Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Iced Mocha Latte

It's my birthday and since I'm thirty-eight today, I'm officially almost forty.  No more mid-thirties for me.  I'm almost forty.  Forty, forty, forty.  The big "four-O."

I'm not sure I'm comfortable with all this forty talk.  I think I'd rather just say I'm in my late thirties.  I like the way that sounds better. 

The good news is that I will be getting a cake later on today.  It will be a Bavarian cream-filled yellow sheet cake with tons of white icing.  That is if my husband got the order correct.  I will also be getting a gallon of Bluebell Cookies-n-Cream ice cream as the perfect accompaniment.

Now don't feel sorry for me because I don't have a Dorie Greenspan homemade birthday cake.  As shocking as it may seem, I actually want this.  Don't get me wrong, though.  I love all things homemade and from scratch, but probably one of my favorite indulgences is a store bought bakery cake with that disgustingly sweet, fluffy icing.  I must have ice cream with each and every bite to balance the sweet to sweet ratio and could you make it a corner piece, please, with extra roses?

But since I'm almost forty now, uh, I mean, since I'm in my late thirties now, and my metabolism is not what it used to be, I  mean since yesterday when I was in my mid-thirties, I am cutting down on some of the fat and calories in other parts of my life, starting with this recipe for Iced Mocha Latte.  It's a Pampered Chef recipe that I've tweaked a little.  Feel free to substitute whole milk and regular sweetened condensed milk if you are in your mid-thirties or younger and have a fast metabolism. 

This is a refreshing drink when you want coffee, but you really don't because it's too darn hot.  And it goes well with birthday cake

Iced Mocha Latte

1/3 cup instant coffee granules

1/2 cup boiling water

1 (14-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup chocolate syrup

2 cups cold water

4 cups fat-free milk

  1. Place the coffee granules in a bowl and stir in the boiling water until dissolved.
  2. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate syrup, and 2 cups cold water until combined.
  3. Pour the milk into a pitcher.  Stir in the coffee mixture.  Chill in fridge for about an hour.  Serve over ice.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

John's Potato adventure into the world of store brands.

Warning:  This post will bother you if either of the following are true...

A.  You would never buy the store brand of cream of mushroom soup.

B.  You would never buy cream of mushroom soup, period, store brand or otherwise.

Foodies, hide your eyes.  This may hurt.

Several years ago, my sister invited me to her house for dinner.  Her husband John, my beloved brother-in-law, made a wonderful potato casserole.  I asked for the recipe for sometime and he finally sent it to me in rough email form, which I have retyped in recipe format.  I think it is the perfect recipe to demonstrate how tasty store brands (a.k.a. off-brands or generics) can be.  I have a theory that if you use enough store brands in one recipe, they bind chemically and eliminate any adverse flavors that existed in their original state.  I call this masking

Actually, I just made that up.  But it sounds reasonable.

Now I'm not saying that I buy off-brands exclusively, but I have broadened my horizons since my twenties.  Or maybe it's that I've lowered my standards.  In either case, I have experimented over the years with these frowned upon products, and I pretty much know what works and what doesn't.  Buying store brands is an easy and quick way to save a little money.

If you haven't used store brands, give them a try.  Trial and error is the best way to discover what works and what doesn't.  Some are better than others and sometimes only the name brand will do.  I can't think of an example right now, but I'm sure its true.

I will get to rice and beans soon enough.  Here's the potato casserole:

John’s Spinach Potato Casserole

1 (10.5-ounce) can cream of chicken soup

1 (10.5-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1 (16-ounce) container sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped green onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out

2 (24-ounce) bags frozen, shredded hash brown potatoes

16-ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 to 1-1/2 cups dry bread crumbs (Italian or regular flavored)

1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter

  1. Whisk together both soups, sour cream, salt and pepper until combined in a very large mixing bowl. 
  2. Stir in the green onion, garlic, and spinach. 
  3. Stir in the potatoes. 
  4. Spread half this mixture in a large casserole dish (I used a 15 x 11-inch glass baking dish) that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. 
  5. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese.  Spread remainder of potato mixture on the cheese. 
  6. Sprinkle the top with dry bread crumbs and drizzle the top with the butter.  Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
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