Make Mexican Food An Event

The fam has a new Mexican food habit on Friday nights.  So we make Mexican food an event these days.

It’s really just because The Banker has taken a liking to our local Mexican restaurant’s chips and salsa.  So we keep going back for it.

The salsa we really like is the roasted tomato salsa.  But it photographs horribly and The Banker was getting pissed I was still taking pictures with my phone.  So you’ll have to settle on the fresh salsa.  But it does have my beloved cilantro in it.

The restaurant has this great little back patio with a water feature and a giant metal cactus.  We were lucky enough to snag one of those outdoor tables the first time.  Typically, there’s too long of a wait and we end up inside.

During our first visit, I was enticed by their drink special.  It was some lovely mixture of flavored vodka, juice and sprite.  That’s the one picture up above.  I never remember what it was, so my I send my waiter with a vague drink order to give the bartender.  I figure they’ll come back with something good.   Oddly enough, a margarita has yet to hit my table.  Perhaps I’ll try out their sangria margarita next time.  For now, I enjoy this fruity vodka mix.

We tend to chow down on all the free chips and salsa brought to our table.  By the time our food arrives, we aren’t really  hungry.  Plus by this then, the kids are over the etch a sketch they were given for entertainment and have turned to driving us completely nuts.  Which makes me want to say, “Waiter, can I get another drink here?”

Wait, back to the food.  This time we were smart and decided to split a meal.  The Banker seemed unimpressed by everything, so I got to pick.

This is what the menu reads, verbatim:

Fiesta Chicken Salad: caution, this salad can be addictive! strips of seasoned grilled chicken, fresh mixed salad greens, cilantro and tortilla strips tossed in our signature tequila lime vinaigrette and topped with our chipotle peanut sauce.

DANG!  It was addicting.  I scarfed my half of the salad as if a hungry bear might take it from me.  When I finally came up for air to check on the rest of the table, I saw The Banker casually pushing lettuce around his plate.  So I scarfed his down too.  Definitely my new favorite.

My point?  Find yourself a nice Mexican restaurant, eat their free chips and salsa and Make Mexican Food An Event.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Remember how I said that Annie’s Eats was my current favorite food blog?  Well, I’m here to show you just another sweet reason it should be yours too.

My husband, aka. The Banker, is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.  He likes things simple.   He prefers his dessert to be chocolate cake from a box with chocolate frosting from the tub.  He rolls his eyes when I opt to use my creative side while baking.  [I get the full head shake when the camera comes out.]  He finds it quite unnecessary.  Pillsbury does it just fine for him.  But if I insist on stepping outside of the box, it better be something he might like.

It was a Saturday morning and I wanted to tap my kitchen creativity.  So I gave him a stack of my printed off recipes that I wanted to try.  I watched him flip through the pages, occasionally looking up at me like I was a nut job.  Apparently, anything with a fruit in the title is an unacceptable dessert. But then…

Chocolate Cake + Peanut Butter Frosting = Approved

This time, it was The Banker who picked a Annie’s Eats recipe.  It was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake and you can click on over to her recipe here.  I was initially pulled in by her beautiful presentation of this handsome cake on wood pedestal.  And with peanut butter cups sitting on top, I figured it might be a winner for The Banker.

In preparing my grocery store list, I discovered there were three sticks of butter in the cake and another three sticks of butter in the frosting.  Dear Lord, that’s a pound and a half of BUTTER!  I kept waiting to see that this was a Paula Dean recipe.  Nope.  Just a lot of butta.

Outside of all that butter, I knew this was going to be a good cake since she calls for sour cream AND instant coffee powder.  Two key ingredients for making a tasty and moist chocolate cake.  The only instant coffee powder I had in the house was Starbucks Vanilla VIA.  I figured if vanilla extract is good, a little vanilla coffee can’t hurt.  And it didn’t.

Tip: always add some instant coffee in with your water for any chocolate cake you make.  You can thank me later.  [And no, it doesn’t make the cake taste like coffee.  The Banker was very concerned about this the first time he saw me doing this.]

Tip:  if you have a little helper in the kitchen who insists on cracking eggs, use a separate bowl.  This is also a good suggestion if you are just a sloppy egg-cracker.  Don’t be ashamed, just plan ahead.  And to get those pesky egg shells out, wet your finger before you start fishing.  It really works.

Tip:  When baking with round pans, it is always best to use parchment paper to line the bottoms.  It prevents the top of the cake from sticking to the pan.  I like to start with lining and dusting my pans before I touch my other ingredients. Perhaps I should have opened with this tip.

When the cakes make it into the oven, it’s time to tackle the peanut butter frosting.  Mmmm… just let that sink in for  a minute.  Peanut.  Butter.  Frosting.

Okay, I’ll admit I could not bring myself to use another three sticks of butter.  First of all, that’s just a ton of butter.  Also, I was only making a two layer cake rather than the three layer cake the recipe was set up for.  I figured I didn’t need as much frosting.  I also cut down the amount of cream and powdered sugar to balance it all out.

Tip:  Annie suggests changing the measurements if you aren’t using three 8-inch cake pans.  I think it causes unnecessary brain damage to change 1 1/4 tsp of baking soda by a third.  That’s just too many fractions for this scatterbrain.

Tip:  fill what ever pans you are using about 2/3 full, leaving room for the cake batter to expand, but not overflow.  [A mistake I have made.]  Make cupcakes with any left over batter.  I used two 9-inch cake pans and was able to make about 10 cupcakes.

Eat:  And enjoy every bite!

Now I realize I’ve done two desserts.  I’ll try to balance this out and pick a different food group from a different blog for my next food post.


Oreo Cheesecake Bites

I’ve said this on my other blog, but i feel it is important to repeat it:

There are some really amazing food blogs out there.  This is NOT one of them. 

I’m neither an amazing blogger nor an amazing baker.  I do, however, enjoy blogging and baking.  And I would really love to practice both of them more often.  Sadly, my husband repeatedly tells me I cannot stay home just to make things to blog about.  Something about needing to pay bills…

[insert awkward silence here]

Annie’s Eats is my current fav food blogs.  I stumbled on her site purely by accident while killing time on Pintrest.  And I found myself bookmarking all kinds of wonderful recipes.  Annie IS an amazing food blogger.  And I’m not even jealous.

One of the first recipes I found and knew I had to try were her Oreo Cheesecake Bars.  You can find her recipe and directions here.  And since she’s already played around with the recipe, you just have to follow her modifications.

One of the very first steps is to put the Oreos into a food processor.  SCORE!  Now this might not sound exciting to you, but I received my very first food processor as a Christmas gift.  And then all of a sudden, NONE of the recipes I wanted to make needed a darn food processor.  So for six months, it sat in the bottom of my cupboard.  Finally I had a reason to use it!  Even if it was just to crush up a bunch of cookies.

Rather than spending too much time reading the instruction manual, I just pulled up a YouTube video to show me. It just seemed easier that way. And it was.

I used to assume that making cheesecake was too hard to attempt.  That surely I would screw it up.  But then I had a friend convince me it really isn’t that hard.  And at the end, you have delicious cheesecake to reward yourself for your efforts.  So I made a lemon cheesecake and found a blueberry topping to make.  It. Was.  Delicious.    And now I’m not scared anymore.

Wait, what was I talking about?  Oh yes, the Oreo Cheesecake Bars.  Sorry for the sidetrack there.

I made these on a Wednesday night.  Which if you knew me, you would know I don’t attempt too much on a school night.  Between my two kids and my full time job, there just isn’t much left of me at the end of the day.  But these really are that easy.

First, you make your Oreo crust.  Which is just crushed up cookies and butter.  Simple.

Then, you gather your ingredients for the filling and use your mixer to beat them together.  Sure, there’s some measuring to do and an order in which you add the ingredients to the mixture.  But still pretty easy.

Ingredients: cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, vanilla, salt and an egg

Next, you roughly chop a few more Oreos and add them to your cream cheese mixture.  Simple.

Try not to eat too many pieces before you mix them in. I know, it’s hard.

Bake, that’s right.  Pour your mixture into the crust and bake.  Sound hard yet?  Now admittedly, I should have baked these a bit longer and let the crust slightly brown.  But that would be for appearances only.

Chill.  Okay, this is the hard part.  It needs at least an hour on the counter and another three hours in the refrigerator.  I chilled mine overnight and cut up the bite-size pieces basically on my way out the door to our event.

I chose the flower-looking plate since it was being served at a reception for my daughter’s dance class.

Eat.  And enjoy every bite!



Between The Shutters

I like to take pictures (a lot of pictures) and write stories.  And I like to share my pictures and stories.   So I created a personal blog over a year ago.  I write for family and friends to show them what our family is doing throughout the year. And it’s been fabulously successful.

Then I got the blogging bug.  I started reading other people’s blogs…blogs that told stories, food blogs, photo blogs, blogs about parenting and life.  Pintrest didn’t help matters either.  I started to attempt some fancier recipes and little craft projects, taking plenty of pictures along the way.  I’ve been having fun.  And my blog posts are stronger for it.  And that’s not just my opinion.  My family and friends told me.  So it must be true.

And all of a sudden, my personal blog became more of a public blog.  Which is…well…I haven’t decided how I feel about this yet.  But this blog was born because of it.

Originally I thought I would start a new blog to just post a picture here and there.  You know, because a picture is worth a thousand words.  But what if I want to write a thousand words?  (Don’t worry.  I won’t write a thousand words.  That’s just too many.)  What if I just want to write a witty caption?  Or what if my family and friends are sick of getting notifications of yet another published post?  They might not care that I made some fabulously decant cake this weekend.  But you might.

The internet is a bloggerific place for people like me to word-dump on unexpecting strangers.  (The opposite of expecting, but spell check doesn’t like it.  It doesn’t like bloggerific either.  I also insisted on using “willn’t” as a kid.  What can I say, I am my own person.)

So here I am…blogging.  For you.  Or is it for me?

Between The Shutters.

Sounds a  little mysterious.  A little unclear.  It’s play on words.  Sounds perfect!