Monthly Archives: February 2012

Winger’s Sticky Fingers.

A few Christmases ago we got the bright idea to drive from Indiana to Utah for the holidays with a 6-month-old Munchkin. In all fairness, she did fabulously on the long trek; what didn’t do so well was our car — a little blue Subaru Impreza wagon I’d had since college & driven cross-country more times than I could count. Her name was Ella. Just past Kansas City, she started to overheat despite the near-freezing weather. We pulled off into the thriving metropolis of Mound, MO, & spent the next couple hours at the only dealership in town trying to see if the very nice Ford guys could fix it. They filled her up with coolant & sent us on our way.

We made it to Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Fortunately there was at least a Subaru dealer there. Several more hours later we were back on the road. We made it almost all the way across the state before she started overheating again. We couldn’t go more than 50 mph, so we limped into Sidney, NE, where our motel was, late at night with an overtired child & an overheating car.

The next morning, a Saturday, we poured more coolant into the tank & made it just across the Wyoming state line — less than 30 miles – before having problems again. The local mechanic gave us 2 options: stay over the weekend to wait for parts, or limp to Cheyenne a couple dozen miles ahead. Another several hours at another Subaru dealer later (you can imagine The Munchkin was getting a little sick of repair shops) we were told the problem had been resolved. But we hadn’t so much as left the Cheyenne city limits before the problem reoccurred. So we limped over the mountains into Laramie — at least we were heading the right direction — where there was yet another Subaru dealer, though they’d be closed Sunday.

So we were stuck in Laramie. What was there to do in a small college town over winter break on a Saturday night?

Eat at Winger’s. On the very last night before that particular location would be closed forever.

Winger’s is a casual dining restaurant out west — predominantly in Utah — famous for its Sticky Fingers: chicken fingers soaked in a spicy-sweet sauce & dipped in Ranch dressing. They also have a killer Asphalt Pie. I found the recipe for the sauce here many months ago, but only now had gotten around to buying the special hot sauce it requires. If you’re a fan of Sticky Fingers & don’t live near a Winger’s, this recipe is for you!

Winger’s Sticky Fingers (will make enough sauce for 4+ people)

  • breaded chicken fingers
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. FRANK’S Buffalo sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. water
  1. Prepare desired number of chicken fingers according to conventional oven directions on package.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan & heat, stirring frequently, until brown sugar is dissolved.
  3. Place chicken fingers in a shallow dish, pour sauce over the top, & toss.
  4. Serve with Ranch dressing.

The car story does have a happy ending, by the way: with the help of my in-laws, we drove on I-80 all the way across Wyoming at a whopping 55 miles an hour — way scarier than driving fast, I’ll tell you what — & traded our faithful Ella in for our current Subaru: a reliable Forester that has also been driven across the country several times & is still doing great! We miss Ella, but we’re grateful we don’t have to spend any more road trips in mechanics’ shops. & besides, we’ll always have Laramie…

Do you have memories — fond or otherwise — associated with certain dishes or restaurants?


Oopsey Daisy

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Beef with Broccoli (& Carrots).

I do my grocery shopping on Wednesdays. It’s the day before the new circular comes out, so the store is always empty. (Honestly though, I didn’t learn that until we’d been going for several weeks out of necessity because it was the only day we didn’t have something else scheduled; it’s a nice perk.) So this means that Tuesday night after The Munchkin goes to sleep I’m up racking my brain about what to make for dinner that week. I’d been in a rut for weeks — maybe months.

Then I read about one food blogger’s method for organizing recipes. Now, honestly, I’ve been looking everywhere & can’t find the post anymore, so I think it may have just been a Facebook post or something, otherwise I’d send you there in a millisecond. But the gist of it was that she has a Word document (or you could use an Excel spreadsheet) of all the dinner recipes she likes to use, with either the link (if it’s from a blog) or the title of the cookbook, so she can find it quickly. Keeping it on the computer makes it easy to add to & modify the list, & you could organize it by cuisine (Asian, Mexican, Italian, etc.) or food type (beef, chicken, vegetarian, etc.), & it’s so much quicker than my old method of printing off the recipe & sticking it in my overstuffed binder of recipes. So that’s my goal.

Another way to streamline weekly meal planning is to assign “theme nights.” I actually read in this month’s Parents magazine that theme nights can get kids excited about sitting down with the family for dinner & can help them assume a larger role in meal prep. But on the practical side, if I know that Thursday night is going to be Mexican night, I can go to my handy-dandy “Mexican” category & have fewer meals to have to choose from.

So why am I saying all this? Because I’m trying to expand my repertoire to include more international foods for said “theme nights.” For Asian night, meet Beef with Broccoli (original recipe here).

  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 lb.+ stir-fry beef
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 large carrots, peeled & sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
  • Sauce, below
  • hot cooked rice

Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  1. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl; stir until smooth. Set aside.
  2.  In a shallow bowl, combine cornstarch, water, soy sauce, & garlic powder; stir until smooth. Toss beef in mixture until well coated.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in wok on medium-high heat. Stir-fry beef until done. Remove & keep warm.
  4. Stir-fry vegetables in remaining oil 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. (I like to cover the wok to allow the veggies to steam.)
  5. Return beef to wok & add sauce. Cook 2 minutes.
  6. Serve over rice.

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Curry, cravings, & a cure for the weekly dinner rut.

What’s the weirdest food you craved when you were preggo? With both of my pregnancies, I’ve had an incessant, nigh-incurable craving for curry. The first time, that wasn’t a problem because we lived in a college town with a seemingly endless array of international restaurants in close proximity — read: walking distance – to one another, including what is still hands-down my favorite Thai place. (They also had an amazing Turkish place where we got to sit on cushions to eat at low tables & everything… but that’s another story.) This time around, however, I haven’t been so lucky. Living in suburban sprawl has its downsides, for sure, & restaurant choice is one of them, especially if I don’t want to drive 30 minutes each way. (Bakeries too… but again, another story.)

But then my friend Patty introduced me to Weelicious. In less than 15 minutes of perusal, my weekly dinner rut had disappeared completely. I was pinning & bookmarking dinner ideas faster than I ever have before! Catherine (what a nice name!) has everything from baby & toddler foods to family dinners, snacks, incredible lunchbox ideas, ways to get your picky eater to be less picky… Why was I just now finding out about this?!

Then I saw it. The cure for my curry craving (for the moment, anyway). It’s actually not one of Catherine’s, but a contest submission from a lady named Deb. & it rocks. Before I go back for thirds, let me share my version with you. The original recipe is here.

  •  2 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • dash ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp. ketchup (if this weirds you out, use the tomato paste called for in the original recipe; ketchup achieves the same effect without requiring me to open a whole new can of paste)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 apple, cored, skin on, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup carrots (about 2 large), peeled, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large Russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken (about 4 breasts), cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed braiser or pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion; saute 3-4 minutes or until soft & translucent.
  3. Add spice mixture & saute 30 seconds more.
  4. Add apple, carrots, potatoes, & chicken; toss until evenly coated with spice mixture & onions.
  5. Add broth & bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer, covered, 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through & veggies are tender, stirring occasionally to keep curry from sticking to the bottom & to help the veggies cook evenly.
  6. Serve over basmati rice. (Trust me: I’ve tried just using regular old white rice in recipes like this before, but it doesn’t even compare. Spend a little extra for the basmati. Your family & your tastebuds will thank you profusely.)

Like the other Catherine, my family devoured this. Munchkin included. (Her affinity for curry may have something to do with the amount of it that I ate when I was pregnant & nursing with her…) It was flavorful without being spicy. I wondered about the apples, but decided to try it anyway & loved the touch of sweetness they added. If you look at the original recipe, you’ll see that I substituted potatoes for celery, simply because they were what was in my favorite curry at that one Thai place in Bloomington. I’m sure you could do both if you wanted to, but the whole family agreed that it was exactly perfect just like this.

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Easy Valentine’s Dessert: 6-Ingredient Molten Chocolate Cakes.

For those of you looking for a last-minute dessert idea for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, here is a molten chocolate cake that tastes every bit as fancy as the restaurant ones, but is easy enough to leave plenty of time for romance!

These beauties became a family tradition for us the first Valentine’s Day after The Munchkin was born, when we weren’t able to go out. This year we actually got a babysitter & get to go out for the first Valentine’s Day since then, so I decided to make them tonight for Sunday Dinner so I could share the recipe with you. I’m sure that My Husband The Eater minded terribly.

I think I first got this from Kraft food&family magazine. This recipe yields 4 small cakes; you can easily halve it for just the two of you, or make the full recipe & save the other 2 to eat later (though they will be less molten). I won’t judge you one bit…. since that’s what we do every year.

  • 4 (1 oz.) squares Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate (or for more richness, use 4 oz. of your favorite bittersweet chocolate)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • whipped cream or ice cream, for serving
  1. Preheat your oven to 425. Butter or grease 4, 3/4-cup custard cups or souflee dishes. Place them on a baking sheet.
  2. Microwave chocolate & butter in a large microwaveable bowl on high 1 minute or until butter is melted. Stir with a wire whisk until the chocolate is melted too.
  3. Stir in sugar with the whisk until well blended.
  4. Whisk in the eggs & egg yolks. Stir in flour.
  5. Divide the batter equally among prepared cups. Bake 13-14 minutes or until the sides are firm but the centers are still soft.
  6. Let stand 1 minute, then gently run a small knife around the cakes to loosen them. Carefully invert them onto dessert dishes & serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream.


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{Secret Recipe Club} Berry Terrine.

This month my Secret Recipe Club assignment was Dancing Veggies, a (mostly) vegetarian blog with a few vegan recipes. Way to get me out of my comfort zone! As I scrolled down Amanda’s list of recipes, many caught my eye, like these pierogies & these super-tasty-looking zucchini fritters with homemade tzatziki sauce. But, as you know, I’ve been on a bit of a berry kick lately, so when I saw her Verry Berry Terrine, I knew that’s what I had to make!

Like Amanda, I had never heard of a terrine before, so I decided to do a Google Image search to see what dessert terrines looked like. Inspired by the many layered desserts I saw, I elected to do 3 layers instead of her 2: 1 with blueberries, 1 of just cream, & 1 with strawberries. Red, white, & blue! You could serve this for one of the many patriotic holidays we have coming up, or, since I seem to be the only food or craft blogger who didn’t make something for the Super Bowl, Patriots or Giants colors. This dessert looks fancy, but it was remarkably easy, & I already had everything I needed for it. I love it when that happens!

  • 12 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups prepared whipped cream (or Cool Whip)
  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed & patted dry
  • 1 cup diced strawberries
  • 1 cup crushed graham crackers
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • about 8 whole graham cracker sheets, quartered on the perforations
  1. Line a loaf pan with enough wax paper over the sides to cover the top as well.
  2. In your mixer bowl, cream together cream cheese & sugar. Mix in the vanilla, then remove from mixer & use spatula fold in the whipped cream until well combined.
  3. Split the mixture into 3 smaller bowls. Fold blueberries into the cream mixture in one of the bowls, & the strawberries into another.
  4. Combine the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter (it can be in the same bowl you used for the cream cheese). Press the mixture into the bottom & halfway up the sides of the loaf pan.
  5. Very gently pour/spread the blueberry-cream mixture over the top of the graham cracker crumbs. Use your spatula to smooth it flat, then do the same with the cream, & lastly with the strawberries. Gently slide graham crackers down the sides of the pan, between the strawberry layer & the wax paper.
  6. Place remaining graham crackers on top to cover the strawberry layer. Fold the overhanging wax paper over the top. Use pie weights (or, in their absence, a Tupperware of frozen leftover spaghetti sauce works quite well) to keep it pressed down. Freeze several hours or overnight.
  7. Remove to refrigerator to thaw a few hours before serving (we took it out almost 4 hours beforehand & the fruit was still frozen). Remove wax paper, then invert from pan onto a serving plate. Then cut into slices with a sharp knife. It’ll keep for several days in the fridge, but will get quite soft once it’s fully thawed, so it’s best to eat it within 24 hours of pulling it out of the freezer.

Thanks, Amanda! This was delicious!

Secret Recipe Club

Oopsey Daisy

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Fresh strawberry frosting for heart cutout cookies.

Have you heard of Sprinkles Cupcakes? The first time I heard of them was when they featured this recipe on the Martha Stewart Show a few years ago. Then the California bakery opened a store on the Upper East Side shortly before we left New York, & I had grand designs of doing an East Side-West Side, West Coast-East Coast cupcake taste test to see if they competed with Magnolia, but ran out of time. So I still haven’t had one of their cupcakes. But I’ve never forgotten this frosting recipe!

While I was planning a slew of projects & activities to keep The Munchkin & me occupied & sane in our tiny apartment during Three-Day Potty Training (incidentally, it worked!), I decided on cookies instead of cupcakes because I knew she’d have more fun cutting them out. I had some Pillsbury refrigerated dough on hand, which saved prep time, but honestly the strawberry flavor didn’t come out very well because of the vanilla cookies. Ideally, you’d use the Sprinkles strawberry cupcake recipe too so you really get the strawberry flavor, or if you did do cookies, add some puree or a fruity extract (like lemon or orange) to the dough. But it sure does give a beautiful soft pink hue!

If you plan to decorate your cookies with piping, rather than just sprinkles, you’ll probably want to strain your strawberry puree & add enough cream to reach your desired piping consistency. Also, try to freeze your own fresh strawberries. Buying a whole bag of frozen strawberries at the store not only wastes money & strawberries if you’re not going to be using them; commenters had stated that the less-fresh strawberries made their frosting more gray than pink.

  • about 8 medium strawberries, frozen & thawed (I think they release more juice when they’re frozen… but I could be wrong.)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, firm & slightly cold
  • pinch salt
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. clear vanilla
  1. Puree your strawberries in a food processor. (I used a blender & ended up with some small chunks, rather than a completely smooth puree.)
  2. Cream butter & salt in stand mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy. Reduce speed & slowly add powdered sugar.
  3. Add vanilla & 3+ Tbsp. (to taste) puree; mix until just blended & even in color. Don’t overmix.

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