29 March 2012

My 5 Year Blogiversary and a Giveaway!




Yep, today is my blog's fifth birthday!  I wrote my first post on March 29, 2007.  Actually I posted twice that day, an introduction and reason why I started the blog, and my first posted recipe, Spicy Mixed Nuts.  As you can tell by the url of the introductory post, my blog was originally called "Culinary Tales." I knew that wasn't a great name, but I was itching to get started and couldn't think of anything better.  It wasn't long before I came up with Edesia's Notebook.  Much better, if not just because it was more interesting and memorable.

Some (if not most) of you may be quite surprised that I have been blogging for five years now.  I posted very sporadically at the beginning, and it wasn't until 2011 that I really got serious about it, posted regularly, and started getting more involved in the food blogger community (thanks mostly to Facebook).    There was a lot going on in my life in the first few years that I had this blog.  Two months after starting the blog, my husband graduated from Seminary, was ordained, and took a divine call here to Michigan.  Moving from St. Louis to Michigan was quite demanding of my time, and a couple of weeks after we settled in, we found out that we were pregnant with our first child.  The first trimester was rough, to say the least!, so food was the last thing on my mind for a long time.  Then, once I started feeling better, we moved again to our first house in the next town over.  I didn't post very often the year Lena was born; it took some time to get into the swing of motherhood!  Then daughter no. 2 came along in 2010.

Okay, enough of my life story.  I want to share with you the card I got in the mail yesterday.



My mom's hobby is card-making, and she made this super cute card for me!  She printed off graphics from the blog, and even used my category labels as the background!  I love it! Thanks so much, Mom!

Okay, now I would like to share with you some stats from my blog's first five years.  I have posted a total of 358 recipes.  First up, my five all-time most popular posts (as determined by number of page views):

1.  Slow Cooker Garlic-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

This one caught like wildfire on Pinterest last year.  Somebody pinned it and it got over 200 repins.

2.  Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole (Cream Soup Free)



This was my 300th recipe.

The only recipe in the top five not posted in 2011.  This was a very early one, from October 2007.  This one is popular because of Google searches (see below).




And now, the top five referring sites to my blog.

1. Google search
2. Pinterest
3. Facebook
4. Google.ca
5. Bing.com

Three of the top five referring sites are search engines.  This is one reason why I am very particular about how I name my recipes (making sure they accurately represent the dish) and why I title all my posts with the name of the recipe.  

The top five keyword searches bringing people to my blog:

1. stovetop chili
2. chicken broccoli rice casserole
3. weenie wraps (I forgot I even had weenie wraps on here!)
4. corned beef and cabbage soup (this was something I posted just earlier this month!)
5. stove top chili

Very interesting!  And now a little bit about you!  The top five countries that compose my audience:

1. United States
2. Canada
3. Germany
4. United Kingdom
5. Russia

Wow, my blog is popular with Russians? Who would have thought? :)

This is going to be sappy, but I really want to thank all of my friends and family for supporting me in this endeavor.  As a stay-at-home mom, I don't get much interaction with other adults on a regular basis, so having this outlet is really important to me.  I would also like to thank each of my 71 followers through Google Friend Connect, each of my 530 Facebook fans, every one of you who has ever commented on a post, shared a post, talked about my blog with your friends, or just dropped me a line to tell me how much you like my blog.  Those things really mean the world to me.

This will sound weird, but I would also like to thank my camera.  Every single picture on this blog was taken with my now over seven-year-old cheapo digital camera that is literally being held together with electrical tape.


This is why I am totally amazed whenever someone comments on a picture on my blog.  I have absolutely no photography training, so when a seasoned food blogger with amazing pics herself, compliments a photo of mine, it totally makes my day!

But mostly I would like to thank my husband, Jim, who puts up with a lot of annoyances in order for me to food blog.  He waits very patiently while I set up my "foodio" in the dining room, hoping that the food doesn't get too cold while I am taking 20 pictures to get that "one" perfect shot.  He doesn't complain when I ask him to eat the ugliest muffins because I still need to take pictures of the prettiest.  He has been such a sport whenever I try a new food that he isn't crazy about, or when I put too many onions in something.  He has supported me 100% from the beginning and I can't thank him enough. I love you, Babe!

5 Years/500 Fans Giveaway


Okay, enough mushy stuff!  Let's get to the giveaway!  This giveaway is not only in honor of my fifth blogiversary, but also in honor of reaching 500 fans on my Facebook page earlier this month.  I thought for a long time about what I should give away to my lovely readers.  Finally, I decided to give one lucky reader a little "taste" of the great spices I use and am constantly going on and on about.  Penzey's!! This giveaway is in no way, shape, or form, sponsored by Penzey's.  I have decided to use every bit of the small amount of money this blog has earned me to reward my readers.  So I am sponsoring this giveaway all myself.  I am doing this because I really love Penzey's spices and think they are pretty much the greatest thing ever!  If you don't live near a Penzey's, it's hard to give them a try, so I am making it easier for someone to try it.

Here is my Penzey's collection:



The giveaway is for an assortment of Penzey's spices.  The specific spices included is subject to change, but will most likely be these:

Tuscan Sunset (used in pretty much every Italian dish I make, and also Slow Cooker Italian Beef & Veggie Soup)
Bicentennial Rub (really good on grilled steak or roasted chicken)
Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle  (great topper for spaghetti)
Tsardust Memories  (really good on pork chops)
Fox Point Seasoning  (really good on salmon
Mural of Flavor  (really good in tuna salad or other seafood)  

The total value will be about $52.

The winner will receive 1/4 cup jars of each of these spices.  I chose the spices very carefully.  Most of them are blends unique to Penzey's, therefore you can't buy them anywhere else.  These are the ones I use most often and you have probably seen them listed in recipes here on this blog.  I have listed how I use each spice, so if you are the winner, come back to this post after you get them in the mail and you have a list of recipes to use them in.

So, to enter, please leave a comment telling me the name of one spice, herb, or blend that you have yet to try.  Here are a few rules for the giveaway:

1. Please like my Facebook page and follow my blog through Google Friend Connect, if you haven't already. You don't have to tell me that you did this.  It's one entry per person, but I will be able to tell if you have done these things if you win.

2. No anonymous comments and please enter your email address when posting your comment.  I will contact the winner via email, so this is important.

3. Winner will need to provide me with their valid mailing address.  I am really, really sorry, but I have to limit this to U.S. only.  I will be placing the order online to be shipped directly from Penzey's and they don't give shipping costs to international addresses until 48 hours after the order is placed.  I can't place an order not having any idea how much shipping will be, so U.S. only please.  Again, sincere apologies to my international readers!

4. The giveaway will close on Wednesday, April 4th at 11:59 pm.  Winner will be chosen on Thursday, April 5th, and notified by email.  Winner will have 48 hours to reply with his/her address or I will chose another winner.  I will probably also announce the winner here on the blog.

Remember, it's one entry per person, so if you comment more than once, I will delete all but the first comment.  

Thank you so much for indulging me in this anniversary post and actually reading all of this! I love you all and can't wait to see what the next five years brings!

16 March 2012

Irish Cream and Coffee Muffins


Here is a lovely muffin recipe to get your St. Patrick's Day started off right.  It's my adaptation of one I found on Food.com.


Irish Cream and Coffee Muffins


Ingredients:
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 packet Starbucks Via instant espresso
1 tbsp hot water
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup Irish cream
½ cup milk
2 eggs
Powdered sugar, to dust tops


Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°.  Spray a muffin tin with baking spray and set aside.


Place flour and baking powder in a small bowl.  Set aside.


In a large mixing bowl, dissolve instant coffee in the hot water.  Add the brown sugar, oil, Irish cream, milk and eggs.  Stir to combine.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix.  Batter will be lumpy.


Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tin and bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar.  


Makes 12 muffins.

These are some tasty muffins!  The amount of Irish cream is just right, giving them a lovely flavor.  And I love  the powdered sugar on top.  I've never done that with muffins before, but it's just right for these.

I always use decaf Via in my baked goods so that no one is restricted from eating them, (I am making three dozen of these babies for church tomorrow), but use regular if you want a nice little pick-me-up in your muffin.

Here are some of my other St. Patrick's Day recipes for your enjoyment.







Happy St. Patrick's Day!



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15 March 2012

Improv Challenge: Greek Roasted Potatoes with Feta and Lemon


It's time again for the Improv Challenge.  The premise of this challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

Improv Challenge

This month the assigned ingredients were potatoes and cheese.  Oh man, what can't you make with potatoes and cheese?  My first thought was some kind of baked cheesy potatoes, but then I saw a recipe for Greek Roasted Potatoes at Cinnamon Girl Recipes and I couldn't wait to try it.  Then I realized that it qualified for this challenge.  I was happy to have a reason to try this amazing dish for myself.  I made a few changes; here's my version.

Greek Roasted Potatoes with Feta and Lemon

Ingredients:
6 cups potatoes, 3/4" cubes (about 2½ lbs.)
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease 2 large baking sheets with oil.

In a large bowl toss potatoes with oil, thyme, oregano, and salt. Spread out on baking sheet, flesh sides down, and bake 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.  Carefully turn potatoes so they lie on another flesh side.  Bake another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on that side.  Turn once more and bake until potatoes are cooked through, another 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, marinate the feta in the lemon juice and oregano.

Remove potatoes from oven and place them in a serving bowl.  Top with lemony feta and toss to combine.

Makes 4-6 servings.

These potatoes were phenomenal.  They were roasted perfectly, which I have had problems doing in the past.  Brushing the baking sheets with oil helped the potatoes to not stick so much.  The type of potatoes I used probably helped that too.  They were Klondike Rose with golden flesh.  They are not very starchy, so they don't stick as badly.

I used fresh oregano instead of parsley because we don't really like parsley.  I also used much less lemon, because I didn't want it to be too sour.  

These potatoes roasted so perfectly that I will probably use this method (with different seasonings) the next time I want to roast potatoes.

Come back next month to see what fun thing I will make with peanut butter and jelly!





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14 March 2012

U.S.S. Missouri Buttermilk Pie


I wasn't planning on posting anything today, but then I got up and checked my email and was reminded that it was Pi Day. March 14, or 3-14.  We Foodies like to change it from a math holiday into a food holiday by calling it Pie Day instead.  I happened to have some pics of a terrific pie on my computer, so I thought I would share it with you.

My mom has been making this pie for a long time now.  You can find the recipe online just about anywhere. It's the pie that the head chef of the U.S.S. Missouri made for President Harry S Truman when he visited the ship.  Legend has it that Truman liked it so much that he requested the recipe, but the chef refused to part with it until after his retirement.

U.S.S. Missouri Buttermilk Pie

Ingredients:
½ - ¾ cup pecans, chopped
2 cups sugar
½ cup butter, softened
4 eggs, divided
3 tbsp flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (regular, not lowfat)
1 9" unbaked pie shell

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Spread pecans out on a cookie sheet and place in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Lower oven heat to 300°.

Gradually beat sugar into butter with mixer until well blended.  Add 3 eggs, one at a time, blending well after each one.  Add flour and salt; blend well.  Add buttermilk and blend well.  Pour into crust and top with the toasted pecans.  Beat the remaining egg and brush the edges of the pie crust with it.

Bake at for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes 8 servings.

My mom uses ¾ cup pecans instead of the traditional ½ cup.  It's important not to make any substitutions with this pie.  Don't use margarine instead of butter and don't get the lowfat buttermilk or it won't set up right.  Each piece of this pie contains approximately a million calories and thousands of grams of saturated fat, so it's not something to be made very often.  But it is a special treat to be enjoyed every once in a while.



Here are a few other pie recipes for your Pie Day perusal:


Happy Pie Day!





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12 March 2012

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup


St. Patrick's Day is coming up this weekend.  Are you ready?  I think it's so fun to cook according to seasons and holidays. It's a really great way to mix things up and make dinner a little bit more interesting.  That's why I was so excited when my friend, Joan of Chocolate, Chocolate, and More invited me to be a part of her St. Patrick's Day Blog Party today.  It's just seven food bloggers all getting together and posting some kind of St. Patrick's Day related recipe at the same time.

Before I get to my recipe, here's what everyone else has to share with you:


Kimiko at Beachside Baker made a Shamrock Shake

I can't wait to check out all this yummy Irish and/or green food! :)

As soon as I got Joan's email, I knew what I wanted to make.  I saw a recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup in the March issue of Food Network Magazine.  It looked pretty simple and I couldn't wait to try it.  I made a few changes to the original recipe (of course!), and I think my version is even more simple.  Here's how I made it.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup matchstick carrots
¼ tsp ground allspice
1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
3 cups low-sodium beef broth
4 cups green cabbage, chopped (about ½ small head)
½ lb. potatoes, peeled and diced
¾ cup quick-cooking barley
4 cups water
½ lb. cooked corned beef, cut into thin strips and chopped
Kosher salt

Directions:
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrots, and allspice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, beef broth, cabbage, potatoes, barley, and water; cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes and barley are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the corned beef and season with salt.

Makes 6 servings.

This is one hearty soup!  I love how it is packed with four different veggies AND potatoes and barley AND the corned beef.  It's a complete meal in and of itself.  Although that didn't stop us from enjoying some freshly baked rolls with it! 

The original recipe called for pulsing the veggies in a food processor before adding them to the pot, but I don't have a full-sized food processor, so I just diced my veggies and added them that way.  Again, I highly recommend the convenience of matchstick carrots.  They are so perfect for soups.  

The original recipe said that this makes 4 servings, but I think it makes WAY more than that.  I put down 6, but it could very easily be even more than that.  It would be a great soup to make for a crowd.  Also, the barley and potatoes will soak up some of the broth when you put the leftovers in the fridge, so keep that extra 1 cup of beef broth to add to it before reheating.

This would be a great soup to make the day after St. Patrick's Day if you have made a nice corned beef roast, since it calls for cooked corned beef.  I bought a roast, and cooked it simply according to the package, then sliced it up.  The original recipe called for only  ¼ lb. of meat, but that didn't look like very much, so I doubled it.  Glad I did because it was perfect.




So if you don't have any plans for what to make on St. Patrick's Day, check out the blog posts listed above for some great recipes.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


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07 March 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Chickpea "Meat"balls and Marinara


It's time once again for the Crazy Cooking Challenge!  In this challenge, all the participants make and blog about the same dish each month.  Each blogger is to scour other blogs for a unique version of whatever that month's dish is.  The goal is to highlight and promote personal food blogs. This month's assigned dish was spaghetti and red sauce.  So we were to find a unique spaghetti recipe, make it, and blog about it.


Photobucket


This challenge gave me an opportunity to try something I had been wanting to for a while now.  I saw a recipe for Lentil Spaghetti Sauce and put it on my "must make" list.  We are not vegetarian, but try to eat meatless one night a week.  I get bored easily, so I'm always on the lookout for interesting and different meatless main dishes.  I made Lentil Tacos once, and my meat-loving husband raved about them, saying he loved them just as much, if not more, than their ground beef counterpart.  So I figured the lentil spaghetti sauce would be just as successful.  I was going to make that for this challenge, but then I was sidetracked by another recipe in the same category (actually on the same board in my Pinterest account).  Similar idea, but with meatless meatballs instead of a meaty sauce. The balls are made of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), and are like an Italian version of falafel.  My husband loves falafel, so I was sure it was going to be a hit.  The original recipe is from Budget Bytes.  Here's my version.


Chickpea “Meat”balls and Marinara

Ingredients:
2 (15 oz.) cans chickpeas, drained
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, grated
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
¼ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
2 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp brown sugar
1½ cups water
1 tsp salt, or to taste
6 servings hot cooked spaghetti
Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Place chickpeas in a food processor. Pulse until it forms a rough paste.  Transfer to a bowl and addso add the shallot, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, egg, bread crumbs, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix until thoroughly combined.  Measure out one tablespoon portions and roll them into a ball. Continue until all of the mixture has been made into balls.

Place balls on a baking sheet.  Place in oven and bake about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions have softened.  Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, brown sugar, and water. Stir the mixture until it is thoroughly combined. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.

Serve the chickpea balls over spaghetti with the sauce spooned over top. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

Makes 6 servings, 6 chickpea balls each.

I changed a few things.  First, I changed up the ingredients in the balls a little bit.  I swapped out fresh parsley for dried basil and oregano.  We're not parsley fans.  I also omitted the Parmesan because my daughter is allergic to dairy.  I also added olive oil and decreased the bread crumbs because they seemed a little dry.  Secondly, I baked the balls instead of pan frying them.  I ALWAYS bake meatballs.  It's so much easier and they actually turn out round!  When I have tried them on the stovetop in the past, they either fall apart on me or get all funky-shaped.  I bake my balls on stoneware and they come out perfectly every time.  



I got a little impatient rolling out the balls, so they got increasingly larger as I went.  If you use the tablespoon to measure them out, you will probably get 36.

The only other major thing I changed was that I doubled the sauce recipe.  I didn't when I made them, but we found that there wasn't enough sauce.  I actually busted out a jar from the pantry to get us through!  So I would definitely make more sauce.

Other than the sauce issue, my family really liked this dish.  It's a great addition to my meatless main rotation.  And it's great for families on a budget, as each can of chickpeas cost 84 cents, while a pound of ground beef is going for about $3.99 these days.


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05 March 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Wine-Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream over Rigatoni


It's time again to reveal our picks for the Secret Recipe Club.   The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

This month I was assigned the blog Katherine Martinelli.  Katherine is not only a food blogger, but she is also a published food writer, travel writer and a professional photographer.  She is a native New Yorker who is currently living in Israel, so the food portion of her blog showcases a wide variety of cuisines.  This made it quite difficult to narrow my choice down to one recipe.  I found so many amazing recipes that I wanted to try.  I have recently discovered that I love making meatballs and am always on the lookout for new and different recipes, so her Turkey Meatballs with Dates, Lentils, and Yogurt Sauce definitely caught my attention.  I am also still in soup mode, so I was also intrigued by her Kitchen Sink Lentil Soup.  

Ultimately, I was not able to narrow it down to one recipe.  I made two of hers this month.  First I made her Curried Cauliflower Soup.  It's made with roasted cauliflower = so good.  Of course, mine didn't turn out as pretty as hers, (I need a new immersion blender badly. Mine is really old and the blades are duller than butter knives!), but it was absolutely delicious nonetheless.


Then I made her Rigatoni with Wine-Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream.  I had a jar of saffron in my cabinet that I had been anxious to use ever since I scored it for free (this was quite a score as saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and this little jar, which contained 1 tsp, cost $16).  And strangely enough, I had never cooked with rigatoni before either.  So this recipe was perfect.  

Wine-Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream over Rigatoni

Ingredients:
2 large bone-in chicken breasts
Salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 cup white wine
1 tsp saffron threads, crushed
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound rigatoni
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions:
Sprinkle chicken with salt. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate. 

Add onions and garlic to drippings in skillet; sauté until onions are slightly softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add wine and saffron to skillet; bring to boil. Continue to boil until liquid is thickened and reduced by half, about 8 minutes.

Add chicken broth to skillet. Return chicken to skillet; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer gently until chicken is very tender (adjust heat to prevent boiling and turn chicken over after 20 minutes), 30 to 45 minutes total. 

Transfer chicken to plate and cool. Shred chicken meat; transfer to a medium bowl and reserve.

Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; return to pot. Meanwhile, add cream to skillet and boil until sauce is reduced to 2½ cups and is thick enough to coat spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken pieces. Stir over medium heat until heated through, adding more broth to thin sauce as needed, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

To serve, place rigatoni in shallow bowls and top with chicken mixture.  Garnish with chiffonade of basil.

Makes 4 servings.

I didn't change very much about Katherine's recipe.  I cut back on the wine a bit because I don't like too much wine flavor in the finished dish.  I also used less garlic and I left out the lemon juice that she used.  The only other thing I did differently was that I served the chicken on top of the rigatoni while she mixed hers together.  

This dish was a big hit with my family.  My husband liked it a lot more than I thought he would.  It's too bad I used up my entire jar of saffron because I would love to make it again soon!

Please check out Katherine's amazing site if you haven't already.  Thanks for the recipe, Katherine!




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