Monday, December 31, 2012

This Year's Most Popular

It's been such a fun year - sharing 103 recipes and at least that many songs!  I've loved writing and cooking and baking and playing music for you.  I appreciate your stopping by and sharing your time with me.  I REALLY appreciate it when you've shared my blog with others.  As a result, more and more readers have stopped by to take a look.  Thank you!

Did you know that tune 'n fork has a Pinterest page?  It's true!  You can sign up to follow by clicking here!  

I'm a lover of lists - "to do" lists, "done" lists, "recommended reading" lists, "top vacation spots" lists.  Today I'm sharing a list of the ten most popular posts this year - the ones that have drawn the most visitors. Maybe your favorite is among them!

I wish you all the best in this new year and look forward to bringing you more new recipes with fun musical accompaniment!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Warm & Creamy Crab Dip

One Day More by The Cast of Les Miserables written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil
I couldn't help but talk about this today.  My family and I went to see the new movie version of Les Miserables on Christmas night.  You must go!  You absolutely must go and see this!  A story of Jean Valjean, a french man who was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread so his sister's child would not die of starvation.  Bitter?  You bet he was!  But this story shows the struggles of mankind to maintain faith and hope in a world that is not always kind.  It's the end of another year and we are all reflecting and resolving - just like the characters in this song.  Some are resigned, some are resolute, all are reflective.  I love how the New Year celebration embraces both sides - the outgoing as well as the incoming.  You might be looking for something to add to your celebration party so, in the spirit of the Thenardier's - "here a little dip, there a little touch" - I have come up with a Warm & Creamy Crab Dip.  It doesn't take much time at all to prepare - so you'll have plenty of time to go see the show!

I am a HUGE Les Miserables fan - thanks to my Great Aunt Gwen.  She was coming out to visit us one summer about 20 years ago and heard that the stage production would be in town while she was there.  She asked if I had ever seen it.  I hadn't.  Had I read the book - she asked.  I hadn't.  tsk,tsk  She had been a school teacher before retiring.  An educated mind was important to her.  She said that she wanted very much for me to see it and would provide the ticket but hinted (strongly suggested) that I read the book before I see the musical.  

Luckily, I headed straight out and got a copy of the book.  I say luckily because it's a very long story - even the unabridged version.  Being a mother of five young children, it was going to take me awhile to get through it.  Or would it?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chocolate French Macarons with Peppermint Buttercream

I Celebrate the Day by Relient K
This is one of my favorite modern day Christmas songs.  I learned about Relient K through my youngest daughter.  I'm a fan.  And this song has caused me to do what no new Christmas song has done in a very, very long time ~ and that is to think about the birth of Jesus in a new way.  "The first time that you opened your eyes, did you realize that you would be my Savior?  And the first breath that left your lips, did you know that it would change this world forever?"  The potential of that wee babe born so humbly in Bethlehem.  What an awe-inspiring thought.  Potentials from "first times" - it'll give you lots to ponder if you let it.  Do we ever sit back and contemplate where our "first times" have taken us?  I do ~ often.

 My second year of culinary school found me in my baking rotation.  It was divided up in segments through which each team of two had to circulate and demonstrate skills in various areas - breads, pastries, cookies, etc.  One of the cookies in the cookie segment was the Parisian or French Macarons.  That is not a spelling error - it has only one "o."  It's basically a meringue cookie sandwich and the filling can be all sorts of delicious things like buttercream frostings or luxurious chocolate ganache.  They are such an eye appealing cookie - you can dress them up in so many ways.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Santa Baby by Everclear
Somehow I just don't believe Everclear when they sing this song!  I think that they've really been bad - very bad!  And I find myself smiling and secretly hoping that they have been bad!  What?!?!  I know, I know.  But, when they sing this song, they make me think of those bad boys in class in high school.  The ones that had the nerve to say the things that everyone else was thinking, even if it sent them to the principal's office.  Quietly I'd smile to myself and have a bit of a crush for a moment.  It's always said that girls like those bad boys.  There might be a little truth in that, I suppose.  Today I've been a little naughty myself.  Taking a perfectly good cookie and hiding secrets inside.  And once I started, I couldn't stop the naughty train until I smashed right into a full-blown sundae with peanut butter oozing down the sides!  I just know that when my husband reads this post and sees that sundae he's going to come into the kitchen and give me that look that says "Why is this on your blog but NOT IN MY BELLY!"

Dear Santa,
I hope you will forgive me for being a little naughty this week!  I should leave well enough alone, I know!  But these thoughts!!!  They just come into my head UNINVITED!!!  

You know those Soft Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies that you love so much?  Well, while thinking of another cookie I had last year that I loved so much, this idea just BURST into my head.  The idea that I could wrap the chocolate cookie dough around a peanut butter cup and bake it up!  I figured that it would come out with this incredible peanut buttery middle and that the chocolate coating would bake right into the cookie.  I was half right.  There was an incredible peanut buttery middle - but that chocolate coating acted more like a chocolate chip, leaving a chocolatey drip as you pulled apart the cookie!  So it was magnificently even BETTER than I had anticipated!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cream of Tomato Soup

The Little Drummer Boy by Harry Simeone Chorale
Tomato Soup is childhood.  And childhood at Christmas time meant standing around the turntable and playing my parents collection of Christmas albums.  This version of The Little Drummer Boy was one of my favorites.  I loved the men's voices acting as drums in the intro.  And, when the women's voices started the melody, it was so soft and haunting.  They were telling a story and it really caught my attention and made me picture the scene.  It made me ponder what I, as a child, could give if I had been called upon to pay my respects to the Holy Child.  Any song that can make a kid stop thinking about Santa for about 3 minutes and think about the deeper meaning of the holidays has got to be a stellar song.  And I believe this song fits "stellar" perfectly!

Tomato Soup takes me back to my K-12 school days and cafeteria lunches.  It was part of one of the perfect sacred combos served ~ Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  Cheese and tomatoes - a very happy pair indeed!  I loved to dip the corner of one of my Grilled Cheese halves - cut on the diagonal, of course - into the tomato soup.  I'd go home and rave about this to my mom who would always point out the obvious to me - "You know that tomato soup is made from tomatoes, don't you?!"  I did know this and I was just as perplexed as her!  It came into the same class as ketchup -  I liked ketchup just fine and it was made from tomatoes.  But neither the canned soup nor ketchup tasted the same as the yucky stewed tomatoes she tried to serve me or raw tomatoes which made me shudder from head to toe.  Tomatoes were a tricky lot.  You never knew where they were going to show up.  I was always on my guard.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Eggnog Buttercream

Sleigh Ride by Spice Girls
I acquired this song in my music library simply because it was on a CD of various artists.  I was in a Virgin Music Store back in the 90s while on vacation in Arizona.  It was holiday time and I was enjoying some music playing over the store's stereo system.  I tracked down the CD that they were playing and bought it without really looking to see who all was on there.  Once back out in the rental car, I loaded that CD, put the car in reverse, and was prepared to enjoy this new music.  The intro was one I hadn't heard in the store but it sounded pleasant enough.  And then they started singing!  What ?!  Who is this?  I grabbed the CD case and read "Spice Girls."  Oh, come on!  Seriously?  Well, I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want - and that's for no Spice Girls in my holidays!  Nonetheless - it stayed in the CD player.  And during that vacation - and when I got back home - I never once could bring myself to skip that track!  And you know why?  Because it grew on me!  And, before that holiday season was through, I was addicted to this song that clearly conveyed that these Spice Girls were thoroughly enjoying a sleigh ride.  And the real grabber was the laugh at the end and the British greeting of "Happy Christmas!"  Ring-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-dong-ding!  A guilty pleasure!  Like Eggnog Buttercream hitching a ride on top of Gingerbread Cupcakes!

It's gingerbread time again!  Cookies, cakes, puddings!  Bring it on!  

Ginger is a decadent spice.  It's loud in its volume and sultry in its allure.  Think Gilligan's Island - the "Ginger or MaryAnn" debate.  Most guys opt for Ginger because she's sexy.  I happen to think that ginger - the spice - has that same appeal.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Potato, Kale, and Bacon Pie

In the Bleak Midwinter by James Taylor
This is an old Christmas song.  Old as in 1800's old.  English poet, Christina Rosetti, wrote the lyrics in response to a call for Christmas poems by a magazine.  It has been adapted over the years and paired with various tunes, however, this James Taylor rendition uses the current most popular tune.  This song has really come to the forefront of my holiday listening so far this year.  I mean, I love his entire Christmas CD, but his velvet voice brings this song from yesteryear to current.  His phrasing and framing of the words makes you stop - listen - and feel.  My heart fills with the Christmas spirit and helps me focus on the reason for the season.  It's as heart-warming as today's recipe.

Last spring you might remember me telling you about a trip my husband and I took to Atlanta, Georgia.  We had some amazing food while there, prompting me to write about Banana Pecan Bread French Toast and Bacon Cheeseburger Hand Pies.  Well, the same wonderful pie shop that inspired those hand pies, also inspired today's pie - Potato, Kale, and Bacon Pie.  

You might imagine how I would have been in my glory finding a shop that was as wild about pies as I was!  Pies for entrees AND dessert!  Along with those cute little hand pies and our dessert pies, we chose this Potato Leek Gratin pie.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Designer Sugar Cookies

O Tannenbaum by Dave Brubeck
Jazz great, Dave Brubeck, passed away yesterday just one day shy of his 92nd birthday after giving us decades of soulful music.  I will admit that he did not appear in my iTunes library until about a year ago.  I wasn't familiar with the name.  "What?!" you say - and deservedly so.  But let me interject that, although I wasn't familiar with the name, as soon as I took a listen, I knew that his music had been part of the fabric in the background of my life.  Take Five is classic - a must own.  My son-in-law is the one who brought the Brubeck name to the forefront.  I don't know why I was surprised to learn that he liked to listen to Jazz but I was -  I think it involved a birthday or Christmas wish list.  Nevertheless, whenever I hear a name of an artist with which I'm not familiar, I go browsing.  And this Christmas album was one that ended up in my library.  The beginning of the song suggests that wandering you do while hunting down this year's perfect tree.  When the familiar melody begins it is, musically, that "moment" when you've found "the one."  You stand there envisioning it with the star on top and all your precious ornaments sparkling between its branches with lights twinkling all around.  The moment deserves a Dave Brubeck song.

My grandson called me yesterday while I was figuring out today's post - experimenting with different ideas.  He asked, "Grandma, what are you doing?"  Just then my oven timer went off and I asked if he could hear the beeping.  He said he could.  "Do you know what that means?"  Silence.  "It means that Grandma is baking cookies!"  (Oh, that he lived close enough to beg his mom to drive him right over for a taste!)

Then he asks me, "Grandma, do you have cookie cutters?  We do!"  And, with his 3 year old mind, in which all things are possible, he runs to the kitchen and "shows" me their cookie cutters - over the phone.  No - we were not on Face Time!  I listened to him as he rummaged through, showing me various ones.  I "wowed" and "oohed" like a good grandma.  Throughout the conversation he "showed" me how he brushes his hair and something else about playing ball.  It was a lovely afternoon chat that, for a moment, erased the 600 miles separating us.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Israeli Couscous Blend

Desert Rose by Sting (with Cheb Mami)
I've been trying to incorporate more elements of the Mediterranean cuisine into my diet lately and couscous of various forms is a regular feature, especially for lunch.  Thanks to Sting and his "Brand New Day" album, this song he sings with Cheb Mami of Algeria immediately pops into my head.  I'm suddenly filled with the vision of being a belly dancer and wearing tinkling scarves!  This song is such a wonderful blend of cultures.  I am a HUGE Sting fan.  My family might contest that that is an understatement of great proportion!  It was a surprise to myself, though, to find that this is the first Sting song I've used on this blog!  Welcome, Sting, to the tune 'n fork playlist!  And welcome, couscous, to my belly!

I know I've already shared with you my love of Costco.  It's such a fun place to explore and I try to give myself enough time to fully enjoy the hunt.  With this new Mediterranean cuisine focus that I've been trying lately, I was really happy to find this Couscous blend on one of my recent Costco Explorations.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Soft Molasses Cookies

Return to Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins
Today's recipe takes me back to my children's childhood - so I needed a song to reflect that time of our life.  This CD played on an endless loop in the house as well as on the road.  It made everyone happy - especially in the car.  Although it is a children's album, it appeals to all listener's.  For years it was my gift of choice for baby showers as I was eager for others to experience it's soulful and calming charm.  Call it the "Child Whisperer," if you will.  It was hard for me to settle on one particular song from the collection, but in the end I've decided to go with the title track - mostly, to be honest, because of the recorded child's giggle at the 2:18 mark.  Who can resist a giggling child?!  And that's Amy Grant making a contribution on one of the verses and harmony.  I'd say to just get the whole album, have a listen, and just try to be grumpy.  It's impossible!  All is well in the world at Pooh Corner!  And in my kitchen at the moment ~

My children used to get a kid's magazine in the mail.  It was filled with fun stories, quick crafts, and, often, a recipe.  For the most part, the recipes were elementary things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or chocolate milk.  But, now and then, they had something that caught my eye.

I'm not certain, but I think that this recipe came from that magazine.  You see, I copied it off, by hand - and then have recopied it several times, by hand, and, over the years, I just can't remember for sure how it landed in my recipe box.  Let's just say I'm glad it did!  And you will be, too!

The molasses cookies in my life, up to the point of finding this recipe, had been the hard kind - crispy - a bit harsh in flavor.  The molasses would bowl you right over with it's strappy flavor.  Nothing like a mouth full of sulphur, right?  But these cookies are soft!  And the molasses, while prevalent, is luxuriously alluring - almost like chocolate.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cranberry Orange Scones

Gotta Have You by The Weepies
So there I was, enjoying an episode of One Tree Hill, when a song starts playing and I am captivated!  Well, more like, OBSESSED!  Who IS this?!  I didn't rest until I tracked it down (thank you, internet!) and stepped into the world of The Weepies - a very happy day for me!  I discovered a treasure trove of songs that I knew I HAD to have in my life RIGHT NOW!  Since then, I've recognized their songs in the backgrounds of all sorts of other TV shows, movies, and commercials.  They are also often playing in the background of my daily life - like Gotta Have You.  Whenever I come across something that is highly desirable, this song starts playing.  When I pulled these scones from the oven, it was what was playing in my head - as I did a little happy dance, of course!

It was time for another flavor of scone.  I could feel it in my bones.  I'm a scone-loving fool anymore.  But when the texture and flavor are perfect, it's hard not to be!

A flavor profile that is plentiful right now is cranberries and orange.  They love each other's company and I enjoy hanging out with them when they are together!  Most people have cranberries hanging around the house in some shape or form after Thanksgiving.  I'd be willing to bet, though, that the most popular form is the dried cranberry popularly known as a Craisin.  These little snacks have catapulted cranberries from the "No, thank you, Grandma" category into the "Yes, please!  And what else can I throw these into" category.  They are yummy as is or do wonders as an add-in for salads, side dishes, and desserts.  No pantry should be without them!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving ~ from my fork to yours!  Wishing you a blessed holiday!  See you next Monday with more music and recipes!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Apple Walnut Salad

So what IS a natural woman anyway?  Does it involve a way of life?  Does it embody a point of view? Are we embracing a particular stage of life here or are all stages eligible?  Are natural women sans silicone or artificial joints or must they be as they were on the day they were born?  I was on my way to making this favorite holiday salad and I ran into a women's issue.  Read on ~

So, last post I was raving about my Dad's stuffing and how he was Commander-In-Chief in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.  Today I'd like to give my mother her fair share of kudos for creating some of those wonderful dishes that graced our feasting table as well.  

I can't remember a single Thanksgiving growing up that didn't have a Waldorf Salad on the table.  I remember my approach to eating the salad - I would eat each ingredient one at a time.  For instance, I'd pick out all the apple pieces and eat them and then I'd move on to the celery, then the raisins, and then, if I was feeling like it, I'd eat the walnuts.  And those are pretty much the ingredients that make up the salad.  It's mixed with a mayonnaise-based dressing and you have a tasty dish with tarts, sweets, and texture.  Every bite is satisfaction!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Roasted Chestnut and Apple Stuffing

Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days) by The Judds
I probably spend more time reminiscing at Thanksgiving time than any other time of the year - Christmas included.  It is crammed full of memories of my father.  The images of him in his apron at the stove - bustling around the kitchen, always quick with a corny joke, teasing my mom.  I loved being in the kitchen with him.  Oh dear - the tears are flowing already.  It's gonna be one of those posts today.  This song by The Judds has always pulled at my heartstrings as well.  It's purpose is one of reflection - and hopefully, by reflecting, we can glean some insight as to how to bring those very good parts of the not-so-long-ago back to the present.  I can do it by closing my eyes - or making the stuffing on Thanksgiving Day!

My father was not one of those guys who expected dinner on the table when he got home from work - although it usually was.  He would frequently get home, take off his suit coat, roll up his sleeves, grab an apron, and help finish up what needed finishing.  I thought all dads did this.

Although he did help a great deal with meals, still, I considered the kitchen my mother's domain.  Except on Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 12, 2012


Dancin' In the Moonlight by King Harvest
Today's recipe is from a classic that is almost always enjoyed in the moonlight in the outdoors.  I will admit that, at times, it is the sole impetus to pack the car and endure days of no showers, grit in my food, and bug bites.  It is the one thing, without fail, that kids will double and triple check that parents or leaders have the ingredients for on the supply list before heading out to the great outdoors.  In short, no camping trip will commence without graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows!  This take on that classic is meant for the indoors - and it is indulgent enough to be classified as slightly sinful - maybe even sexy.  You will dance!  Indoors or out!  I love the frolicking image this song has always brought to my mind.  What else would they be dancing about if not s'mores?!

This past summer, to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a drive down through Washington, Oregon, and California and then back up the Pacific Coast Highway.  Prior to leaving, my oldest daughter had told me that I absolutely MUST stop in Sonoma, California.  She had recently been there while visiting with her in-laws and thought it was a place that I would regret not having on my list of stops.  She knows me rather well so I definitely created a path for it!

This trip was about no agendas.  Most of our road trips had been with children - and we all know that their needs alone determine the path and speed of a journey!  We had some key points we wanted to catch but, for the most part, it was about taking it easy - stopping where we wanted to and when we wanted.  We were interested in seeing what was beyond the interstates.  For this reason, I charted a route into the Napa valley via some back routes.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Baked Apples

Home by Philip Phillips
It's been a rough road, this presidential campaign trail.  Whether your candidate won or lost, we're all feeling a little rough around the edges.  I'm not about to suggest that anything we eat is going to fix the troubles we're facing as a nation, but it might put us in the right mood.  A peaceful mood.  A reflective mood.  We need something deeply American.  How about a baked apple, that's also partly pie?  I promise this is a decision you'll be able to make with utmost confidence - the outcome a certainty.  It'll feel like you've come home.

Today's post is brought to you by my siblings!  Yep!  It's a family affair!  Let me fill you in.

A month or so ago, my oldest brother, Ed, asked me if I could come up with a recipe for a baked apple like one he had recently seen.  He described it to me and, I, like him, was just drooling!  It sounded heavenly!  But could I come up with something that would equal the "dream" version?  I started thinking about the descriptors - mystery creamy filling, caramel drizzle . . .  Hmmm.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lemon and Toasted Coconut Biscotti

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright by Peter, Paul and Mary
Some things just don't get any clearer, no matter how long you think on them.  So, as Bob Dylan tells us, don't give it any more thought - it'll be alright.  Bob's words are brought to you today via a folk-singing trio that got a great deal of play in my house as a kid - Peter, Paul and Mary.  They were a part of the 1960s conscience-raising scene and are most famous for their recordings of "Blowin' In the Wind" and "Puff the Magic Dragon."  Their music is calming to me - so when they tell me Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - I believe them!  What kinds of things have given me hours of puzzlement?  Well - plenty, actually.  For one, my Mom's ban on dunking food when we were kids.  I don't get it.  Never have.  Never will.  But, it's alright.

I'm a natural-born dunker.  As a kid, EVERYTHING tasted better after a good dunking.  Alas, my mother forbade it.  Was it because she found it to be a messy endeavor?  Perhaps.  Did she find it uncouth and rude?  Possibly.  

Here's the thing - no matter the avenue taken - eating is going to be a messy business with kids.  The food is going to be everywhere.  As a mother of five, I know this.  No matter what I tried, mealtime required some cleanup.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Baked Ziti

Lean On Me by Bill Withers
Whenever I make Baked Ziti I think of my dear friend, Connie.  And when I think of Connie my heart never fails to fill with love and the deepest kind of gratitude.  She was THAT friend.  The friend on whom you could always rely - who was never too busy.  And she was put into my life at exactly the right time!  And, although we lived by each other only five years (1986-1991), we have remained just as close of friends.  We don't talk every day - not even every month - but I know she is always there for me - and I for her.  That's the hallmark of a very good friendship.  Oh - and that they share really yummy recipes with you!  

The last five years of my husband's education found us moving to upstate New York.  We lived in a little town outside of Syracuse called Baldwinsville.  At about the same time, Connie and her family moved into the area.  We met at church and the friendship was immediate.  

I could not have survived those years were it not for Connie.  My husband's work kept him away for days on end, never knowing when he would be home again.  With three little ones - and eventually five little ones - she became my life raft!  Even if it was just being someone I could call and chat with each day - that tether to the outside world!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Simple Marinara

Lazy Mary by Lou Monte
I have this Italian music CD that I like to listen to when I'm making my marinara.  In truth, I like to listen to it alot more often than when I make marinara!  When people have popped in while I'm on one of my random Italian music days I always get a curious look - a look that says something like, "You seriously listen to this stuff on purpose?"  And the answer would be, "Yes, I do!"  I discovered my affinity for the genre after I purchased a CD for a spaghetti feed that the youth group at our church were  having.  It was going to be the background music.  I wanted to sample it before we used it for the dinner just to make sure that it evoked the mood we were looking for.  It passed!  I liked it's "mood" so well it has become a regular mood enhancer for myself!  Lazy Mary is just a plain, fun, and happy song!  And making marinara is a happy occasion!

I always envisioned this long and drawn out process when it came to making my own marinara.  Did I really want to stand by the stove, stirring, all day?  I tell you that I did not.

Then I watched Giada make some marinara on her Everyday Italian show on the Food Network and it didn't seem as labor intensive as I thought it would be.  As a matter of fact it looked pretty easy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ghostly Cupcakes

Spooky by Classics IV
These funky little ghosts will certainly want to groove around the top of their cupcake pedestals to this great song by the Classics IV.  I know that I certainly have a hard time resisting it's beat!  The intro has one of those instantly recognizable hooks and gets you grooving from the get-go!  Another great recording of this song is by the Atlanta Rhythm Section - which just happens to be made up of former members of the Classics IV!  If you're not familiar with this song, you should change that right now!  

There have been some spooky things going on in my neighborhood lately.  Like this gnarly pumpkin that grew THROUGH a neighbor's chain link fence!
I watched all summer, fascinated, as their vines grew up and over the fence and the pumpkins hung down.  They grew to full size - yet never snapped their hold on the vine with their weight!  And then the vines disappeared - and this one was left with it's place securely fastened!  Wild!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Poblano Pepper Spread

Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis
This song just gets me excited!  You can't help but catch his energy and want to do something - ANYTHING - you just want to move!  And today's recipe is one that has me wanting to eat it on something - ANYTHING - I just have to eat it!  The possibilities are for you to explore!  Of course, it's kind of fun when you get to play with fire a bit.  Nothing scary, mind you - or illegal.  Just good home cookin'!

My daughter and her family were home for a visit recently and, while fixing dinner one night, I realized that I needed some sort of spread to go on the pretzel rolls we had purchased at Costco.  I puzzled about it while prepping the rest of dinner and got to thinking about what I had available.  I remembered some poblano peppers we had picked up at the Farmers Market earlier that day.  I was thinking that I might want to try my hand at making chile rellenos but I wondered if I could use them for a spread instead.

The mind-path that took me to the ending result went fairly quickly - kind of like this:  Pretzels and chile peppers? ~ Oh yeah, some of the kids at culinary school made jalapeño-filled pretzels and they were delicious! ~ So the poblanos would work as well! ~ I could roast them on the stovetop ~ That would be quick ~ And I have a half a brick of cream cheese and a tub of mascarpone cheese as well. ~ The rolls are kind of bulky. ~  But if I slice them into discs and toasted them they would be great as "chips." ~ Could it be that simple?  ~ I really think that'll work!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Homemade Grape Juice

Simple Gifts by Yo-Yo Ma & Alison Krauss
Once in awhile I'm able to find a song that so closely resembles my "feelings" about a recipe, it's almost as if the melody is part of the ingredients or, rather, in the air of the aromatic swirls the recipe creates. This is true of today's song.  The simple presentation of this version of the song is heart achingly stirring - like my childhood memories of making juice with my family.  And the clarity of Alison Krauss' voice mirrors the beautiful pristine nature of this juice.  A recipe so simple but with such exquisite flavor and clarity!  A recipe that has been in my life as long as I've been alive - and one which I've been happy to be a part of making since I was old enough to stand to a sink or tub and pull grapes from their stem.  A recipe I'm so happy to share with you today - my simple gift to you.

 When people think of grapes they automatically think of California.  But few people know that the region around Lake Erie is also a big grape-growing region - namely Concord grapes.  I grew up near this region and remember well the heady scent of ripe grapes as it saturated the air in late summer and early fall.  Intoxicating! 

My parents used to get bushels of those Concord grapes and bring them home for us to make juice.  We'd pile batches into the sink or in large tubs and fill with water to rinse them.  We'd then set to the task of pulling the grapes from the stems.  Now, some might think this a tedious chore.  But I argue that it is not.  I guess it could be boring - but we sang songs or listened to music as we performed the task.  Sometimes someone would read out loud from a book while we plucked away.  Of course, if left unattended, children can find other ways of keeping themselves entertained whilst pulling grapes off of the stems.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spiced Sugar Cookies with Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting

A Change Would Do You Good by Sheryl Crow
Today we're making little changes.  Little changes that bring about a big impact.  How does the adage go - "A change is as good as a rest."  It's as true with food as it is in life.  Sheryl's kicky tune has you contemplating where you can maybe make some changes.  It's the end of summer.  Sigh! There are all sorts of changes going on around us, of which we have no control.  We might as well harness the spirit of the seasons and celebrate changes in a happy way - like with these spiced up Sugar Cookies!

Although I'm sad to see summer end, I reluctantly have to admit how much I adore the autumn time.  The colors of the leaves are warming and the smells of the fallen leaves mingled with the scent of fireplaces being fired up produce all sorts of inside hugs.  If only it didn't have to herald the upcoming cold and dreary months of winter!  

I've really been wanting to make some pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies.  But I didn't want them to be the usual.  I was hankering for a change.  How could I get the ingredients to reflect the season?  I figured I could add spices to the dough, but I also knew that that would tinge the color of the dough.  I had to come to terms with the idea of a "not-so-bright" looking dough.  I get hung up on stuff like this sometimes.  It annoys me to no end.  I finally decided I was OK with the flecked and beige-ish cookie since the frosting would be the focal point anyway.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Foil Dinners

I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)  by Louis Prima & Phil Harris
Girlfriends.  Gal Pals.  Outside of my wonderful family, they are my richest blessings.  I have been a lucky woman indeed!  No matter where we've lived, I've been able to find friends who serve as good examples in all things - thriftiness, home enrichment, creativity, personal growth, charity, community involvement - they "show" me the way I should - and want - to be.  Our time in Washington is no exception.  I am fortunate to call some amazing women "friend."  And today's post is about them.  While sitting around the fire on the beach, I asked which song about friends and friendship I should use for the post.  They suggested James Taylor's "You've Got A Friend" - which, I agree, would be a good one.  But, as I've thought about it since, I've realized that maybe they don't realize just how much I idolize each of them - and how I want to be just like them.

Recently, my friend, Lara, took our little group of friends to her beach house on the Oregon coast.   We've gone to the coast with her before.  We plan crafts, trips to nearby Cannon Beach to visit the cute boutique shops, and we enjoy wonderful food!  But this time I asked if they wouldn't mind helping me with a post for this blog while on our little getaway.  They're all good sports and said "Yes!"  Lara, the queen of great ideas, is the one that came up with the wonderful idea of having a meal on the beach!  

We were all excited about the idea of foil dinners.  We could assemble them at the house and tote them down to the beach along with the fixings for the fire.  Each person talked about what they'd like to include and we had a pretty good idea where we were heading.  On the way to the beach is a Trader Joe's where we stopped and each grabbed a basket and went a little crazy!  Not just for food for the foil dinners, but, you see - these ladies are ladies of extraordinary taste in snacks.  I never eat as well as when I'm in their company!

Monday, October 8, 2012

German's Chocolate Cake

Lovesong by The Cure
I always associate this song with my son-in-law.  I usually associate any song of the 80s British Punk era with him, but this song, in particular, because it was one of the songs he chose for the wedding CD when he married my oldest daughter.  I was not familiar with the song until then and, as I was compiling the CD for them, I had a listen.  Tears came to my eyes as I listened to the sweetness of the lyrics.  Every mother prays for their daughter to find a guy who feels this way about her.  If you aren't familiar with the song or the lyrics, you should be!  And you can read the lyrics here.  It's my son-in-law's birthday today and he and my daughter and their children are coming for a visit.  When I asked what kind of cake (or pie) he'd like to have to celebrate his day, he requested a German Chocolate Cake.  It's my first time making it from scratch.  Read on!

Do you ever look back in your life and try to place where you were when things were happening in other people's lives?  I do.

In 1976, when I was 16, my father took the family on a big trip to see the celebrations of the nation's 200th birthday.  In Washington, D.C., I remember standing on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial one evening.  The Potomac was high that year and I marveled at the power of that river as it rushed by me, only a few feet away.  Dad liked to meander, taking the back roads often.  We saw many of the beauties of the nation on that trip and the symbols of our freedom as well.  It was a very good summer.

Little did I know, or even think to comprehend, that clear on the other side of the country, in Rio Vista, California, a lovely woman and her kind and gentle husband were expecting a son.  A boy whom they would raise to be an amazing young man - who would some day marry the beautiful daughter that I would be giving birth to in six short years.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Applesauce Cookies with Walnut Streusel

Apple of My Eye by Dolores O'Riordan
This recipe today is purely for my husband.  He loves Applesauce Cookies.  And I rarely make them.  And I wanted to see if I could come up with a recipe that would change that.  And I did!  He is the apple of MY eye, although, after 34 years of marriage, he still thinks I'm "just saying that."  He believes that if Sting were to come to our front door and ask me to run away with him, I would without even looking back!  That's simply not true!  Now, David Gilmour . . .  maybe!  Just kidding!  Just kidding!  I adore my husband!  And Dolores O"Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries, obviously feels the same way about someone.  Her ethereal voice holds me captive, intrigued to see what nuance she will use to deliver the next line.  If you haven't sampled any of her solo work, do so now - as you sample these cookies, of course!

So why don't I make Applesauce Cookies for my man more often?  Ummm - maybe because there's not a shred of chocolate anywhere near them?  That would be a good start.  Also, the ones I've had are just sort of, indistinctive.  They sit there just a mound of pale nothingness.  They are soft - all soft - and I would like even a tiny bit of texture - a slight bit of crunch - in my cookies.  They aren't showy at all, but neither are shortbread cookies, and I love them!  Yep - I think it's a textural thing.  Gotta have just a little texture.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fry Sauce

Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning) by Vertical Horizon
A song about leaving someone you love - or them leaving you.  Or leaving some"thing" you love - which is the case today.  When we moved from Utah 10 years ago I was sad to leave my favorite purveyor of Fry Sauce.  Not that there isn't Fry Sauce here in Washington - just not THAT Fry Sauce - the best Fry Sauce I'd ever had - at Best Burger on Riverdale Road in Ogden.  Sigh!  Don't mock me for going all sentimental until you've tried it!  And I'm going to help you out but save you the cost of the trip to Ogden.  I think I've come up with a very close, if not perfect, rendition of my own.

I remember the first Fry Sauce I ever had.  I had flown to Utah to share Christmas with my boyfriend (who would become my fiancé before I returned home.)  He took me to a fast food place called Arctic Circle and asked if I wanted some Fry Sauce.  I was from Heinz territory, mind you, and the thought of putting anything other than ketchup on my fries was baffling to me.  Yet I dipped . . . . and dipped . . . . and dipped!  And the dipping in Fry Sauce has continued ever since!  

Not all Fry Sauces are created equal, I learned.  Some are watery and weak attempts.  

Then one day, while living in Ogden, Utah, I heard about Best Burger.  People raved about the burgers.  "You gotta try the burgers at Best Burger!!!," they'd command.  So I obeyed.  They were moan-inducing, drip-down-your-hands juicy burgers that rocked my world.  But wait!  Their fries were equally amazing!  I asked myself, "Could this be the Eden of Burgerdom???"

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tomato and Bell Pepper Salad

Moon River by Andy Williams
Today's recipe comes from a comment left by my Aunt Linda a few weeks ago.  When I was a little kid we often had family gatherings and they are some of my most cherished childhood memories.  These memories come with a soundtrack in my mind, no surprise!  I actually have a playlist in my iTunes library titled "Marvelous Matriarch Mentors" which contains 27 songs that remind me of my aunts and grandmothers.  It's heavy on the Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones, Elvis, and, my personal favorite, Bobby Vinton, but any song of the 60s would fit.  I actually had another song ready to go for this post but then last night I read about the passing of Andy Williams.  Andy Williams and his music and TV shows are as much a part of the fabric of that era as any other song.  To pay tribute to him, I'm going to go with Moon River today, that beautiful and haunting tune written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini - and crooned to perfection by Williams.  Doubters, and fans, can watch him sing this song on this YouTube video.  Grab some of those tomatoes out of your garden and take a trip back to my childhood in the 60s.

Family gatherings in my childhood were usually potluck affairs.  All the women were wonderful cooks and the serving table held all sorts of flavorful salads and side dishes.  Grandpa would have his chickens on the rotisserie and everyone would be driven wild with the smell of it all.  We ate well at those gatherings - very well!

I remember my favorite place was hanging near where the women were visiting.  They'd laugh and cackle, each one of them a natural storyteller, making something as routine as going to the store sound like an event.  I can scarcely think of a childhood memory without them in it somewhere.  I was a very lucky little girl!

Last month my Aunt Linda left a comment on my post about the Fresh Tomato Bruschetta.  That dish had reminded her of a salad my grandmother used to make which was very similar.  She asked if I remembered it.  After she refreshed my memory I do remember seeing it but am sure I skipped right on by as those were my "no-way-no-how" years with tomatoes and that bowl was filled with pretty much just tomatoes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Peach Crisp

The Joker by The Steve Miller Band
Holla!  There's a man in the house today!  Well, technically, there's always a man in the house, but specifically, today he's in the kitchen!  And he's my man.  And he's helping me bake!  So I thought I'd throw a tune in that I know he really likes.  It's kind of a sexy sounding song and, ladies, correct me if I'm wrong, but there's just something a little sexy about a guy cutting up fruit or stirring the pot.  Today's dessert is one my guy makes now and then and I always appreciate the break.  We're working together to bring this recipe to you today.  Better gather up your peaches because this dessert will shake your tree!  Ha!

To say that my husband likes dessert would be the understatement of the century!  He IS the cookie monster!  Although cookies are his favorite, he loves it all!  When we dine out, he always leaves room for dessert and will often request the dessert menu first to reserve his piece of pie or brownie sundae.  He is NOT a happy camper if he hears the words, "I'm sorry but we're out of the (whatever it was he had his eye on)."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I didn't spend much time in the back bedrooms at my grandma's house but I doubt she had a feather bed like the one in this song.  But the song mostly evokes the memories we have of growing up with our extended families.  I mostly remember my grandma's kitchen and my children frequently hear me  comment about how something will remind me of how her kitchen smelled.  There was sage and celery and oregano, some lingering Old Bay seasoning aromas, and the smell of onions and green peppers cooking.  To me, those smells mean peace and comfort - "old timey" scents of love.
During the last quarter of culinary school my classmates and I were put in charge of coming up with the daily specials in the cafe on campus.  It was a great experience in learning how to be creative in using the resources on hand.  We were also required to take into consideration how each dish could be executed along with the regular menu items, being sure to not place too much work on any one station.  I learned a great deal!  I enjoyed tossing ideas around with my classmate, Brian, as well as with our chef instructor, Jay, who supervised us and helped us detect potential problem areas.  Sometimes our choices for the day turned into friendly competitions to see whose sold better.

I remember one day I came up with the idea for a favorite comfort food of mine - stuffed bell peppers.  I knew that it would be a fairly easy entree to execute and I was confident in my ability to produce a very tasty dish.  I was surprised, however, when my choice was questioned.  It seemed to be the opinion of some that nobody would buy them - that they were too "old-timey."  Oh dear.  I questioned myself for about a half a second and then stood my ground.  I declared that stuffed bell peppers would sell because it had been dreary outside and people would want to eat them because it would remind them of going to grandma's house!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Elderberry Syrup

After reading the long list of healing powers and preventative properties of elderberries, I've come to the conclusion that James Brown could very well have just had himself a dose of this natural cure-all before he broke out into this song!  My goodness!  Is there anything this berry can't do?  (Well, it wasn't much help cleaning up the kitchen after the making of this syrup, that's for sure!)  The antioxidants in elderberries are used to lower cholesterol, make healthy hearts, fight colds and flu, improve your vision, as well as boost your immune system.  There are claims that it even fights viruses!  Supposedly it puts up a sort of force field around your cells to keep viruses from infecting them.  And the use of elderberries isn't a new age practice.  It's been in the remedy loop for centuries on almost every continent.  Yep - I'm feelin' pretty good myself about now!

When I was 10 years old my family moved into a home situated right on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest.  Our street came off of Route 6 at about a 45 degree angle, forming a "point" of land.  Our house was right next to this undeveloped "point."  The "point" wasn't very large at all and at any spot from within it you could still easily see our house, but to us little kids, it still seemed rather adventurous when we'd go exploring through the trees and thick growth of vegetation.

On this "point" were wild elderberry bushes.  When they were ripe my mother would corral us kids and send us out to the "point" to pick the elderberries.  We'd each find an empty pail and set out to conquer the wilds and find the elderberries so my mom could make pies, syrup, juice - it didn't matter.  I just remember that I really liked them.  We'd end up eating a good amount as we picked and, elderberries being rather pigmented, it was usually obvious from the stains on our faces and clothes that we'd enjoyed ourselves quite nicely in the harvesting!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nut & Berry Wheat Bread

Great High Mountain by Jack White
I was very, very recently introduced to this song.  I mean, I'd obviously heard it years ago as I did go to see the movie "Cold Mountain"- this song is from the soundtrack.  It flew past my radar, though, I'm sorry to say.  Very sorry, in fact.  Jack White has been the subject of a couple of discussions I've had in the past week - first with some friends of ours and then, again, a few days later, with my oldest daughter, Becca.  She was the one who pointed out the connection with the movie and suggested I have a listen.  And listen I did!  I fell in deep love immediately.  I have yet to pinpoint a standout favorite - I love them all.  But Great High Mountain is currently hedging out in front by a hair.  Please - do yourself a favor and check it out.

Today's post could be called "The Tale of Two Breads." 
or, more correct would be "The Snack That Couldn't."  

It all started with a trail mix type of snack I picked up from Costco a ways back.  
Trail mix always makes me think of hiking - I mean, isn't that what it was made for?  Hence the name, TRAIL mix?  And hiking makes me think of EXHAUSTION and BUGS and PAIN - all of which have effects that stay with you for days after.  No, I'm not really joking.  The last hill hike my daughter drug me up I listened to my much-loved Nirvana's Nevermind.  I figured the driving beats would push me up the ascent.  They did, but angrily as Kurt Cobain screamed in my ear the much-too-late advice of "gotta find a way, a better way" and then bragging that he was "On a Plain" while I was still very much in the climb.  I should have been listening to Jack White.  Great High Mountain is beautiful and inspiring -  motivating, even.  He talks of a beautiful fountain of life at the top of a mountain.  He talks about taking it step by step - making a parallel between the mountain and life.  Beautiful.  I'm thinking of seeing if we could add this to our song repertoire at church.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vanilla Bean Peach Pie

 Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie by Jay and the Techniques
It's the season to be making all of these pies that Jay and the Techniques are singing about and that's about the best season there is!  I'm all for baking things up in a pie crust - especially the sweet kind!  Even if we just make them the "ordinary" way, it's always a good idea.  But since I've had vanilla beans on my mind, I decided to use one in my peach pie.  The result - something to sing about!  "Ready or not, here I come!"  Take it away, guys!

"Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie - soon your love is gonna be all mine!"
Yep - that pretty much sums it up!

It's birthday time at tune 'n fork.  We turned 1 year old on the 8th!
A year ago I finally put all the months of hand-wringing and doubts behind me and published my very first post - my beloved Groovy Granola - which is still in my top 5 posts of all time!

I appreciate every visitor that has stopped by to see what I've had to share and say.  At the time of this post I've had 10,374 page views.  I'm really, really happy about that!  And I owe it all to you who spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!  tune 'n fork has accounts on all of those social media - did you know that?  It's true!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vanilla Extract

I'd Wait A Million Years by The Grass Roots
Some things are just worth waiting for.  And some things are worth the splurge.  And some things are best made at home.  I'm thinking today's recipe belongs in all those categories.  Now, I'm not sure I'd truly wait a MILLION years for vanilla extract, but the sentiment is the same.  Thank you, Grass Roots, for singing about those "worth-waiting-for" things!

I hate to point this out but the holiday season is fast approaching!  Did making the type smaller make it easier to hear and cause less stress?  I hope so!  It's time to be thinking about what you're going to be baking/giving and maybe even begin stocking up on some of those ingredients.

Last year I made vanilla extract to give as Christmas gifts for some of my close friends who are foodies, like me, and appreciate the finer ingredients.  It's a great gift idea!  They seemed to really appreciate it!  So, this year, whether you want to give it as a gift or just have some for your own use, it's time to get it "brewing."    It needs to sit for at least 6 weeks.

I became aware that not all vanilla extracts are the same at about nine years of age.  A family trip to Arizona brought about an opportunity for my parents to take a short excursion to a Mexican border town.  They brought back all sorts of souvenirs - sombreros, sandals, jewelry, etc. - but the most lasting and memorable, for me, was the vanilla extract!  My mom urged us all to come take a sniff.  OOOHHH MY!  What a heavenly scent!  It was explained to me that the vanilla I was used to, while still smelling nice, was artificial.  This was the real stuff.  My mom made that bottle last for a long time!  Everything she baked with it smelled and tasted wonderful!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Brownie Truffles

I know, I know.  The Stylistics were the original artists who released the song in 1974.  But, you see, I have this thing for Simply Red.  Can't explain it. Not gonna make excuses either.  The nod goes to Mick Hucknall's vocals today.  When he sings I kinda feel like a truffle - and that's all I'm gonna say about that!  Get those brownie scraps from out of the freezer and play this song.  They'll be room temp in no time!

Remember these brownie scraps from the Ramped Up Brownie Mix?
I had strongly urged you to save the scraps after cutting fun shapes from the cooked brownies.  I hope you did just that because today we're going to use those scraps!