Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nope. No turkey today.

I believe Andy has decided that it is time to tuck the rest of the turkey into the freezer. It will make great pot pies and soups, we've just ahd enough of it for now. I also put 17 cups of turkey stock into the freezer today- so that should last a long time!

Tonight's dinner was so simple, but sooo good. I found it on the CLBB on a recent discussion about pork tenderloin. I love pork tenderloin. It is one of the best cuts of pork, and it is fairly inexpensive. One tenderloin will adequately feed my family of four, so I buy it when it is on sale and tuck some into the freezer. Tonight's meal doesn't even have a name, but here is the recipe:

1 pork tenderloin
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Combine the tenderloin and the cider in a Ziploc bag. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Combine the brown sugar, mustard, salt, and garlic. Smear all over the tenderloin and roll the whole thing in pecans. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and let rest for an additional 10 minutes.


See? Super easy, and it was so good. Yum. It is an instant hit, and I know that I will make it over and over again. I am thinking it would be great for people who work, marinate the pork while working. I also think it would work well as a freezer meal. You could take the pork tenderloin, add the cider, seal it up, and toss it in the freezer. When you are ready to use it, you take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before. The pork marinates while it defrosts. I might add the garlic to the cider then, I'm not sure on that step. I served it with fluffy sweet potatoes (yes, more leftovers) and some roasted baby zucchini. Zander and Abigail both gobbled it up, so right there it is an instant make again dish. Oh, and when you do make this, add a layer of foil to your pan. The brown sugar kind of carmalized to my pan, and took a little elbow grease to clean up. Foil sprayed with cooking spray would be the way to go next time.

Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2005

More leftovers!


I expect to have to duck some tomatoes shortly. 20 pounds of turkey is going to go a loooong way I expect. Good thing I am planning something else for Christmas dinner, because we are going to be soooo sick of turkey by then.

Today I have a batch of turkey stock working on the stove. What I am not sure about, is if I am going to use it right away, or freeze it for another time. On tap for tonight is white turkey chili. Andy has Monday Night Football, and I thought I would make him some chili for the guys. He is off today due to rain, so I can send him out to the store and I can stay in and be cozy. :-) Here is the recipe for my chili, enjoy!

* Exported from MasterCook *
White Chicken Chili

1 large Onion -- coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic -- minced
1 cup chicken -- cooked and shredded
2 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
2 Tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cups chicken broth
2 cans white hominy, canned -- drained
2 cans white beans -- drained and rinsed
dash chili powder, tabasco, etc.
2 tablespoons olive oil

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent
Add chili's, cook for another minute or so.
Add chicken broth and remaining ingredients.
Simmer for 1 or 2 hours.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Christmas decorations, paint and leftovers.


That was today in a nutshell. I spent some time digging out the last of the Christmas decorations, which we had mostly put up yesterday. Our house is so much bigger this year, that all our decorations are out and up, and it really doesn't look as festive as it always did. I guess that's good! That means I am going to have to get more decorations. The tough part is finding decorations that hang on the wall. I have plenty of knick-knacky things, but I have some serious empty wall space. Hopefully I can find some cute snowman things this year, as all of my decorations are strictly snowmen. Except for the ornaments on the tree anyway.

So Andy spent today painting our bedroom. :-)!!!! We finally picked a wall color and picked up the paint yesterday, so he painted today. The color is called Fool's Gold, and is a dark golden yellow. I am planning on decorating with a Spicy Moroccan theme. Very warm and cozy. I will now be able to go shopping for fabric to cover my headboard and fabric for my drapery. I am very excited about that! The tough part (I think) will be finding some artwork that I like. It will be fun.

Meals today revolved around the leftovers that have taken over our fridge. After a very late start, we kind of missed breakfast, but lunch and supper were both leftover meals. I have got soooo much turkey leftover, that I think we will be eating it for some time. Lunch today used up our roasted vegetables and sweet potatoes. I tossed the roasted broccoli into some eggs, along with some Irish Cheddar cheese and made a frittata. To accompany that, I took the sweet potatoes and fried it up, so it was sort of like refried sweet potatoes. Very good, actually. The frittata was perfect, and I was very happy that I actually used leftovers. Dinner tonight started out being a very simple dinner of turkey and gravy over biscuits. While I was working in the kitchen though, Zander walked in and asked "supper? Macaroni and cheese?" How could I say no. The problem was that I didn't have any macaroni and cheese. And my kids do not care for homemade baked mac and cheese.

FoodTV to the rescue. I had remembered Alton Brown's episode on macaroni and cheese. So I varied his recipe a little, and came up with a very good stovetop macaroni and cheese. And I was able to use leftover cheeses from the appetizers on Thanksgiving. I will post Alton's recipe below. My changes were to leave out the mustard and hot sauce, use twice as much evaporated milk, and for cheese I used half gouda and half medium cheddar. It will definitely be made again here. Although I prefer homemade mac and cheese, Annie's makes a very good boxed one, and I tend to make that. But this was just as easy as opening a box, and it was full of yumminess. So here is the recipe. Enjoy!


Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Great Sugar Cookie Search


After three days of nothing but food, you'd hardly think that I need to be baking or eating something other than the mounds and mounds of leftovers. That is not the case here. :-) Today we put up the Christmas tree, and that called for a trial of yet another sugar cookie. This is the one I posted before for Val without trying. I did make one change, and that was to use 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of soda, versus the 2 of powder called for. I didn't want a super soft cookie, and I did get something in the middle. They are a very good cookie. Nicely crisp around the edges, with a snap when you bite in, then your teeth meet the cakey part of the cookie, and grab hold of the sugary goodness. My only thought for these cookies is that they need more of a vanilla punch to stand on their own. (Meaning without the icing and sprinkles in my house.) I do want to make them again using either vanilla sugar or double strength vanilla. However, before I make these again, I want to try the recipe Val shared in the comments part of the same posting.

I hope everyone had as great of a Thanksgiving as I did. It was so great to spend time with my family, but especially my sisters. I never get to just spend time with them, and we braved Black Friday and went shopping. It was fun. Very nice to spend together, but I have to say, the highlight of the day was spending it with John. It was so fantastic to spend some time getting to know him and to see exactly how happy he makes my sister Lizzie. They definitely have something special, and he is just a wonderful person for treating her like the princess that she is! I am looking forward to being able to call him my brother-in-law, because I love him already! So yeah, my two baby sisters are in the big "L" and are all giddy and happy. It is contagious, and I could not be more excited for them! I think that both Cody and John are perfect fits for my sisters, and of course, they fit right into the family! Yay! This Christmas season will be great and blissful- and then maybe we will move on to Wedding season ladies? :-)

Lol. Everyone have a great evening. I will be back tomorrow with some creative leftovers dish.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Oh...My...

I am so stuffed.

Ugh.

Dinner was fabulous. So good, in fact, that I was able to tempt my brother and his wife into staying for dinner when they really should have been driving home to the twin cities. It was very nice to have them here unexpectedly. :-)

But since I've been eating pretty much since 3:00 today, I am feeling a tad bit uncomfortable. It was definitely worth it. It was a nice Thanksgiving. So now I am off to watch Survivor and relax with my honey.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Can I tempt your tastebuds?

Drum roll please...

Here is the Thanksgiving menu:

Appetizers:

Spinach Dip with Vegetable dippers
Assorted cheeses, sausage, and crackers
Mixed nuts

Dinner:

Cider brined turkey with cider glaze
Sausage and apple stuffing
Smashed Red skin yukon gold potatoes
Sage and cider gravy
Brown butter sweet potatoes
Corn muffins with apple butter
Roasted broccoli with mushroom and grape tomatoes
Sauteed sugar snap peas
Cranberry sauce

And for dessert:

Pumpkin pie with cinnamon cream
Warm buttermilk apple pie
Cranberry pecan pie
Carrot cake or Carameled carrot cake trifle (we'll see when the cake is cut)

We are going to be very full and happy. With our appetizers and dinner we will be having wine and beer TBD yet. Andy has an apple pie spice beer that we are planning on being ready to drink, and I have to do the wine shopping yet. For dessert my sister Lizzie has graciously offered her services as barista and will be providing a full assortment of specialty coffees. Today I made the stuffing, brined the turkey, made my pie dough, and did my food shopping. Tomorrow will be a busy morning in the kitchen, as our first of 3 Thanksgiving dinners will take place tomorrow evening. Yay! I will try and post something tomorrow night before the tryptophan kicks in. :-)


A proud Mommy


That's me today. :-) I had my first ever parent-teacher conferences today. While I did expect good reports about Abigail, I didn't expect them to glow! She is doing extremely well with everything, and is surpassing the other kids in class academically! She has been chosen to participate in an extra math class where she will be doing advanced math two days a week. While other kids in her class are still working on counting and number recognition, Abigail can add up to ten and do problem solving! Reading wise they break up reading and writing into 8 levels, and she is at level 5- which they don't expect from kindergarteners until much later in the school year. Yup. My little girl is a genius. :-) :-) :-)

We have also agreed that Abigail will be bringing home extra homework every other weekend, and she is looking forward to that. This was a very short conference. They tols me how she's doing, and of course there were no concerns or problems, so we wrapped it up quickly. I can certainly handle conferences like that.

Well, I'm off to the kitchen, Thnaksgiving is in two days, and on today's schedule is corn muffins, stuffing, and carrot cake. So I had best get busy. :-)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Comfort Food :-)


I think I missed a day or two...sorry. :-) Where did those days go? Hmm. Anyways, tonight for Company Dinner I made one of the ultimate comfort foods- Chicken Pot Pie. What could be better than a delicious chicken stew topped with a fabulous biscuit topping and baked to bubbly perfection. Add a spinach salad and some homemade whole wheat bread, and it's pure heaven. This pot pie is one my Mom seldom made- it looks like a lot of work, and while it could be, I do simplify it a bit. She had originally gotten the recipe from a box of Bisquik. I have tweaked it some, but the basics are still the same. Mostly I replaced a Bisquik biscuit topping with my own homemade biscuit topping, and it is quite good. The recipe is posted below.

I also have to praise the virtues of a relative newcomer to my kitchen- fennel. I have spoke of this recently, but the more I use it, the more I am loving it. I added a little bit of fennel to my pot pie today, and it gave it such a wonderful extra "oomph". I also chopped up some of the fronds, which of course added to the filling, and really made it look like something special. I have also been snacking on fennel a little bit, and I really like it. I plan to use more this week with a roasted chicken, and possibly as part of my Thanksgiving dinner.

And did I mention Thanksgiving is this week!?!? I am looking forward to it. I have my menu planned, and tomorrow will finalize my timeline. I am trying a new turkey this time. It is in the November issue of Bon Appetit, and is a cider brined turkey. I have really enjoyed the results of brining turkey, but I would also like to try putting stuffing in my turkey instead of just alongside. Well, this brine recipe uses less salt, so I can add my stuffing to the turkey. I am very excited. Now only do I get to welcome my friends and family to my holiday, I also get to meet a very special someone in my sister Lizzie's life- and I am looking forward to meeting the man that treats my baby sister like a Princess.

So with that, I will share my Pot Pie recipe, and toast a cheers to all for a great week ahead!

* Exported from MasterCook *
Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie

3 cups cooked chicken -- cubed
1 cup sliced carrots -- cooked
1 cup potatoes -- cubed and cooked
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup celery -- chopped
1/2 cup onion- diced
1/2 cup fennel bulb- diced
6 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup flour
7 chicken bouillon cubes -- *see Note
4 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Biscuit dough
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup milk

In a large saucepan, cook celery, onion, and fennel in butter until tender. Stir in flour, buillion, and black pepper to taste. Add milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in chicken, carrots, potatoes, peas and seasonings. Remove from heat.
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients for biscuit dough. Cut in butter until crumbly. Add milk and combine well.
Pour chicken mixture into a large baking dish. Drop biscuit dough by spoonfuls over the top. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Turn up heat to 425 and bake until biscuits are cooked through and a nice golden brown.
*Note: If you prefer, use 4 teaspoons of chicken broth base instead of 7 bouillion cubes.
** This recipe is extremely versatile. Add any frozen veggies you have on hand. We like it with broccoli and cauliflower. You can also leave out the carrots and peas originally called for, and just add a bag if frozen mixed vegetables. Also add any herbs that you would like, and you can even add a cup of cheese to the vegetable mixture to make it cheesy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thanks Joe!

A few weeks ago, Joe at Culinary in the Desert made these scrumptious sounding cinnamon rolls. I finally got around to making them today. And boy, does my house smell fantastic!! I wanted to make some cinnamon rolls for our neighbors who have been taking Abigail back and forth to school, and then I thought I should make some cinnamon rolls for the host of a Pampered Chef party I have tonight, and then I wanted some for me. Hmm. Well, the recipe makes 24 rolls, so I decided to break it up into thirds, so everyone will get some. Perfect! I am baking off two pans now, and will refrigerate the others until tomorrow morning so I can wake up my family with them. Here is the recipe for them, along with a recipe for an Italian Wedding Soup that I made for dinner last night. Very easy, and very good.

Well, I am busy with some projects around the house today, so I apologize for the short post- but do make these cinnamon rolls. The scent in the house is soooo worth the effort. And really, it was very little effort for so much cinnamony goodness. :-)

* Exported from MasterCook *
Old-Fashioned Cinnamon Rolls

630 g-700g all-purpose flour (4 3/4 to 5 1/4 cups)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 whole eggs
3 tablespoons butter -- melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Glaze
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk or cream -- (1 to 2)

In a large mixing bowl combine 2-1/4 cups of the flour and the yeast. In a saucepan heat and stir milk, butter, granulated sugar, and salt just until warm (120 degree F to 130 degree F) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture to dry mixture along with eggs. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed 3 minutes. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl, turning once. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).
Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Lightly grease two 9x1-1/2-inch round baking pans. Roll each half of dough into a 12x8-inch rectangle. Brush rectangles with the melted butter. In a small bowl, combine the 2/3 cup sugar and the cinnamon; sprinkle over each dough rectangle evenly. Roll up each rectangle, jelly-roll style, starting from a long side. Seal seams. Slice each roll into 12 pieces. Place, cut sides down, in prepared pans. I find it easiest to cut with unflavored dental floss.
Cover dough loosely with clear plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Uncover; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. (Or, to bake rolls right away, don't chill dough. Instead, cover loosely; let dough rise in warm place until nearly double, about 30 minutes.)Break any surface bubbles with a greased toothpick.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake rolls for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown (if necessary, cover rolls loosely with foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning). Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Drizzle with Vanilla Glaze. Serve warm.

* Exported from MasterCook *
Italian Wedding Soup

1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 egg -- lightly beaten
2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
5 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups thinly sliced escarole or spinach
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/3 cup finely chopped carrots

In medium bowl, combine meat, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, basil, and onion powder; shape into 3/4-inch balls.
In large saucepan, heat broth to boiling; stir in escarole or spinach, pasta, carrot, and meatballs. Return to boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook at slow boil for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender to bite. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.



-

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sugar Cookies

Per a request ;-) Here are the sugar cookies I found on allrecipes:

* Exported from MasterCook *
Sugar Cookie Cutouts

1 cup butter -- softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup colored sugar for decoration

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour and baking powder, stir into the creamed mixture alternately with the heavy cream. Cover dough, and chill for 2 to 3 hours, until firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes in the preheated oven, until bottoms and edges of cookies are light brown. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.


I haven't tried them yet, so I can't comment on whether they really are good, but I sure am willing to try them out. The bad recipe I made yesterday was from the Better Homes and Garden's cookbook. Usually a good go-to book, but those cutouts were not good. I should have known when it called for 1/3 cup butter and 1/3 cup shortening. Sugar cookies should be buttery. Not...floury tasting and dry. If anyone else has a "perfect" sugar cookie, I am forever on the lookout- so please share!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Snow day!!!!

Yes, it is snowing! I can honestly say that I am not ready for snow. Yuck. It's also blustery, so it is full fledged winter here today. I am not a winter fan- except for the days and days of baking that ensue because just looking outside makes me cold. Abigail came home from school with a note that said if she doesn't have boots and snowpants, she cannot play in the snow. Nice. Now she wants me to send her to school in boots and snowpants. Which we don't have. At least, not the boots. There is no way she will fit into last years boots, and I am sooo not driving into town on a snowy blustery night. Poor girl will have to wait. Tomorrow I am running in with Mom, so I will pick up a pair for her then.

Anyway, in honor of the snow, I made a batch of sugar cookies today. Sugar cookies just scream winter. Especially when paired with a nice mug of hot chocolate. I tried a new recipe for sugar cookies, and I won't even bother posting it. They really aren't very good. But a nice layer of frosting and sprinkles, and they sure made my angel light up when she got home from school. I did find a recipe today on allrecipes.com, so when I get around to trying that one, I will share it- it has great reviews. It is made with whipping cream- how can that be bad. :-)

Tonight's dinner is homemade pizza. I will happily share my recipe for pizza dough. I got it about 3 years ago from Sara Moulton, and it has been my pizza dough ever since. It is easy and makes enough for two large pizzas. It also makes great breadsticks, calzones, foccaccia, or caramel pecan rolls. Tonights offerings will be topped with cheese, bacon, pineapples, red peppers, mushrooms, and onions. I plan to roast the peppers, mushrooms, and onions before adding them to the pizza. If I cn find some on the freezer, I want to add some spinach as well. Here is the dough, enjoy:

Pizza Dough

1/4 cup lukewarm water (110-115 degrees)
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (or 1 packet)
4 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup cold water
1 Tbs olive oil

Combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, cold water, and oil, to the flour mixture. Stir to combine, dump out onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough for 5- 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Let rest for 5 minutes. Spray a large bowl with cookling spray, add the pizza dough. Spray top of dough, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place free of drafts for 1 hour. Punch down the dough, knead briefly, and let rise a second time, about 30 minutes.

To make pizza: Divide dough in half (one recipe makes two large pizzas). Top dough as desired and bake at 500 for 10-15 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned and cheese is bubbly.

To make focaccia: Divide dough in half. Shape dough to desired shape. Cover with plastic and let rise again for another 30 minutes. Dimple the dough with your fingers. Drizzle with good olive oil, and top as desired (I like fresh rosemary, sea salt, and black pepper). Bake at 500 for about 15 minutes- or until golden brown.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Feeling Lucky?


Baked custard.

Always have loved to order it out. But I have never made it myself. So tonight I looked up a recipe for baked custard, and then decided that I wanted to attempt a Caramel Flan. I checked the recip, it seemed simple enough. Mix together eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla, and pour into a ramekin that has already had a layer of caramel put in it. The first step was to make the caramel. The instructions said to put sugar in a pan by itself and melt-without stirring, but swirling the pan occasionally. No problem. Well, my first attempt I think I had the pan on too high, because I thought the caramel smelled a little dark, and I did not want that burnt sugar taste. SO I started over, and was successful the second time.

The review? Yum. It really was easy and quite good. Andy- not so much. He doesn't think he cared for the caramel part- so plain baked custard for him next time. But he liked the custard itself, so we will make it again. I think it would make a fabulous company dessert. Very impressive, but very little effort involved. You could pop the custards into the oven just as you serve dinner, and by the time you are ready for dessert, the custards would be cooked and slightly cooled enough for eating. Here is the recipe for you, try it! You will be surprised.

Baked Custards

3 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
ground nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 325. Combine eggs, milk, sugar, and vailla. Beat till well combined but not foamy. Place four 6 oz ramekins in an 8x8x2 inch baking dush on an oven rack. Pour egg mixture into the ramekins. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon, if desired. POur boiling water into the baking dish around custard cups to a depth of 1 inch.

Bake in a 325 oven for 30 to 45 minutes or till a knife inserted near the centers comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled.

Caramel Flan: Prepare as above, except in a heavy saucepan cook 1/3 cup sugar over medium high heat (do not stir) till sugar begins to melt; shake saucepan occasionally. Reduce heat to low and cook until sugar is golden brown; stir frequently. Divide sugar mixture among custard cups. Tilt to coat bottoms. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add egg mixture. Bake individual cusatrds as above. Remove from custard cups to serve.

Turn off the TV night


Is tonight in our house. I think it is kind of funny, actually. Abigail's school is celebrating books this week, and part of that is turn off the TV night. What is funny, is that there is no effort here for that. Abigail watches very little TV after school anyways. She will watch for maybe an hour- a video sometimes, but usually she just watches Little Bear at 4:30. Other than that, this should be an easy night for her. We can easily end up reading 10 or 12 stories by the time a night is through, so we will have no problems celebrating books in our house.

Yesterday at school for snack time her class made pancakes. Each child got to make their own. They had read Pancake, Pancake, and Abigail was so excited that she made pancakes. =) So tonight for supper we will be having blueberry pancakes at the request of Abigail. She wants to make them, so we'll see how much she does before she gets bored witht he process. The tricky part will be coming up with a way for Zander to help, since he has to be right there in the thick of it with his big sister. Maybe I will add sprinkles to the pancakes? He likes to take a pinch and sprinkle.

Anyway, today I will report back with a post on something. I just don't know what yet. I am still in the mood to bake, but the pantry is starting to run a little low, so we'll see what I come up with. The big benefit to Abigail carpooling for a while is that I am still in my comfy jammies, having coffee, and Zander is still sound asleep. No crabby boys today. (Insert happy dance.) Andy had guys over for football last night, so for the most part, the house is clean even, and I can just relax and spend a morning pouring over my cookbooks. So I will go do that. Have a great day everyone!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Completely Irrational :-)


That's me today. This morning I sent my Precious Princess to school with someone else. Since she started Kindergarten, either Andy or I have taken her to school every day, and picked her up every day. (Except for once- Thanks Grandma!) Andy started his new job today, so he had to take my van. I am carless. While it is not far to school, and not to cold for myself or Abigail, it does get cold quickly for the litle boy who simply rides in the wagon. So I asked our neighbors if we could carpool for awhile until we get a second car for Andy. They are very nice, their kids are great, and it has been nice getting to know them. It just was wierd sending Abigail to school with someone else. But I am very grateful that they are available. I am thinking that they may get a batch of hot cinnamon rolls one of these mornings.

So yeah, Andy started a new job this morning, I am at home with Zander, without vehicle, and the musical is over. See my happy dance? I have to wash about 4 loads of costumes, label them properly and hang them, and deliver them to school before I am officially done, but really, the stress is over. Andy and I both really felt that last night. We were in bed by 9:30 last night, and I feel nice and released this morning. I do have a bit of cleaning to do, as its been crazy madhouse for a week, but it will be nice to return to some kind of normal around here.

Well, Zander is happily watching Thomas The Tank Engine, so I should get some work done before he wants Mommy time. I will post back later if I have an adventure in the kitchen today- which is entirely possible.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Baking Frenzy

I'm just in the mood.

The mood to bake. Yesterday I used some expired bananas to make a chocolate chip banana bread. Yum. Then I used some past their prime apples to make pie. Yum. Today I went and cleaned the church and found that no one is signed up for tomorrows after service munchies. Not a problem. So I made a huge pan of pumpkin bars and right now a pan of Blondies are in the oven. More yum. The pumpkin bars are pretty standard, but I love them. I don't think I've ever made them though, now that I think about it. But I like that the recipe makes a full half sheet pan- that's plenty of bars for hungry people. The blondie recipe I used is my Grandma's recipe that my Mom always made for us. It is my favorite bar cookie ever. It doesn't contain white sugar- just brown, and it has a fabulous caramel flavor that just can't be beat. They are smelling really good. I may have to give them a little nibble before tomorrow. :-)

Pumpkin Bars

1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
2 c. pumpkin
4 eggs
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix ingredients together. Pour into a greased jelly roll pan. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350. Cool and frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. neufchatel cheese, softened
4 Tbs. butter, softened
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients until smooth. Spread on cooled bars. Top with finely chopped walnuts, if desired.


Grandma's Blondies

2/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix melted butter and brown sugar. Add vanilla and eggs, mix well. Add dry ingredients. Toss walnuts and chocolate chips with 1 TBS flour and fold into batter. Spread into a greased cake pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The show must go on!

Today was the first day of the end of madness. :-) Today we held our official dress rehearsal for Bye Bye Birdie. The dress rehearsal is technically a performance. It is a performance for our school districts 4th and 5th grade students. It gives our cast a chance to fine tune their performances while playing to an audience, and the little kids always are an enthusiastic audience. There was many a glitch today, but hopefully they are all out of the system, and it will be smooth sailing from here on out.

The set is done, the costumes are done, and all we can do now is be a support system for the cast and crew and run the show to its conclusion. Our job is not over until we leave school on Sunday night with an empty stage. I am looking forward to Sunday. Today I told Andy that I am actually looking forward to simple tasks like cleaning the house. Pretty much since we moved in here, I've had my mind towards all I need to accomplish for the musical, and the house has sorely disintegrated. I'm looking forward to actually spending time in all the bedrooms, rearranging the furniture until it is something I am excited about. Putting new things on the walls, actually coming up with a vision for the master suite, and playing in the kitchen (of course) are things I am eagerly anticipating. Of course, we have Thanksgiving in two weeks and how can I not look forward to that! It sounds like we will have quite the full house. And even better- we get to celebrate Thanksgiving 3 days in a row!!! We get to spend Wednesday evening at Mom's for Thanksgiving dinner, then Thursday at our house, and then back to Mom's on Friday. There just wasn't a way for Mom to get the whole family together on one day, so we will get together every time we have opportunity. I have no problem with that. :-p

So I'm very tired, and not pulling together very cohesive thoughts tonight, so I will cut short by saying this:

Above all things: Avoid the Banquet Crock Pot dinners found in the freezer section. I threw one in the crockpot today before I left for school. I threw it down the garbage disposal when we got home, and pasta made a repeat performance this week. Let's just say that calling this stuff Dog Food is kind. Blech. So stay away.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Hey- I cooked something new today!

Sort of. :-) I made basic pasta and marinara tonight for dinner. Which of course I have done many times before. But I did try a new marinara recipe today. I tried Giada's Basic Marinara from Everyday Italian, and I was not disappointed. It was bright and fresh tasting- exactly what I want in a marinara. I did make a few changes to suit my palate, but nothing too drastic. I followed her directions and used San Marzano tomatoes. Soooo worth the extra $2.50 a can for the San Marzanos. They are a wonderfully sweet tomato with almost zero acidity. Yum. They would be perfect for tomato soup actually.

For my changes, I add a few dashes of dried basil and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flake to the sauce as it cooked. And I didn't quite dice the vegetables small enough so I took the immersion blender to it for a few passes- not too many, so there were still some chunks. And the last change I made was to add a handful of fresh basil. It was extremely simple, and if you are looking for a fresh tasting marinara give this one a try. If you like a hearty meaty sauce this is not for you. :-) The recipe made plenty so I am going to tuck the rest in the freezer for another time. Another variation Giada gives is to add some olives for a puttanesca sauce, so I may do that, you just can't go wrong by adding kalamata olives and some feta cheese. Mmmm.

Here is Giada's recipe, it says it makes about 8 cups, but I think I ended up with about 10.


Marinara Sauce
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

Saturday, November 5, 2005

So they said the turkey was good.

But I certainly wouldn't know. I woke up at 5:00 am yesterday morning for my own visit to the bathroom. And pretty much spent the rest of the day alternating between there and the couch. Yuck. I felt completely awful. The dilemma was: what to do with this turkey that HAD to be cooked. So Andy called up our friends, and together they all arranged to get together at another home. That still left the turkey, stuffing, and gravy in my hands. Andy to the rescue. He did a very good job playing Mr. Mom, and managed to look out for both kids while making the turkey. AND he also did laundry and kept the kitchen clean. I need to get sick more often. No. Not really.

So it's a very good thing this was not the REAL Thanksgiving. Well, it was a real Thanksgiving, so maybe that's not the right wording. But it is good that I get another go at it. I am very sad that I missed spending time with Dan before he ships out. Best wishes Dan! Go Save the Mideast!!

I'm still not feeling well, and I'm being very mindful of Zander and Andy. I'm really hoping that the antibiotics that Zander has been on will prevent him from getting the bug, but I still expect it at any second. Andy has claimed that he is feeling a bit exhausted today- so maybe it's his turn? I'm not sure. He certainly deserves to feel exhausted after his busy day yesterday. Good thing he wasn't working. :-) So anyway, nothing new to report. I don't feel much like eating or cooking- even watching FoodTV is a little nauseating, so it may be a few days. But I do have plans for next week. So tune in then to find out what it is. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

I will likely miss tomorrow.

I figure that there is a good chance I will miss posting tomorrow because of Thanksgiving Dinner. But I had to come on and post my successes today. It was a crazy busy day that started at the bright hour of 5:00 am. Abigail woke me up with a tummy ache. That set off an alarm bell- friends of ours had a stomach bug a few days earlier. Sure enough, 20 minutes later she was sitting up in bed crying and making quite the mess. So she had her first sick day, and I was facing a day of getting not much done. This morning I worked on getting my kitchen clean enough to cook in and speniding time with Abigail and Zander. Poor Abigail. There is nothing worse than a sick child. Sweet Zander was trying to share treats with her all day, and was so concerned every time she was sleeping. I had to spend a lot of extra time today playing with him since he was denied his playmate. I certainly didn't mind that. ;-)

Anyway, in between my kids, I did get a lot done for tomorrow! I started with the pie and got that made up. It was the pumpkin pie I'd posted earlier- but without the cranberries. I also got the herb butter made for basting the turkey, and the gravy base for the gravy. Then I made up the stuffing short of adding the broth, so that just need to be mixed and baked. I also got two dips made for the appetizers and the turkey out of the brine. I think that's my list. Oh and I decided I wanted to make scones tomorrow, so I made some cinnamon sugar butter for spreading on the scones. So tomorrows list is: One appetizer, a cheese tray, scones, mashed potatoes and herbed peas. Nothing terribly difficult, and it should all go well. I'm looking forward to it.

So I'm off to bed I think, after I finish my cup of tea. I may be needed again in the middle of the night, and I'm already dragging. I want to be certain I am my cheery best tomorrow. Happy Early Thanksgiving everyone!

The turkey is brining!


Well, last night I got the turkey brining! Later tonight I will take it out of the brine to rest overnight. Today I have quite a few things to do, but forgetting my shopping list yesterday is really hurting me today. Abigail is home with her first sick day, so I can't just go running around. :-( My poor girl. Andy is going to come home later so I can run and pick up the must haves from my local grocery store. I was so proud of my timeline. Seriously. It was like this:

Wednesday: am: shopping
2:00 pm: prepare gravy base
9:00 pm: brine turkey
Thursday: am: make pie dough
1:00 pm: make appetizer dips
2:00 pm: make pumpkin pie
3:00 pm: prepare stuffing and broth seperately
4:00 pm: remove turkey from brine

And it went on. I was very proud of my timeline. It is out the window, but I will do what I can when I can I suppose. At the very least, I can re-use the timeline for Thanksgiving Day. :-) I thought I would share my turkey recipe here. It is long, and it looks daunting, but it is great for making ahead of time. The herb butter can be made successfully with dried herbs. In fact, since my trip into Green Bay is on hold, I will most likely use dried ones again this time around. I just reduce the herb amounts by 1/3. Where something calls for 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, I use 2 teaspoons. It all works out, and the herb gravy is seriously the best gravy I have ever made. I absolutely love the process of the gravy base that you just whisk in the drippings in the end. So here is the recipe, complements of www.epicurious.com and Bon Appetit magazine. I owe my Thanksgiving to them.

HERB-ROASTED TURKEY WITH APPLE CIDER GRAVYBrining the turkey in the refrigerator for two days ensures an incredibly moist result. We do not recommend stuffing brined turkeys because the brine can make the stuffing too salty. A do-ahead gravy base eliminates last-minute stirring and thickening. Look for fresh bay leaves in the produce section.

Brining
8 quarts cold water
2 cups coarse kosher salt
8 large fresh or dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole allspice
1 16- to 17-pound turkey; giblets removed, neck reserved

Herb butter and gravy
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
3 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups apple cider
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy) or other brandy
Roasting
2 large Granny Smith apples, quartered, cored
2 large onions, quartered
1 cup apple cider

To brine the turkey: Line extra-large pot or bowl with two 13-gallon (or larger) plastic bags, 1 inside the other. Combine 1 quart water, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until salt dissolves. Remove from heat. Add 1 quart cold water and cool to lukewarm. Pour into plastic bags; mix in remaining 6 quarts water. Wrap turkey neck and refrigerate. Submerge turkey in brine to cover completely, gathering bags tightly to eliminate any air; tie bags closed. Refrigerate turkey in brine in pot at least 18 hours and up to 20 hours.

Line large roasting pan with 4 layers of paper towels. Remove turkey from brine and drain well; discard brine. Place turkey in prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

For herb butter and gravy: Mix parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, and nutmeg in small bowl. Transfer 1/4 cup herb mixture to small bowl; mix in 1/2 cup butter.
Combine broth and apple cider in heavy large saucepan. Boil until reduced to 3 cups, about 20 minutes. Pour broth reduction into bowl. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in same saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Whisk in broth reduction, then cream, Calvados, and remaining herb mixture. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until gravy base is thickened and reduced to 2 3/4 cups, whisking often, about 20 minutes. Cool gravy base slightly. (Gravy base and herb butter can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

To roast the turkey: Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Remove turkey from roasting pan; drain any accumulated juices from main cavity. Discard paper towels from roasting pan. Melt herb butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Brush bottom of roasting pan with some of herb butter. Return turkey to prepared pan. Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Place some apple quarters and onion quarters in main cavity. Brush remaining herb butter over turkey; sprinkle with pepper. Scatter remaining apples and onions around turkey in pan. Add reserved turkey neck to pan.
Roast turkey 1 hour. Baste with 1/2 cup apple cider. Roast turkey 30 minutes. Baste with remaining 1/2 cup cider. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting turkey every 30 minutes with pan juices and covering breast loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 2 hours longer (3 1/2 hours total). Transfer turkey to platter; let stand at least 30 minutes before carving (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).
Discard apples, onions, and turkey neck from pan. Pour pan juices into large glass measuring cup; spoon off fat from surface. Pour degreased juices into gravy base and bring to boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Boil until gravy thickens enough to coat spoon and is reduced to 3 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Season gravy to taste with pepper.
Serve turkey with gravy.
Makes10 servings.
Bon App├ętitNovember 2003

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Taking a tiny bit of time for an update :-)


I figure I should take a second and post a few updates for everyone. I am taking a pause between making dinner and sewing a few accessories for the show to get my thoughts in order. I feel like a mad hen this evening. I am in a last minute scramble to get the set finished for the show, and my vision is coming together nicely, in my opinion. I am also trying to plan and pull off a Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. It will be fun and a blast. I have a carefully laid out my timeline over the next three days, and like any best laid plans... Today Zander and I went shopping for set things, a fresh turkey, and groceries for turkey dinner. Would have worked better if I'd remembered my gorcery list. :-s

So I did get most of my set things, minus those darn telephones. I had every intention of picking them up today, but ran out of time- so that means one more trip into Green Bay tomorrow. Which is fine since I still need to do my grocery shopping. Poor Zander is going to get very sick of running around. It's a good thing that gas went down to $2.39 today. And in the meantime, I have pieces of set EVERYWHERE and my house is so trashed. I have no idea how I'm going to get everything cleaned up and put away for Friday.

On the job front, Andy did go and officially fill out his job paperwork on Monday, and he will be back to work this coming Monday. So yippee! We're still not entirely sure what his pay rate will be, but let me tell you, it is a guaranteed raise from where he was- so that's awesome news. We have also pretty much made the decision today that we will likely not be doing the musical again after this year. There has been an extreme lack of understanding, as well as a blatant disregard for both of our time and talents. So we would rather not do it. It has been a hostile environment for Andy up at the school, and that is certainly not something we want our children experiencing through us. It is constantly being flung in our faces that we are getting paid to do yada, yada, yada. While we are doing these yadas, we are also going above and beyond, and the ironic thing is that we would do what we do without the financial compensation for our time. Those high school kids deserve to have as good of a show as they can have, and they work so hard. It is so thrilling to see their faces after they have put on a stellar performance. That is why we have done the musical. It is strictly for the kids, and somewhere along the line this year it became about the director, and that is awful. My heart is breaking for those poor kids who are getting chewed out at every corner. I will miss them next year, but there comes a point where we have to focus on our own children, and we are at that point. While we will miss it, we will be much happier being stress-free.

Okay, well, the roast is beeping at me, so I best go put the finishing touches on a speedy dinner, before the monsters tear apart the kitchen looking for their candy stash. :-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Countdown to Thanksgiving!!


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. How could it not be. There is something magical about Thanksgiving dinners. I absolutely love sharing meals with family and friends. Usually we spend Thanksgiving Day with friends, and the day after with family. (After a major day of shopping of course). This year it is my turn to host the turkey day, but I get a bonus. I get to do a trial run this coming Friday. Yippee! There is nothing better than coming together with loved ones to eat, drink, and be merry. Which is exactly what we will be doing.

So unfortunately for those in foodie-dom, I may have a few days of not so much actual cooking as prepping. But it will be fun, and most assuredly, there will be some form of disaster lurking around the corner for me. :-) Later today I am going to finalize my menu and make an appropriate timeline. Tomorrow I will be shopping so that I can gt my turkey brining on Thursday. Oh yes, I said brined. My "offical" turkey is one from Bon Appetit magazine. It is an herb roasted turkey with apple cider gravy. Yummers. I love that it is versatile for making ahead of time. In fact, I am trying ot get as much of the meal done beofre Friday as possible. That way I can spend Friday cleaning the house and getting out all the autumnal decorations. I can't wait. Later today after I get my timeline and shopping list down, I will come back and share a recipe or two. But until then...wish me luck!

Happy Tuesday!