanilla and confectioner's sugar, blending until smooth. Slowly add the eggs, blending well.  Add the lime juice and zest and mix well.  Spoon mixture evenly over crust.

Bake for 30-35  minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool 5 minutes. Then, remove the cheesecakes and cool on a wire rack. Chill until ready to serve. 

I received this awesome sample package of a product I'd never heard of before.  It's a grain called salba.  What is salba, you may ask?
Salba is a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Richer in protein and Omega-3s than Chia, and higher in fiber than flaxseed, Salba is a functional food that can be enjoyed daily to help manage blood sugar levels, to help reduce the risks of diseases such as heart disease, and to help reduce appetite and increase satiety.  Gram for gram, a 12g serving of Salba provides:
  • 8x more Omega-3's than salmon
  • 25% more dietary fiber than flax
  • 30% more antioxidants than blueberries
  • 15x more magnesium than broccoli
  • 7x more antioxidants than oranges
  • 6x more calcium than milk
  • 3x more iron than spinach
  • 3x more fiber than oats
You can read more here.

I really liked the chips, thought they had a nice corn flavor.  And those little bags will be perfect for my daughter's lunch.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seven Sporadic Questions: Eat At Home

As promised, it's my first installment of "Seven Sporadic Questions".  A monthly feature that will spotlight various food bloggers from around the interwebs.

This month we will be talking to Tiffany from Eat at Home.  Tiffany is one of the first people I can remember from when I started my little blog.  I've tried a few of her recipes myself including her Chicken Tortilla Soup and homemade biscuits.  What I love about her cooking is that she's obviously a busy mom (4 kids!) and she chooses dishes that please the pickiest palate without breaking the bank.  

1.  What inspired you to start blogging?
I had a small blog for poetry and other writing for several years.  Then I started noticing food blogs, The Sporadic Cook being one of them.  The food blogs and bloggers impressed me and made me want to try my hand at it. 

2.  What's your favorite thing to make for a crowd?  
I've made Chicken Pot Pie and Baked Spaghetti for 100 people before.  If I have a smaller crowd of around 10-15, I like to make Chicken Fiesta with Black Beans in the slow cooker. 

3.  What's your favorite thing to make for just you?
Homemade ice cream. Any flavor is good, but my favorite is Coconut Macadamia

4.  If you could invite 3 famous people (living or dead) to dinner, who would they be?  Any particular reason?
Fannie Flagg, the author of numerous books including my favorite Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. She's a great story teller and she's funny.  Laura Ingalls Wilder, another great story teller.  Both of these women also write about food in their books because food is so closely tied with people, family and culture.  The third person I would invite is Eugene Peterson, who is the author of The Message Bible translation.  I watched an interview with him and was fascinated.  He also understands and appreciates story telling and he has a passion for getting the Word of God into the hearts of people through story.

5.  When you think of your childhood, do any favorite dishes come to mind?  
Lots and lots of things.  My mom is a really good cook.  Pudding Cake is one that I often asked for on my birthday. 

6.  What do you have in your kitchen that you just couldn't do without? (besides your stove/oven of course)
My slow cooker.  There are days we wouldn't get to eat at all if it weren't for this wonderful appliance.  I wish I had a programmable one, because that would be extra awesome. 

7.  What's your favorite part of blogging?  Do you think you'll keep doing it for a while?
I really like that blogging is learning.  There's always something new to figure out, like photography, writing, cooking, tech stuff, business... I love to learn, so this is perfect for me.  I also like connecting with other bloggers and readers.   It's fun to share recipes and conversation with people.  I expect to keep blogging for a quite a while.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cocoa Peanut Butter Krispie Treats & an Announcement

I've never been a big fan of rice krispie treats, most likely due to a serious lack of chocolate.  I guess I just didn't see the point.
Then I realized you could make them out of the cocoa flavored rice krispies, and the light came on.  I added a spoonful of peanut butter to the mix to get two of my favorite flavors hanging out together in one sticky, gooey mix, and now I'm a convert.  

Here is the recipe from the Kellogg's site

3 tbsp butter or margarine
4 cups mini marshmallows
6 cups Cocoa Krispies

Melt butter over medium heat.  Add marshmallows (and large spoonful of PB at this point if you're going that route) and stir until all melted.  Add in cocoa krispies and stir until all cereal is coated.
Pour into 13x9 baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, and press to spread evenly in pan.  
Devour before children get home from school.

Now for my announcement.  I've decided since there are so many awesome foodbloggers out there that I admire and drool over, I'm going to interview one blogger a month in a feature that will be called....

So when you see this banner, it means that it's time to learn the inner workings of the complex brain that belongs to the featured blogger.  
Or at least it's time for some patient person to answer my silly food-related questions.  Either way I hope it will be fun, and a nice way to shine the spot light on some wonderful cooks and all around nice folks out there. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Alton Brown's Baby Backs & da Winner

I don't know if I mentioned, but I currently own a whole lotta baby backs right now.  Fourteen to be exact.  Some may call it weird, I call it being prepared.
And I've also mentioned my hubby has a tried and true rib marinade that is just perfect.  But when one has a surplus of ribs, it's time to experiment.
So I decided to give Alton Brown's recipe a try.

We always do our ribs on the grill, but these are braised in the oven after a dry rub is applied, and the ribs are sealed up in foil packet with some liquid.
My favorite part about this recipe is how they are placed under the broiler and the glaze gets all caramelized and wonderful.


  • 2 whole slabs pork baby back ribs

Dry Rub:

  • 8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Braising Liquid:

  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped


Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Place each slab of baby back ribs on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side down. Sprinkle each side generously with the dry rub. Pat the dry rub into the meat. Refrigerate the ribs for a minimum of 1 hour. In a microwavable container, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Microwave on high for 1 minute.
Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Open one end of the foil on each slab and pour half of the braising liquid into each foil packet. Tilt the baking sheet in order to equally distribute the braising liquid. Braise the ribs in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.
Transfer the braising liquid into a medium saucepot. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half or until of a thick syrup consistency. Brush the glaze onto the ribs. Place under the broiler just until the glaze caramelizes lightly. Slice each slab into 2 rib bone portions. Place the remaining hot glaze into a bowl and toss the rib portions in the glaze.
recipe from food network
                        Also, announcing the winner of my cookbook giveaway, is Cristine, of Cooking with Cristine.  She answered that her favorite dish to take to a potluck is a trifle. So I'm wondering if she could come to my next work potluck :)

Stay tuned for more cookbook/cooking magazine giveaways to come!