Happy Birthday to Me and to The USA!

What a busy week it’s been!  My birthday is July 3rd, America’s is the 4th, I had a whole mess of family in town for the festivities and it’s just been a lot of good times and fun.  Oh, and food!

So my mother (Krazy Kathy) came into town on the 2nd.  I hadn’t seen her since she visited Hawaii almost a year ago! Yowzers, that’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing her.  So it was a much overdue visit and it was so nice to have her up here!  We ran some errands together (go figure), hung out, discovered an awesome sandwich place a stone’s throw from my cousin’s house, visited the family cemetery, went out to eat, caught up, so on.

my mom, at my great uncle’s house

dinner pics from our evening at the brick room in downtown fredonia – awesomely great food!

The night before my birthday Kath took us out to eat at this great little Italian place in downtown Fredonia: The Brick Room.  Our food was incredible and it was the perfect ambiance for our very inappropriate and bawdy dinner table talk.

I think it’s easily safe to say that a good time was had by all.

going out to dinner on the 2nd with my mother, husband, and great uncle

love this billabong maxi dress!

Then on the third of July, my actual birthday, I spent the day with my Mom.  Well, I worked a bit in the morning – Duggs worked all day (stupid weird mid-week holiday is such a bummer!).  Then I hung out with Mom.  Once it was dark out we headed over to Uncle Bobby’s – my cousin, his wife, and their kids are up here visiting too, so we got to go see them and hang out.  Sadly the fire works for the third were cancelled because of crappy weather!

mom

and me

this is very funny to me for some reason!

 

 

Alright, so my Mom and I had a nice time on my birthday.  We ran into my Uncle Chris and Aunt Betty who were also in town for the 4th, at the cemetery, how wacky is that!

Oh, the sunset over Lake Erie on my birthday was awesome:

light em up !

pretty paper lanterns

Fourth of July Fun!

The fourth was a busy holiday.  We started the day hanging out at home and getting food and treats ready.  I baked a boatload of festive red, white, and blue cupcakes.  You can flog me now for my flagrant use of food dye, I know I’m terrible!  This is the summer of hypocrisy or something, lol.  Anyways, at least I did bake some without dye (and in the stash I kept home for us I included plenty on un-dyed options).  After getting everything ready, we went over to Uncle Bobby’s for a big ole picnic and cookout.  We played some ladder ball, laid out on the beach, had some delicious steamed clams, hung out with everyone there, I ate some of the best potato salad I’ve ever had… and then we wrapped it up and headed over to my Aunt Patty’s house for a nice cookout!  Al cooked up some awesome steaks, Aunt Patty made ribs and mac’n’cheese, and we all hung out and had some cocktails and cold beers.

Busy, but an awesome holiday for sure!

sweet treats from the 4th

4th of july at uncle bobby and miss peggy’s house

the good stuff!

collage from the cookout at my aunt patty and al’s house

And in case you were wondering, I wore red, white, and blue ALL week.  Haha, just to clarify in case there was any doubt.

It’s been an awesome week, that’s for sure!  And we still have a weekend to go now (okay, maybe I take back what I said about mid-week holidays being stupid).  I hope to get back into a more normal routine come next week, that’s for sure!

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

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Sour Cherry Pie – A Hand Picked, Homemade Summer Treat

This summer dish is such a fun treat.  Tart and sugary, with flavors perfect for this time of year, this nice sour bite will happily cut through a hot, humid day.

sour cherry pie

In Western New York, the local eats are amaze.  This place has the best food in the USA, I’m convinced.  Hello, Buffalo wings?  Chiavettas? Besides, think of how many Italians live here and you can instantly understand my POV.

A week-ish ago, Austin and I went to the backyard cherry tree and had a good ole time picking some of the red, ripe fruit.  The tree was so very generous this year, and without a ladder, we gathered SEVEN POUNDS of sour cherries.  Yes, I’ll clarify: this isn’t your regular ole Bing or Ranier cherry tree, it’s good ole SOUR cherries.

We took these bitter lil lovelies to Nick’s Grandma and she happily baked some pies for the family.

(Are you tracking all of the names and relations? Probably not.  Duggs, my husband, and I live with my cousin Nick – his Grandma, EZ, lives nearby and she’s our go-to pie baker, gardener, painter, hunter extraordinaire; mentioned her in this post).

me, having a lovely summer day

we started out slow, and then that bowl just filled right up!

If you don’t have a tree in your backyard (sadface), I’m not too sure where you can buy them.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them hanging out in the grocery store produce section – but you never know.  Farmer’s Markets, specialty shops, or perhaps a well-placed phone call to a store that can order them for you (like Publix will, my mightily blessed SouthEastern friends, oh how I miss Publix…) would do the trick?  Good luck and Godspeed.

Step 1: Acquire cherries. 

So yeah, step one has go to be getting the cherries.  We did this with an hour or so of picking.  Austin, being the spritely nine year old that he is, climbed up into the tree.  Me, being the 5’8 Godzilla that I am, just reached up and picked.

austin and i, the backyard tree, and tons of sour cherries!

Step 2:  Pit the cherries. 

This one is time consuming.  I suggest an ice cold beer (because picking cherries in the hot summer sun is a sweat-expiring experience) and a TV show or some jams.  Just pop the pits out of each and every cherry – pinch them and you can go pretty fast.

Step 3: Get your nearest Grandma-like figure to make you a pie.

Hahaha.  I kid, I kid.  EZ made the pies for us, yes.  I do, however, have the filling recipe she’s used for years.  For your baking pleasure:

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs Tapioca
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • sour cherries, about 1.5 lbs per pie
Directions

Take your pitted cherries and just mix them with the above ingredients – the sugar, the lemon juice, and  the tapioca.  I asked EZ about the tapioca, and she said she gets the Jell-O brand, opens up the packet and measures out three tablespoons of the granules.  You can find it in the pudding section; she really strongly suggests using tapioca – it’s essential for the flavor.  And as a big fan of this pie, I’m saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This pie is amazing, so just do as your told.

Then you’ll just mix everything up.  Some cherries will mash up a bit, some will stay intact -this variety in texture is desired.

She didn’t give me a crust recipe (I didn’t ask for one) – but just use your favorite regular crust, put a bottom layer in the pie dish.  Then add your mixed filling.  Then, add a top layer of crust and sprinkle some more sugar on there if you’d like to.  Given the tart flavor of the cherries, I really encourage the sugar on top.

Then bake.  She said she bakes until the crust is the golden brown “done” color – about an hour in her oven, which she cautions, does not operate properly and as a normal new oven would or should.  So, yeah, this isn’t a scientific recipe, I know.  But you can guestimate, right?  I think like 350 or whatever the normal baking temp is, is good.  (Right?)

And then… ta daa!  Homemade sour cherry pie. 

finished pie, lovely!

Happy picking and eating y’all – if you attempt this one, let me know how it turns out.

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

30 Days of Blogging Honesty – Day 6

Day 06 — My worst cooking disaster involved _____________ and this person/these people…

rice and my family, when I was growing up. 

I’m going to do one of the blog-a-day things, in conjunction with other bloggers.  It’s this one, called “30 Days of Blogging Honesty.”

My family is pretty Italian.  I grew up just knowing how to make pasta, now I can make all kinds of Italian fare from scratch, it’s certainly my comfort area in the kitchen.  I’ve since branched out and I do like to cook quite a lot.

But there’s this one ridic incident that stands out in my mind so clearly!

I must have been like 12 or so… and I offered to make dinner.  I can’t even remember what the whole meal was, I just know that there was rice involved.  I’ve NEVER been the kind of person who reads instructions.  In fact, I always just jump into a project and teach myself… I do the same in the kitchen too, hardly ever consulting recipes.  Now a days, it works out alright for me, I have a great natural sense of flavors.  I have a good sense of direction, good instincts.

But back in the day, tween Rose had NO IDEA how to cook rice.

I thought it was just like pasta, and so I just filled up the pot with water.  I didn’t measure how much water, I thought I could drain it later.  I didn’t realize there was a precise absorption thing going on with the making of rice.

Instead of cooking, the whole pot turned into this terrible weird paste.  It was rice mush.  Basically, porridge.

My Dad laughed SO HARD.  Man, he still cracks up about that rice ordeal to this day!  The best part was that even my little sister knew how to make rice, and as the whole thing played out – she was cracking up too.  Even she knew you had to measure the water!

My whole family just LOLed hardcore.  To this day, they still ask if I’ll be cooking rice or if I need some help, etc.  It’s a long running family joke.

I’ve made all kinds of crazy cooking snafus, but that’s totally the earliest one, one that really stands out in my memory.

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

banana nut steel cut oatmeal = vegan love in a crockpot

I’ve recently jumped on the whole steel cut oats bandwagon.  Eating a breakfast of steel cut oats I feel so fitness-y and powerful, like a lean mean healthy machine.  For my first attempt at turning oats into edible gruel, I googled around to see what the good folks of the world wide web were doing to prepare said oats.  Turns out tossing them in the slow cooker overnight is a totally legit method.  I studied some oat-to-liquid ratios and then began inventing my own recipes.

My first try involved some dairy.  And by some I mean I had half-and-half going on in there. Whew. The oatmeal was delicious, but I was worried that simmering those hardcore oats in milk fat for ten hours was kinda defeating the purpose.   (I’ll put the recipe for my first attempt at the end of this post.)

Banana Nut (steel cut oat)-meal  

This recipe is vegan, vegetarian, super healthy and yummy.   [edit: I added nutrition info towards the bottom of the post, 269 cals per serving – not bad!]

don't you feel healthy just looking at this stuff?

Ingredients:

  • steel cut oats
  • one or two bananas, ripe/ near ’bout mushy
  • brown sugar
  • water
  • almond “milk”  (Almond Breeze, vanilla flavor)
  • chopped walnuts
  • cinnamon
  • a slow cooker
Directions:  Dump ingredients into a slow cooker and let ‘er ride on low for about eight to ten hours, basically just overnight.  Eat as-is, or maybe garnish with a little maple syrup, maybe some additional nuts or chopped banana?
How I did:
I’m doing the steel cut oats with about a 4:1 ratio of liquid:oats, so to get about six decent servings I did a cup and half of oats and about six cups of liquid.  I broke it up as 4 cups water and 2 cups of the Almond Breeze.   I dumped all that oats and liquid into my slow cooker.

vanilla flavor is pretty dope

I had a couple bananas sitting around that were just too soft to eat.  Totally ready for banana bread.

this photo is just all class: old fruit + booze + booze. nice!

I took one of these soft banans and just mashed it up.

just like baby food

Add that mashy ‘nanner into the glop in the crock pot.   Next: I found a little packet of chopped walnuts.  I got the idea for this recipe because I needed to use up those bananas before they were useless.  As I was brainstorming for other flavors/items to compliment the banana, walnuts seemed the natural choice:  it’s just like banana bread, yeah?  It turns out, we actually had walnuts in the house, and they were ready to go.  It was fate!  I took my nice pre-chopped packet, and I added the whole thing in with my other porridge-wannabe ingredients.

duggs bought these for a diff recipe, but ended up not using them. so i totally scored - these were the perfect size for this oatmeal.

I added a nice spoonful of brown sugar.  Maybe it was a tablespoon?  I’m not sure.  Sorry, I never really measure things – I’m one of those cooks who just kinda knows how much of what goes where by eye-balling it.  So umm… put a little brown sugar in there.  However much you feel comfy with.  Then do the samesies with some cinnamon.  Just sprinkle generously some ground cinnamon on top and mix it in.

winnie the pooh: honey :: happyhippierose : brown sugar sack

Wisk it up so everything gets mixed together.

all mixed up and ready to slooooow cook

Put the lid on.  Sleep all night long and have sweet banana nut dreams.  (Make sure you keep the slowcooker on low for eight to ten hours).    When I woke up, I gave it a little stir and voila, it was ready to serve!  I divvied it up into six servings.

breakfast to go!

oh yes yes yes

I served my husband a bowl with a little more cinnamon and a small dollop of maple syrup mixed in.  For myself, I ate it straight up!  Both ways were delicious.  Walnuts are pretty soft anyways, but after cooking all that time they do soften down a bit more.  They still lend to the texture of the oatmeal, but there’s no big crunch in there.  The bananas totally mix in.    There is a little skin that occurs, btw.  I just work around it.  I think next time I’ll double up on the banana for the amount of oatmeal I made.  I totally recommend using two.    The Almond Dream was an excellent choice!! I’m using that instead of dairy in my oats, from now on.

For clean up:  this go round, I scooped out as much oatmeal as I could right away, put it in tupperware.  That way, I soaked the slow cooker pot asap so I could get off the sticky part that gooes to the walls of the pot.  (Last time I let it sit too long before soaking, and it was hard to remove).

ENJOY! 

If you make this recipe: please give me feedback!  How did your’s come out?  Was it gooooood?  What did you do differently?

 

NUTRITION INFO

Based on nutrition labels from the specific ingredients I used: oats, brown sugar, almond breeze (vanilla flavor), walnuts, banana, and water.    The entire pot made six servings for me; I just did the simple calculations to come up with this nutritional data.

per serving              whole crock pot

Calories                                   269                              1615

Fat                                            10 grams                   60 grams

Sugar                                       10 grams                   60 grams

Protein                                    7.1 grams                  43 grams

 

……………………………..

My First Attempt:  Berries ‘n’ Cream Steel Cut Oats

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • maple syrup
  • frozen berries   ~1 cup
  • a packet (or two) of splenda
I chopped up the frozen berries (I bought a mixed bag and those blackberries are too big not to chop up! Same with some strawberry pieces).  So I chopped up the fruit and essentially just mixed/whisked everything together and let it cook on low overnight.   It made five-ish servings, and was really tasty!  The dairy taste was just a bit heavy for me.

my first steel cut batch - berries n cream

chicken chili cilantro lime crockpot yumminess

You have to make my newest crockpot invention – its healthy, tasty and versatile!  Oh, and super easy too.

Word on the street is that Chili’s has some Green Chili Lime Soup that’s all the rage.   Amongst my friends this recipe for a DIY healthy knock-off of the Chili’s soup has been passed around a lot lately, and its been getting rave reviews.   So, I decided I wanted to harness the flavors of this chili lime craze, but in a thicker way.  A non-soup way, if you will.

So I concocted a dish that’s the consistency of chili.  It works well alone, served over rice, eaten as a dip with chips.  You decide!

I didn’t calculate the nutritional info for this.  But if you think about the ingredients used – its low cal, low fat, and high in protein. Depending on how you jazz it up, the carbs could go either way.

Ingredients:

  • chicken boobies (i used 2)
  • chicken broth
  • EVOO
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • splash of orange juice
  • fresh limes – i think i went through 3 or 4
  • fresh cilantro
  • 2 cans of chopped green chilis
  • 5 cans of beans – i did 2 cans kidney, 2 cans lima and 1 can butter beans.
  • 1 bell pepper (you could do 2, honestly)
  • garlic – minced and/or powder
  • flour, optional
  • heat – if you like hot sauce, you may want to incorporate that.  i did not use any during the cooking

let's do this

Step One: Cook the Chicken

I put the chicken in the crock pot, set it to low.  I added just enough broth to cover the breasts.  I squeezed the juice of half a lime in there, and I added one can of green chilis.  I also splashed some Worcestershire sauce, OJ, and EVOO in there.  I gave it a little salt and pepper sprinkle and sprinkled some garlic in there as well.

chicken breasts ready to a-simmer

Once the chicken was fully cooked, I removed it and shredded it.   I do cut off any remaining fat and get rid of that during the shredding process, fyi.

cooked chickens

shredded! so beautiful, and it makes so much.

Step Two: Put it All Together

So I threw the shredded chicken right back into the crock pot; I kept all the flavorful awesome juices in there.  I added another splash of the broth.  I added the juice of the half lime I already had out, and added another.  I dumped all five cans of beans in there too (drained! I drained all of the beans before I added them).

i love beans. i know canned beans aren't preferred... but they are so easy to use.

I chopped up a yellow bell pepper and added this into the mix now too.

i'm not really a great chopper, so i'm kinda impressed with my knife skills on this pepper

Then I ripped up some cilantro and put that in there as well.

I let this mixture just meld and simmer for a little bit.  I wanted the pepper to get kinda soft, and I just wanted the liquid to cook off and things thicken up.  Maybe it was an hour?  Not too sure.

When I was ready to try it. it was kind of thin, so I actually added a heaping tablespoon of flour.   Once pulled off the heat, it thickened significantly.

I just want to reiterate that I didn’t add so much broth that it was soupy, not at all.  I used just enough broth to keep things from turning to paste.

ta-daa

finished product, with fresh cilantro on top

Step Three: Serving

Adding fresh lime juice and more fresh cilantro right before serving is clutch.  Everyt ime I ate or served this, I would put in fistfuls of cilantro.  (I can’t get enough of it though, its one of my favorite flavors for sure).

1. I ate this meal just on its own, scooped right out of the crock pot.  It was like a stew, or a chili.  I liked it plain.  I added a little hot sauce at one point, and it was awesome.

2.  When I went to re-heat some, I added cheddar cheese and then served it over Spanish rice.  THIS WAS THE BOMB.  This also slaughters the healthy factor, but hey – tasty is tasty.

3.  I served it like a dip – with tortilla chips, crackers, and even some crisp bread.

So, its pretty versatile and can be used in a number of ways.   If I had any more leftover, I’ try adding cheese and some sour cream to it, and using it like a dip.   That sounds delicious!

these tasted good with it!

so did these, yummy!!!!

ENJOY!!! And if you make any modifications, let me know.  I know I’ll be doing this, or something similar, again and again!

pasta and beans

Check out this super easy meal I whipped up using a few ingredients I almost always have on hand.   Basically pasta covered with a “sauce” of tomato puree, peas, corn and kidney beans, this vegetarian meal is high in protein, low in fat and calories, and takes less than 20 minutes to make.

I came up with the idea about a week ago when I was trying to make dinner without having to go shopping or defrost anything.  Since I was pleasantly surprised with how tasty it was, I re-created it tonight.

You pretty much just throw everything together and voila.  But I’ll break it down step by step just for fun:

Ingredients:

  • pasta
  • 1 can tomato puree
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can corn (i happened to have frozen peas/corn combo available tonight, but i used a can of corn last week)
  • 1 oz. lowfat cream cheese  (or neufchatel)
  • EVOO
  • salt, pepper, powdered garlic, oregano – whatever you like to season with

Boil some pasta.  I happen to like Barilla whole grain rotini.

whole grain pasta

Combine the tomato puree, kidney beans, peas, and corn in another pan.   Stir occasionally while it gets hot and bubbly.  Give it a little splash of EVOO, and then toss in whatever seasonings you like.  I used a teensy bit of sea salt, fresh ground pepper, some garlic powder and oregano.

Once its hot, add in a dab of cream cheese (technically, i used “neufchatel cheese” – its the lowfat equivalent of cream cheese).  Use a fork to help blend the cheese into the sauce.

add in the cream cheese once its getting hot n bubbly in there

finished sauce

The reason I put cream cheese into this sauce is to help mellow out the acidity of the tomato puree.   The canned puree has a pretty harsh tart and just a small amount of cream cheese is a really fast and easy way to smooth out that tinny acid flavor.

the ingredients i used tonight

And that’s it!  Serve the sauce over a small amount of pasta.  Because of the beans, its REALLY hearty and you need less pasta to fill you up than you’d think.

tiny pasta portion is all you need

looks pretty, tastes yummy!

Nutrition info:

I cooked half a box of the pasta and that’s plenty to go with the amount of sauce this recipe yields.  I didn’t have any canned corn or peas, but I had some Green Giant “just for one” frozen peas and corn – and I used 2 servings of those (the veggies are pre-packaged as single servings; not very green because of all the packaging, but super convenient when you live alone).   FYI: The nutrition info I calculated is based off the specific/exact ingredients I used tonight.

PER SERVING: 298 calories/3.05 g fat/11.8 g protein *this is based on making 5 servings out of the whole batch, reasonable portion sizes for me

If you were to make 4 servings out of the total you’d get: 372.5 cals/3.81 g fat/14.75 g protein per serving.

TOTAL for the entire batch: 1490 cals/15.25 g fat/59 g protein

Here’s how much I had leftover after I ate my bowl tonight:

lots of leftovers!

There’s easily 4 more servings in here for me.  See what I mean?

yummy!!

ENJOY!!!!  And if you actually try this and make any modifications or changes, let me know how it comes out!