Wednesday, September 28, 2011


The weather is turning brisk and if you're like me, you have a renewed excitement for being in the kitchen with your favorite Fall recipes. Are you ready for some fun ways to sass up your kitchen experience?

I'm straying from the usual recipe format this week to bring you five easy, useful, and creative tips to help add some sassiness to everyday cooking and entertaining. These are my kitchen go-to's that I'd somehow forgotten were pretty neat until recently when a friend said, "Hey, that's cool! You should totally put that on the blog!"

Enjoy the premiere of *Girl From Scratch- Sassy Tips and Tricks, and have lots of fun taking your kitchen skills from drab to fab.

1) Use lemon to add punch to a pot of chicken soup.
Add the zest and juice of an entire lemon to your next pot of chicken soup. This adds a layer of bright flavor and a dose of Vitamin C (which is great for a cold!). 

2) Add a teaspoon of cinnamon to your coffee grounds. 
What a great way to add a little luxury to your morning with cinnamon-scented coffee. I used to do this with guests only, but now I pamper myself daily with this easy trick.
3) Easy Pizza Pizzaz. Need an easy no-fuss appetizer? Take advantage of your local pizzeria and order a couple of thin-crust cheese pizzas. Add pizzaz by:
Prepping some simple toppings
Arranging them on a platter before pizza arrives.
When pizza arrives remove it from box and place on a baking stone, rustic cutting board or some other serving plate.
Add toppings before guests arrive or let them do it as a fun activity. (Pictured here: peach and prosciutto pizza)
Sun-dried tomato, shaved parmesan and basil.

4) Repurpose and rethink what you have. No need to go out and buy a special dish, platter, or container. Brainstorm ways to use what you already own in a new way.
Brownie Sundae dessert shooters in a shot glass.
A vintage cigarette holder now used to hold straws.
Goblets and glassware to hold nuts, seeds or candy.
Stack plates and bowls on top of each other to make a tiered server.
Organize cook-books or magazines in a wine case or milk-crate. (We found this is the garbage!)

5) Spice cabinet potpourri. Looking for an all-natural and inexpensive way to fragrance your home? Look no further than your spice rack. Whether you're skeeved out by synthetic air-fresheners or you've run out of your favorite Yankee candle, try this simple trick to fragrance your home.
Add cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, etc to a small sauce-pan. Fill with 2 inches of water and let simmer. For less mess take a cheese cloth, wrap all the spices in that and submerge it in water. Your home will smell amazing! If heaven has a smell (which I'm sure it does- this is what it smells like!).
Nail Color: Essie- Pretty Edgy 
That's all for now and there's plenty more where these came from.  I hope you enjoyed my sassy tips. Let me know if you try any of them and how they work out. What are your go-to tips that you want to share?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mission Possible

Impossible Pie (pumpkin or sweet potato)
It's no secret that I love using Bisquick in the kitchen. From sweet treats to savory meals, what can't you do with this versatile product? I leapt with joy when Bisquick Heart Smart came out, providing a healthier option with lower fat and cholesterol. Several months ago I came across the "Impossible Pie" recipe series, which range from entrees to desserts. These recipes use Bisquick (or any baking mix) along with eggs to create a light, fluffy texture in between a quiche and a bread casserole. You then add ingredients of your choice to make it your own. I made a savory "Impossible Pie" recipe with salmon, asparagus and swiss here.

Today's recipe can go a lot of ways. You can make it with pumpkin or sweet potato puree and can adjust the sugar levels to make it a slightly-sweet side dish or a full-blown dessert. I was disappointed when my grocery didn't have any canned pumpkin yet, but in the end was really pleased with the results of the canned sweet potatoes.  A dollop of Chantilly cream or Cool Whip finishes this perfect Fall dish!

Impossible Sweet Potato Pie
Cast of Characters: Bisquick, eggs, butter, evaporated milk, canned pumpkin/sweet potato, sugar, vanilla, spices.
Combine all dry ingredients. The recipe calls for cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, but you can just add Pumpkin Pie Spice to make it easy.

Combine and stir all wet ingredients.
Blend wet and dry ingredients together. (Here I am using my trusty Magic Bullet Blender-LOVE this kitchen appliance!!!)
Pour into buttered pie dish. Bake for 45 minutes; more time if you want it dry and less time if you'd like it custard-y. IMPORTANT: Let this pie cool in the fridge before you eat, it really needs to set.
Actual Recipes: Impossible Pumpkin Pie II and Impossible Sweet Potato Pie

I feel like I've uncovered an endless treasure trove of recipes that I can't wait to try with the "Impossible Pie" recipes (especially coconut cream!). I've heard that you can make baking mix from scratch, but have never actually taken the time to do it. Do any of you have experience making a homemade baking mix verses Bisquick?
What do you all think of Bisquick ? Is it a boxed, artificial product that you tend to avoid, or a handy tool that you turn to for easy meals?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Love and Spice

Spicy Peanut Sauce with Chicken Skewers
This post is brief because I am frantically getting ready to hop on a plane for a friends wedding. It's my first time going to Oklahoma (I really hope the winds are whippin' down down the plain!) and I couldn't be happier for this lovely couple. Congratulations to Matt and Kala on this new life adventure!

Today's recipe is similar to the one we make at the wine bar where I work. I don't know the exact recipe or measurements, but I have seen it being made and just eyeballed it to taste when I made it at home. The spicy chili paste is an awesome ingredient that I've never worked with before. It joins forces with the sweet peanut butter, salty soy and tangy ketchup to make one delicious sauce. Don't be intimidated by an ingredient that you've never used before! Red pepper chili paste is available in all major grocery stores in the ketchup aisle. Check out this amazing versatile product! 

Spicy Peanut Sauce with Chicken Skewers is great to have as an appetizer, or if you're like me you serve it to your husband for dinner and say something like,  "Vegetables are overrated...Bon appetit!"

I hope you enjoy!
Spicy Peanut Sauce with Chicken Skewers
Cast of Characters: Chicken breast, wooden skewers, onion, red pepper chili paste, soy sauce, peanut butter, coconut milk, ketchup, scallion for garnish.
Sweat onions in a little bit of oil, then add generous amount of peanut butter.
Add half a can of coconut milk.
Stir in coconut milk. Then add a squeeze of ketchup, soy sauce and chili paste. Stir.
Stir until smooth.
Cut chicken into strips and put on wooden skewers. Salt and pepper.
Pan fry or grill.
Nail Color: Essie- Hot Coco
Nothing like a little sweet and spicy appetizer as I whisk off to witness young love. Wishing all the best to my perfectly paired friends, Matt and Kala! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

Warm and Cheesy White Bean Pesto Dip
Have you ever had one of those weeks that is loaded with tasks, to-dos and tedious work? Bills to pay, appointments to make, mouths to feed, money to make, calories to count...whew I'm tired just thinking about it all.

The worst thing of all about those kind of weeks is that I feel pretty run-down by the end of it. It's counter-intuitive really; you're running errands, going to work and crossing stuff off the perpetual to-do list, but at what cost?

I recently had an "Aha!" moment when I smugly looked at my to-do list one night thinking I had done a great job. I realized that the 3 things that didn't get done were: 1) work out 2) personal devotion/quiet time 3) cook dinner. The three things on the list that I most enjoy and pertain to me or my family's personal health and joy. It hit me hard. There is a tremendous amount of guilt when you have to say "no" to something for the sake of yourself and your family. I'm not advocating being self-centered here. I truly believe that serving and giving back to the world requires sacrifice, but when did sacrificing myself become alright to do all the time? I'm still learning the perfect balance.