Welcome to my F-ing life!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Not Having Cable Really Isn't That Bad...

It has been just over one month since we cut the cable...

Yes, it was weird...at first.

It was lonely, quiet and very strange. Wait...sorry, that's me I'm describing.

Back to our regularly scheduled post about no cable...

Money being what it is, my Mom decided enough was enough and she cut ties with our cable TV provider, Comcast. Her monthly bill, after the 12 month "We Gotcha!" introductory period ended, kept climbing until she saw a bill for almost $250. That, as they say...was that.

Granted, she had the triple play combo (phone/internet/cable) and all three services were included in that price. She couldn't afford it and we, sadly, couldn't help. So she cancelled the cable and the land line, leaving just the internet.

Let me just say that I in no way miss the land line phone. I really don't like talking on the phone anyway - I'm more of an email kind of gal. And we just got a new cell phone provider (and phones) that, for the first time in 6 years with our old provider, provides us with enough of a signal to actually make and receive calls inside the house! Wow!!! Before (with our old provider) we had to stand in certain areas (back yard, street) and act like human rabbit ears to even get one bar to use the phone.

But...cable TV? Yikes.

It's really not that bad, honestly.

I hate to admit this (and I will deny it if you repeat it!), but I once had a boss that was a blond buffoon of a woman, just as ditzy as they come.  She used to tell her employees whenever a new procedure was implemented or changed (and with her, this was several times per day - really. It was aggravating as hell working for her) that "new" things become a habit after doing it for 28 days. If you apply that thought to becoming accustomed to not having cable TV, it is true - after a month, I don't miss it all that much.

Of course, there are still things that I miss as well as things that I don't.

What I miss about TV:

The background noise it provides.
Falling asleep with the TV on. (Even though Papa Bear always had it on the military channel...ewwww...but it was boring enough for me to fall asleep to.)
Watching something when it airs. Not that I stand around a water cooler the next morning and discuss...but still.
Listening/watching the news for a few hours every morning.
Food Network. The Cooking Channel. The History Channel. The Science Channel.

What I don't miss about TV:

Spongebob Squarepants and The Disney Channel.
The kids arguing about who gets to watch what.
The background noise from the military channel.
Waking up in the middle of the night because the TV is too loud.
The "extra" channels you pay for to get the one and only channel you actually want to watch.

We watched a LOT of TV. Everyone, of course had their own favorite shows, and we had the shows that everyone watched together. I suppose this is why the internet gods invented things like Hulu and the like?

So now we watch our shows on the internet. The day after they originally air. Which only slightly sucks. But that part still does suck, nevertheless.

I know I have sang the praises of Netflix Instant, but that really doesn't apply to current television shows. Netflix Instant is good for catching up on previous seasons (not current ones) and half of the ones I want to watch are not available on their instant stream...

I have found one website service that has proved to be invaluable to me - even before we killed the cable. You tell it what shows you want to track and it emails you a list of links on the internet where you can watch the latest episode after it airs for free. It's called SideReel and I love it.*

I used to use SideReel just for shows I liked that are shown only on the pay channels (Showtime, HBO) like Dexter, Weeds and True Blood because we didn't get those channels in the first place and I was addicted and had to watch them anyway. Now I have it track all the shows I/we watch and I get links so I can watch them any time I want. You can, of course, watch any show you aren't tracking...and if you watch a new show and like it, you can add it to your tracking list anytime.

Just to give you an idea of what my SideReel Tracker looks like, I have listed all of the shows I watch on a regular basis...since it is holiday time, most shows are either on hiatus or the networks know that you've got better things to do than watch the idiot box, so they'll show new episodes after all the holiday festivities are over.

Currently Tracked Shows:

30 Rock
Desperate Housewives
Mad Men
No Ordinary Family
The Big C
The Walking Dead
True Blood

Yes. I mentioned I watch a lot of TV. I was not lying.

And you can track shows that haven't aired or even premiered yet, as I have with Bob's Burgers and Being Human. SideReel is a television addict's dream come true...

I also have to mention that I probably would not have watched (at least) a quarter of the above shows if it were not for the internet.  For example, over the last 5 days I have had a cold, sniffles, fever and just felt like crap. What do most people do when they don't feel good and can't sleep when they are forced to become mouth-breathers? Watch TV!

I got on SideReel and looked for a show that I have wanted to watch but haven't had the time.....dum dum DUM! I am now completely in love and enthralled (not to mention completely caught up on all four seasons and eagerly awaiting the start of the fifth season!) with Mad Men.

I have determined through watching Mad Men that I would have loved to been a chain-smoking, bourbon-guzzling adult in the 1960's. I think I was born in the wrong era. I should have been an Ad man in the 60's...instead I just look like a man in his 60's...

* I am in no way affiliated with SideReel and was not asked to endorse them in any way - I use it, I like it. You might too. Just sayin'....

So if you're thinking about cutting out your cable, don't be afraid. As long as you have internet access, you won't miss cable very much.

Now, who do I talk to out there about inviting us over to watch the ball drop live on New Year's Eve?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Warm Your Cold, Cold Heart Clam Chowder

If I have to choose between New England clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder, I will always go with New England. If there were a great battle over 'Creamy vs. Tomato-y', I will raise my spoon in defense of Creamy every single time. I have issues with tomato heartburn, so it's not exactly a fair battle. But most of the New England clam chowder that I have eaten in various restaurants almost always lack something...clams. Why do they never put enough clams in the soup? I may as well be eating potato soup! When I eat clam chowder, I want some serious clams in my bowl! Otherwise, what is the point of eating clam chowder?

The very best New England Clam Chowder I have ever had was on my honeymoon (many, many moons ago) at a little kiosk next to the Jaws attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida. The day was rainy, overcast and chilly - it was in November.  We had been walking around the park all morning under a fine mist of rain, determined not to let the weather ruin our day. I saw the sign for the kiosk and then the smell hit me. I had to have some! Hot, steamy soup on a cold and rainy day sounded perfect...and it was.  I'm sure the soup tasted better because of the weather, but it made me feel better and warmed me from the inside out. It was served inside a little bread cone that you held like an ice cream cone, which made sense (so you can hold it easier while walking around the park).

Looking back now, I see the irony of eating clam chowder near the Jaws ride...

I wanted that clam chowder...so I made this very similar version with a few tweaks and no bread cone (although I did make bread bowls) since I can't sashay on down to Universal Studios on a whim (or craving). This version did the trick and satisfied the craving oh so well...

New England Clam Chowder

makes a ton - serves 8-10

6 cans of clams with juice (I prefer whole to chopped or minced, but you go with what you like)
1/2 pound of thick sliced bacon, diced fine
1 cup onion, diced
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups water
1 bottle of clam juice
3-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups half-n-half
2 cups milk
4 tsp cornstarch
Parsley, chopped
Oyster crackers for serving
Bread bowls

In large dutch oven or heavy stockpot, cook bacon and onion until browned. Add clams and their liquid, potatoes, water, clam juice, salt and pepper. Stir; cover and cook over medium low heat for 3 hours.

Combine the half-n-half, milk and cornstarch and add to pot. Stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium low heat for another hour. Stir in chopped parsley.

Serve in bread bowls with oyster crackers and an extra sprinkling of parsley.

A variation I have in my mind to try with this is to substitute the diced potatoes with shredded has brown potatoes. If I can find it at the grocery store, I think I will also toss in a 3-4 ounce can of smoked baby clams (which I have eaten straight out of the can before...yum!)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tilapia with Turmeric & Dill - Bok Choy with Mushrooms and Scallions

I am always looking for something new and different to do with tilapia, much like someone might do with chicken. I call it 'The Low Fish' because it's low in mercury, fat, calories, saturated fats, sodium and carbs. It's also low in price to boot! I can certainly get behind that.

Of course all the low factors change depending on how you prepare it.  There is one tried and true go-to tilapia recipe that I know will get scarfed up by everyone it gets put in front of, which I will inevitably make soon and post about. But that particular dish is not low anything...

This recipe, however, is a most refreshing change. It's light and tasty. I usually serve it with jasmine rice and steamed sugar snaps or a bok choy and mushroom stir fry that's really complimentary to the dish.

Combine sugar and lime juice and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Add the fish sauce and minced jalepeno.
Chop a few scallions.
Season fish with ginger, tumeric, salt and pepper.
Fry 2-3 minutes per side in a few tablespoons of hot oil.
Remove fish and add scallions, dill and the sauce with jalepenos you made earlier.
Spoon sauce over fish to serve.

Tilapia with Tumeric & Dill

serves 6

4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 jalapeno, minced
3-4 scallions
1 small bunch of fresh dill, chopped
6 tilapia fillets
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground tumeric
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp oil

In a small bowl or glass, combine the sugar and lime juice and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the fish sauce and jalapeno. Set aside.

Trim the scallions and cut them into 1/2-inch-long pieces.

Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the ginger, turmeric, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper all over the fillets on both sides. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tilapia and cook, flipping once, until just firm and opaque in the center of the thickest part, about 4 minutes total. Transfer the tilapia to serving plates.

Add the scallions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until they just start to wilt, about 45 seconds. Add the dill and continue to cook until it has wilted slightly, about 15 seconds more. Pour the sauce into the pan and stir to heat through. Drizzle the scallion-dill sauce over the tilapia and serve.

This is the bok choy and mushroom stir fry - with recipe below!

Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Mushrooms and Scallions

1-1/4 lb bok choy (1 large/6 baby)
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp chicken broth
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp oil
8-10 scallions cut into 1 inch lengths
2 cloves minced garlic
1 pint of mushrooms, any kind (I had button mushrooms on hand that I washed & halved)
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger

To prep mature bok choy, separate the leaves from the stems by slicing the bok choy head crosswise at about the point where the leaves begin to spread out. Cut the leaves into lengthwise strips 1 to 1-1/2 inches wide. Quarter the stem end lengthwise and remove any inner leaves, putting them with the leafy tops. Slice the stem quarters crosswise into pieces about 3/4 inch thick. Rinse and dry the stems and leaves separately. (If using baby bok choy, simply cut the heads lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide pieces or wedges.)

In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, chicken broth, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Whisk well to dissolve the cornstarch.

In a 12-inch nonstick stir-fry pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the bok choy stems and mushrooms, and season with 1/8 tsp. kosher salt. (If using baby bok choy, add all the pieces now and skip the step of adding the leaves later.) Cook, tossing frequently with tongs, until the stems are pliable and lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until the aromatics are tender, fragrant, and starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves and 1/8 tsp. salt. Using tongs, toss until the leaves are completely wilted and integrated with the stems, 1 to 2 more minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir the sauce and quickly mix it with the vegetables in the pan. As soon as the sauce thickens and has coated most of the vegetables (a few seconds), transfer to a platter and serve.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sesame Chicken with Snap Peas and Jasmine Rice

It's no big secret that one of my biggest weaknesses is Chinese food. Any Chinese food. I am not picky when it comes to that. I could eat it every day for every meal and (probably - never say never!) not tire of it. The combinations, the flavors, the tastes...

Let's just say that I am just short of drinking soy sauce straight from the bottle and leave it at that, shall we?

Not to mention that stir fry is a fast, easy and inexpensive meal. Yeah, that always helps. Especially if you're me. Which you are not. And you wouldn't want to be me, trust me. Especially if you don't like stir fry.

This is an easy peasy one that is a snap (pun intended, thank you) to make and tastes out of this world.

I like to mix the marinade in a ziplock for less cleaning later.
Dice up your chicken.
Bathe it in soy saucy goodness...
Mix up the sauce.
Plate it up and go to town.

Sesame Chicken with Snap Peas and Jasmine Rice

serves 4

5 tbsp soy sauce
4 tsp dark sesame oil
2 tsp honey
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
6 tsp oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp grated or finely minced ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
1-1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp chili paste (more if you like additional heat)
4 cups steamed snap peas
4 cups cooked jasmine rice
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Whisk 3 tbsp soy sauce with 2 tsp sesame oil and honey. Add chicken and marinate 30 minutes or longer.

Heat 4 tsp oil on wok or skillet over medium high heat. Cook chicken until browned, 3-5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and wipe wok or skillet clean.

Heat remaining 2 tsp oil over medium high heat. Add scallions, ginger and garlic; stir fry about 1 minute. Whisk together the chicken broth, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, chili paste and remaining 2 tbsp soy sauce. Add mixture to skillet; stir and cook until thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the remaining sesame oil.

Return chicken to pan, stir to coat and heat through.

Serve chicken with steamed snap peas and jasmine rice. Top with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mizzas (or Puffins) - You decide what to call 'em!

Snackers, beware! You'll be making these every time you have a craving for pizza...or muffins...or both!

Easy, cute and incredibly tasty little bites...and you won't have to fight your children for the pepperonis off the pizza slices!

Other combos that everyone wanted to try the next time(s) I make these would be our favorite pizza combos, such as Supreme (with a little bit of everything), Hawaiian (ham and pineapple), Four Cheese, Anchovy and Sausage, and my personal favorite pizza toppings - bacon, mushroom and onion!!

Dice some pepperoni (don't eat them all...) and shred some mozzarella (or cheat and buy pre-shredded like me!)
Combine flour, baking powder, egg and milk

Stir in the magic pepperoni and mozzarella

Place batter into mini muffin tin...and pop 'em in the oven!

Serve these little babies with warmed pizza or marinara sauce...mmmm!


3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup pepperoni, diced
1 small jar pizza sauce

Preheat oven to 375. 

Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Whisk in the milk and egg.  Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni. Let the mixture stand for 10-15 minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.

Warm the pizza sauce in the microwave or small saucepan.  Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nutella Pumpkin Cake - A great snack for....

...after school and your kids are driving you bonkers.
...late at night when your stomach starts yelling at you that the chicken you had for dinner just didn't cut it.
...first thing in the morning when you're too lazy to even make a bowl of cereal.
...any darned time you want something really, really good.

Cream butter, sugar, brown sugar. Add an egg and vanilla.

Add some pumpkin.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.

Mix in the flour mixture until just combined.

Spread batter evenly into the pan.

Drop tablespoons of Nutella all over the cake batter. Eat a few spoonfuls for yourself...go on, no one is looking!

Swirl, baby, Swirl!

Nutella Pumpkin Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup Nutella
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9x13inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended. Add the pumpkin. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.  

Reduce speed to low, and mix in the flour mixture until just combined.  Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Drop tablespoons of Nutella all over the pumpkin cake batter. Swirl in the Nutella with a knife.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chipotle Beef Sliders

If you know me, you know I am not a big fan of hamburger or ground beef. It's a taste and a texture thing for me, I guess. I am really, really picky about my burgers, too, when made with ground beef.  If a burger is made with ground turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, salmon, shrimp...whatever else, I am not as picky. But when it's beef, there is almost no pleasing me...

Most restaurant-type burgers are waaaaay too thick. I don't like that much beef in one bite, even if the flavor is something I like. So I never, ever order a burger when eating out. I strongly dislike 98% of the fast food chain burgers out there (don't get me started on a McDonalds rant...) but I love how thin the meat patties are! In case you were wondering, the only fast food burger I will willingly eat (and sometimes actually crave!) is a Double Steakburger from Steak-n-Shake. With cheese. And lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard and pickle. No mayo better touch that puppy.

Now, I can hear you saying, "Well, just make thin patties at home!" and I can tell you that I have done just that and still just not fond of hamburgers with ground beef. It's a mental block I have in my brain and I can't get past it....

....unless they're mini burgers and they're made like this:

Chipotle Beef Sliders

makes 10 sliders

1 package of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 tsp minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, divided
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
10 slices pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup mayo

Place 2 rolls in food processor and pulse until crumbly. Transfer crumbs to a large bowl and add the salt, pepper and 6 teaspoons of the peppers with sauce.  Crumble the beef into the bowl and combine. Shap into 10 patties.

Combine mayo and remaining (or more if you like spicy!) chipotle and set aside.

Grill or pan fry burgers over medium heat 3-5 minutes per side, depending upon how you like them done. Add cheese slice to each and grill/cook until melted (about another minute).

Spilt the remaining rolls. Toast them if you'd like, on the grill or in the oven.  Spread some chipotle mayo mixture on the bottom half of the rolls.  Place patties on top of sauce. Cap off that slider with the top half of the roll.

I added tomato to mine just because I like it...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chinese Beef Noodle Soup

Florida really doesn't get what you would call a winter. No snow, of course, which is a major bummer if you like that sort of thing (which I do). In the rare occasions where the thermometer dips below 50 around here, my Mom loves to make her Crockpot Vegetable Soup. I love it. I will try to remember to post the next time she makes it.

I am not big on a lot of soups, but I do have some favorites. I do tend to steer away from soups with noodles in them, but with me, that's just a texture thing.

The Chinese Beef Noodle soup was a big hit.  Even you aren't a 'soup' kind of person, this is an easy and comfort food alternative. And you may even rethink your interest in soup...

Chinese Beef Noodle Soup

serves 4-6

1-1/2 pounds of beef stir fry or fajita strips
28 ounces of low sodium beef broth
2 cups water
2 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 small can of whole water chestnuts, drained
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 tsp chili paste with garlic
6 ounces dried Chinese noodles
Dark sesame oil for drizzling

In dutch oven, heat 2 tsp oil over medium high heat. Quickly sear the beef until just browned. Add beef broth, water, peppers, water chestnuts, scallions, soy sauce, pepper, ginger, and chili paste. Stir to combine. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a high simmer and cook one hour.

Turn off the burner. Stir in the dried noodles (break if needed). Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir to combine everything and separate noodles.  Ladle into bowls and drizzle each bowl with some dark sesame oil. 

You could also make this in a slow cooker - just dump as you would above into your slow cooker after browning the beef and set on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chocolate Clouds and Muddy Buddys

I'm still contemplating what goodies to make for the holidays.  We have our two or three "Have-To-Makes" but I like to try a few newer ones that the girls want to try or that just sound good.  I have to spread them out on a week-by-week basis as money does not flow like sands through the hourglass...

Years ago (like 15 or more) Pepperidge Farms used to make a simple treat called Chocolate Clouds. Simply chocolate wrapped in puff pastry. They were so good! Sadly, as it is with just about anything we like around here, they stopped producing them.  So we sometimes just made them ourselves with a sheet of puff pastry (yay - they still make that!), a divided Hershey bar and some sprinkled sugar.

You can simply fold the pastry squares into triangles or even get creative with the encasement of the chocolate if you have the patience for dealing with pastry. I, however, am lazy with the pastry end and just want to get to the chocolate eating part. There is just something about the combination of chocolate and puff pastry that enthralls me...

So I decided to try something a little different. Instead of just a Hershey bar, we used Nutella and mini marshmallows inside the puff pastry.  I liked it, but I might try either more marshmallows or maybe marshmallow fluff next time around because I couldn't really taste the marshmallow at all. The Nutella instead of a Hershey bar was different and good!

A quickie egg wash and 25 minutes in a 350 oven and you get this:

We've also tried this with Hershey Kisses, Andes Candies, Hershey bars with a caramel drizzle... The possibilities are truly endless! These days, every holiday comes with a new Hershey Kiss flavor or candy bar. You could even take the "fun-sized" candy bars like a Milky Way and wrap them in puff pastry! Hmm..I may just have to try that one!

Chocolate Marshmallow Clouds

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed and cut into nine squares
Nutella spread
Mini Marshmallows
Egg wash (1 egg white plus 1 tablespoon water whisked together)
Granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Place a teaspoon or so of Nutella in the center of each pastry square. Leave about a 1/4 inch border around the edges. Top with 3 or 4 mini marshmallows and fold over into a triangle. Crimp the edges with the business end of a fork.  Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes and let cool for 5 minutes before devouring.  You can also dust cooled pastry with powdered sugar for an even bigger sugar buzz.

For extra brownie spousal points, I made one of Papa Bear's favorite chocolate snacks:  Muddy Buddys. A friend of Crazy Artist made these for her for Christmas one year and she shared them with Papa Bear and he has been a Muddy Buddy fan ever since!

These are super duper easy (like rice krispie treats easy) and are a favorite with the kids.

Muddy Buddys

9 cups of Chex cereal - any kind or a mixture of any available flavors/varieties
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips and peanut butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into a large (2-gallon) sized ziplock bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread onto waxed paper to cool.

The recipe on Chex boxes has an additional ingredient - 1/4 cup of butter - which I do not add.  The first time I made this, I accidentally forgot to add the butter to the chocolate and peanut butter during the microwaving. To me, it tasted just fine and no different that the batch made with the butter.  Feel free to add or omit the butter when you make your many, many batches...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eat A Dutch Baby (with bonus: Slightly frighten people when you say it out loud!)

Or just do what I like to do - tell people that you're going to 'Make a Dutch Baby with my kids'...if they don't know exactly what a Dutch Baby is, you'll have Child Services from your particular state knocking down your door within hours!! Invite them in to taste your new Dutch Baby...

Ok, no...I've never really done that. But in my twisted mind, that would be freakin' hilarious.

I probably need help, huh?

A Dutch Baby is really just a pancake. A super huge, custard-like and thick bad-boy pancake. The texture is completely different than your run-o-the-mill pancake, and it is extremely tasty and easy to make.

You can make it (as instructed) in a 10 inch cast iron skillet, or you can make it in a 9x13 oven proof baking dish. The difference? Round vs. Square. If you have a well used and well seasoned cast iron skillet, there will be subtle taste differences as well. Sadly, my cast iron skillet that I have had for well over a year has been used maybe four times.  I really, really need to work on that. My cast iron dutch oven has been used way more and is my favorite go-to pot to use for almost everything, so why can't I seem to do that with the darned skillet?

My version of a Dutch Baby is a slightly altered version of Alton Brown's recipe. I like my Dutch Babies sweeter. You could also play around with flavors here...add some orange juice concentrate or whatever flavor you prefer (maybe 1/4 cup?) to the batter. Add pre-cooked meat crumbles, like bacon or sausage. There are endless possibilities! Papa Bear tops his with a smidge of brown sugar (instead of powdered) and a drizzle of syrup with interesting results!

Let the butter melt in the skillet in the oven while it's preheating.

Pour the magic mixture in the skillet.

It's a Dutch Baby! Congratulations! Pass the cigars!

Remove to cutting board and slice that baby up! Pizza cutters were made for stuff like this...

Top with whatever you prefer and dig in! I wonder if my American kids taste this good? Hmmm...

Dutch Baby

6 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1cup milk, room temperature*
4 eggs, room temperature*
Powdered sugar, syrup, fruit for serving

*The 'room temperature' thing is important. Trust me on this - I am not known for my baking ability and have impatiently skipped this all-important step and paid the price. Your patience will be rewarded...

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place 4 tablespoons of the melted butter into a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven. Set the remaining melted butter aside to cool slightly. Wait 10 minutes before assembling the other ingredients.

Place the flour, vanilla, sugar, salt, milk, eggs and remaining melted butter into the blender and process for 30 seconds. Carefully pour the batter into the preheated skillet. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges are puffed and brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, drizzle with your favorite syrup or serve with your favorite fruit.