Sunday, April 30, 2006
It's almost over. It started as a grand adventure. A fun way to create a product for raising money. Who doesn't love caramel apples. And even better, who wouldn't love a caramel apple loaded with goodies and chocolate. Little did I know how much of a hassle the last two days would be!! I was looking forward to the challenge. Thursday Zander and I did our shopping. Pounds of butter, brown sugar, and half and half started the process. Then I added 15 bags of assorted REAL chocolate chips, followed by 4 pounds of Whoppers, 2 1/2 pounds of Peanut Butter Cups, 4 Boxes of Cereal, plenty of nuts, coconut, and mini marshmallows. Finally, the gilding, the cello bags and the wooden sticks necessary to facilitate the dunking process.
So. A few days last week I made a couple of batches of caramel so that all I would have to do is melt them in a crock pot for dunking. So Saturday morning I washed 72 Granny Smith Apples and gave each of them a stick. I moved on to crush Whoppers, chop PB cups, chop almonds, and crush granola a little more fine than what it was. I prepared each of my mixtures, and then proceeded with the caramel. I tossed the two previous batches of caramel into a Nesco roaster and turned it on to low. Then turned to the stove and proceeded with a double batch of caramel. I was thinking that 4 batches would be enough, but had ingredients for one more batch in reserve. I pulled my thermometer out, and wouldn't you know it! The glass bulb snmapped in two. Unbelieveable. Lucky for me, I have a probe thermometer, and I guessed that would just have to do. My pan was just big enough for that double batch- it came within 1.4 inch of the top of the pan. Whew. Things were going my way and looking up. about 40 minutes later, I had a ready double batch and proceeded to dump it into my roaster with the two that were softening. Some of that caramel was still pretty firm, so I started stirring it all together.
Of course, 5 minutes later I notice slime. I see a layer of grease. Sigh. I thought that maybe I could still plunge the apples...yeah right. Now anyone who's made candy before would realize that my butter had separated and that put me back about 30 minutes, because I needed to add water and start the cooking process again to bring it back together. I was really worried about this. I had four batches of caramel here, which meant that I needed to pull out my large stainless pot- which tends to burn candy. I forged ahead, and before long I had my caramel ready for dipping. I moved very quickly, I was so worried about burning. So I started dunking and rolling, dunking and rolling, and it was actually going fairly well. I did have problems with my PB cups melting and sliding off, so I had to give the dipped apples an extra little bit of time to cool before pressing in the goodies. Well, I am down to about 17 apples when the darn caramel separates again. By this time, it's getting darker, and I didn't think I could save it a second time successfully. So I halted, and figured that I could get back to the apples today with a fresh batch of caramel.
So last night I gave those apples plenty of time to firm up before melting my assorted chocolates. The chocolate is the fun part. Everyone knows that I love to play with chocolate. So I drizzled and drizzled, and they were looking pretty darn good. I had already figured that I needed to stay up pretty late last night because after the chocolate set, I needed to wrap each one up individually in a cello bag. Yeah, only I picked up the wrong size cello bags, and there was no way I was squeezing these apples in. So as I type this, my dear husband is on his way back into Green Bay to pick up the larger size of bags for the apples. So annoying. (Not my husband, the bags.)
So, in summary. I have suffered lack of sleep, two blisters, one sliver, and bare minimum if a dozen burns that range from most of my fingertips to my forearms to my tongue. I broke a candy thermometer again, and my kids are annoyed that they can't eat the apples. But hey, here are my soldiers ready to do battle. And they look pretty darn good if I say so myself. So I'm off to clean my house now and get ready for Sunday Company Dinner.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Very intriguing post. It is something that has been on my mind for some time. Recently I read a cookbook called Marcella Says... by Marcella Hazan. While I don't much care for the actual recipes for the cookbook, her writing is beautiful. I loved reading her prose, and her stories about childhood and growing up. One particular thing that struck me was when she talked about teaching cooking classes as a young woman. She would teach them in her home to women who didn't know how to cook. This was in a different time, women were expected to cook, so these classes were very beneficial to those who took them. Those housewives NEEDED to learn how to make a perfect roast chicken.
But what about today? What about all those people who grew up on Mac and Cheese out of a box and TV dinners? What about all those people who rely on frozen cardboard pizza as a meal during the week- sometimes two or three times? While some of those people may profess to hate cooking, (and maybe they do) what if they just don't know how? What if something as simple as roasting a chicken is so daunting to them that they limit themselves to store bought rotisserie chicken? What if a simple Pasta Marinara sauce is just beyond comprehension? There has to be a way to fix that! Ever since I read that book by Marcella, I've had this solid thought in my head that I want to teach cooking classes. But what are my qualifications? I dunno. But then I watch a show like The Next Food Network Star, and I just couldn't believe that these cooks did not know how to dice an onion or julienne carrots. That I CAN do, and I don't even want a Food Network show. I also don't know what kind of "rules" and laws are in our state for such an adventure. And it is very difficult and daunting to attempt to look up such laws. Then again, maybe I'm really out there. Maybe people wouldn't be willing to give up a night a week or a Saturday afternoon to learn how to make a classic beef stew.
So here's the premise, and I really, really want feedback on this one. If you are not a registered blogger- that's okay. Leave a comment as anonymous, it's permitted here, but I really want to know what people think about this one. And what you think your friends would think.
I want to combine the concept of the home party and the concept of the prepare a meal franchise. Think Pampered Chef meets Dream Dinners. For a set fee, you would meet at a kitchen (In this case, it would be mine). For that fee you would get all the ingredients necessary to make a meal (Or two or three) and step by step instruction. It would be completely hands on. You would actually make the Chicken Parmesan, but I would provide the ingredients and instruction. You would be required to bring designated dishes that you take your finished product home in- like a lasagna pan for the lasagna. It would be round table format- four or five people gathered at the counter, armed with cutting boards and knives. What you get to take home with you is a finished dish (or two or three) ready to cook or reheat for your family. You also get the recipes used so that you can recreate it yourself- now that you know how. While you are in my kitchen, you would also get an opportunity to taste and sample the finished dish, so that you can adjust your seasonings according to your families tastes.
So would you do this? Or do you know people who would do this? I'm not looking to start something like this next week, and I realize that putting this out there, by the time I get around to doing such a thing, someone else may be doing it, but I would really appreciate the feedback on this one. Most days I am generating 60+ views here, so I know you are reading... :-)
Okay, I really like this one. I mean, I really like this coffee. The package states "Front line fuel from a blend of South American dark and medium roasts to create a well balanced smooth taste." That description is right on the money. We usually prefer a darker, bolder coffee. Our everyday standard is a French Roast. We are not espresso drinkers, but we do enjoy a great cup of dark coffee. Blogs of Bravery is a great way to start your day, or get a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up. It has a fantastic intense coffee aroma that makes you smile as you raise your mug to your mouth. Taking a sip gives you an instant jolt. An instant hit of "ooh, now that's good!" It has a fabulously warm, dark coffee flavor, but as with other coffees from Boca Java- there is virtually no bitterness! The aftertaste is simply of good coffee, and you are left wanting another sip. It's dangerously simple to find yourself having 2-3 cups of this coffee, and before you know it, you're bouncing off the walls. How do they do it! Is it the freshness? The fact that it's been roasted just a few weeks ago? I love this coffee. We have tried virtually every kind of coffee in the stores today, and nothing can compare to this. For a while we were receiving Gevalia coffees, but they don't even come close. The richness and boldness of Boca Java has me sold. Interested? Click on the Boca Java icon to the right on my sidebar. They have so many coffees to choose from- and every single one is freshly roasted for you! It just doesn't get any better than that.
Tagged with: Boca Java, Coffee
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Well, I've gone to start today's post several times already this morning. But then I've thought of other things and have gotten distracted. I guess part of me is avoiding the inevitable. By starting today's weigh-in post, I had to actually commit to running upstairs and hopping on that scale. Maybe I can claim moments of weakness, or maybe I actually do posess a faulty bathroom measurement device. But the long and short of it is that I have not lost anymore weight this week. I have not gained...always a positive...but I have not lost. But I have lost something, and that is my motivation.
This morning I found myself singing "Where oh where has my motivation gone." Monday was so hard for me. I was tired, and I was really looking forward to nap time when I could catch up on some TV viewing and just relax. But all I could think about was that I NEEDED to get some exercise in. So after I laid Zander down and helped myself to a quick lunch, I VERY grudgingly did a 30 minute Boot Camp workout. And the whole time I am not wanting to do it- looking forward to the 30 minute mark so I could turn the darn thing off. And I swear my mental state has some effect on the quality of the workout, because I felt like I had completely wasted that half hour. So yesterday came along, I got Zander down and I went back and forth on that workout. I also had Monday night's 7th Heaven and Everwood waiting for me on the DVR, and I was so waffly! Do you know what I did? I headed to the kitchen, threw some cookies in the oven and sat down to watch my beloved shows.
I deserve to be taken out and be stoned with cookies. ;-)
I have no idea what today is going to bring. I've really been bit with the baking bug, the last few days have seen cupcakes, chocolate cake, and cookies go through the kitchen, and I have this urge to dash in there and whip something up. I do have to make some caramel today for this coming weekend's caramel apple goings-on, so maybe that will help out.
I was so going back and forth on really posting today, but what's the point of posting my little adventure here if I am not completely honest. The point is to be accountable to myself, and it helps that I know so many people check in here... But then I got a really nice e-mail from someone who mentioned they haven't checked in on the blog the last few weeks because they didn't want to feel let down for not keeping up. Well, today's post is inspired by that person- because everyone who attempts any kind of weight loss program is going to stumble and fall. I think it's worse on those of us who can cook and bake. Really. We don't have to worry so much about a package of cookies or a candy bar calling. What we have to worry about calling is all the random ingredients in the pantry that can easily be combined to become the most decadent pudding cake... And the answer there is certainly not to banish flour, butter, and eggs from the kitchen. It's finding the balance. I'm just not willing to give up the goodies. I love to make them, I love to eat them, and I absolutely love the look on Abigail's face when she walks in the door from school and sees the cooling racks loaded with cookies. And the look on Zander's face while he samples all the ingredients seperately, and then waits patiently for the first batch to cool down enough to eat one. I will happily maintain a few extra few pounds specifically for that purpose.
So where does that leave me? That leaves me at that darn exercise. I HAVE to expend the extra calories I want to take in. I am still eating smarter at meal times. Loading up on the veggies and good carbs, but if I want to indulge in ice cream sandwiches and truffle cheesecake, I have to work for it. I have to find a way to look at not eating the goodies as a positive versus a negative, and I have to do a daily workout. I do go for at least one walk every day with Zander. And I have also been working on some spring cleaning, so that's fairly intensive cleaning- which counts as exercise in my world. But somewhere here, I have to find that spark. That bit of energy and gumption to pull out my step and do a workout. I guess we will see. I make no promises, only to be completely honest here and hopefully in the next few days I will find that motivation and inspiration.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I was not disappointed. Nearly every page turn had me making a mental checklist as far as when this recipe will be tryed out. There are a few recipes that seem to be a little more time committal, but the end results certainly appear worth it. Every other page has a gorgeous color photo of the completed dish. It really is a beautiful cookbook. I do have two bones to pick with this cookbook however.
The first bone is for timing. While there is a chapter devoted to grilling, a vast majority of the recipes in this book are family dishes, comfort foods. Pasta dishes and casseroles and slow cooked meats hardly scream warm weather to me. Most of the dishes in this book are screaming to be made...in October when the weather has us reaching for the comfort of a warm gooey baked ziti. I am trying to figure out the reasoning for an April release for this book. I will certainly be trying a recipe or two before cooler weather, but unfortunately, most will likely wait until the comfort season arrives once more.
My second bone to pick with this cookbook is that almost all of these recipes can also be found on FoodTV's website. As I was reading through the book, most of the recipes I could see her making- I've seen her dive in and take a bite of that big beautiful timbale before. Now for someone like me, who loves cookbooks, I would rather have them hardbound and in my possesion than online where I can look at them. But for someone who is maybe a little more discretionary with their cookbook purchases, this may not be the book for you.
Overall, I am thrilled with her new book. Caveats aside, I intend this cookbook to get plenty of use in my kitchen. My advice to others who may be considering this book is to wait a few weeks until the price goes down a little bit. It's definitely a must-have for my kitchen, but it's not so much an urgent must-have.
Monday, April 24, 2006
From there we headed to Home Depot, and lucky us, they have their garden area going up. The kids were so excited to see all the plants and flowers. And by golly, if they didn't spend time smelling each and every single flower, just enjoying each flowers beauty and unique fragrance. These are children who know the meaning of life! After arriving home, Abigail and Mommy got busy working on her new tie shoes. I demonstrated a few times the method of "loop, swoop, and pull", but the poor girl got so frustrated. So I tied them for her, but told her she wouldn't be able to wear them to school until she could tie them herself. Wouldn't you know, a few hours later she was hiding behind the shed when she yelled- "I did it!" and came running out with 2 perfectly tied shoes! She forgot to practice yesterday, but promised she'd do so after school today, so she can wear her new shoes this week yet.
Lately, Andy and I have received criticism for some of our choices as parents. I expect we will forever receive such comments, but the one I find almost funny is the complaint from people when I tell them that our kids do not have babysitters. There have been times where we have left a child or two in the care of Grandma, or one if their aunties. But most often it's for things like a doctor's appointment, or a necessity. We certainly don't get a sitter for leisure activities. What would the point be? Seriously. Why on Earth do Andy and I need to pay a sitter $5.00 an hour so that we can go out and spend even more on a nice dinner and a movie, only to spend the entire time discussing our kids? Undoubtedly we end up picking up a few things for them as well, and the whole evening we spend simply wishing we had our kids along with us. They behave incredibly when we go out to dinner, so why not just take them with us? Why, because as a married couple you need your time together, to be a couple is what we hear. Um, yeah, except that our kids go to bed every night no later than 8:00 pm, we certainly have plenty of "couple time" every day of the week.
About once a month both Andy and I take time for ourselves to get out and be alone, or connect with a friend. I think we both find that so much more rejuvenating than going out together. I love Saturday mornings in the summer. I get out and go to the Farmer's Market and do some shopping, all by my quiet self. I just love it. And that time away makes me come home and appreciate my family so much more. Maybe we're just wierd. Maybe we're just the oddball couple who's kids ARE everything. We've also been told that we spoil our children too much. Absolutely, and they deserve every stitch of it. They both have their moments of naughtiness, but they are both so darn well-behaved. I can't tell you the last time we bought something like a DVD for ourselves. What for? We have a lifetime together to catch up on our movie viewing. But our time with our kids is now. They won't be here with us forever, and we need to make the most of every precious second. And if that means we get a little less time to be grown-ups...well, all the better.
Rewind to yesterday afternoon. At church yesterday, Andy and I found out that some very close friends of ours were having a bit of a money struggle, and their larder was getting dangerously low, with several days until payday. We decided to surprise them by doing some grocery shopping for them. I got Zander down for his nap, and headed to town. Now that was truly fun shopping, I have to say. It was incredibly fun filling a shopping cart with that family in mind. While shopping for them though, there were a few things that caught my eye that I added to the cart for myself. Not much, but a few things like some incredible looking strawberries, graham crackers that we were out of. And grits. So I checked out, moved my few groceries into a little bag fpr me, and headed home to Andy so that he could make the delivery. They were overwhelmed, and we really felt like we helped someone out, it was a great day.
Fast forward to this morning. Just a few mintues ago, in fact. I am seeing that beautiful post of eggs and grits, and I am thinking that I WILL go and make some for brakfast this morning. Because I just bought some grits. I...oh no... I clearly remember picking up the package and putting it in the cart...but I didn't pull it out of the groceries. I am saddened this morning. And I am certain that when they pulled that red can of grits out of the grocery bag they both looked at it like, "what the...grits?...Who eats grits?" Lol. So I hope they enjoy the grits. Now I really have to remember to pick some up later this week.
I will be back later with another coffee review today. Stay tuned.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
As fellow food-bloggers may have noticed, recently there have been quite a few posts about "minis". Or cupcakes, to be exact. While the current food trend of The Cupcake may be fast fleeting, I thought I would take my turn at making a mini. Literally. I wanted to make a little something to take to church tomorrow, and while everyone always brings things like cookies and quickbreads, a paper wrapped delight is seldom seen. Maybe it's frosting all those spongy gems that keeps people from bringing them, but I decided this was the week. I am embarassed to admit that I did, in fact, purchase a cake mix for this adventure. I have been leaning more and more on homemade scratch cakes, but thought that for this mini, a cake mix would be fine. My choice? A lemon cake mix. I did decide to doctor it just a little. I added a drop of lemon oil to try and steer the lemon flavor into a more natural flavor, and I also added a 1/2 cup of strawberry jam to reign in the lemon. I do think my flavor changes made the cake much better. Then I scooped a mere tablespoon of cake mix into each muffin paper. The papers I used were actually labeled "bon-bon wrappers". It took a while to get them all baked up, as I only had one mini muffin pan to put into action.
Tonight I whipped out the pastry bag and tips to pipe the frosting on these little gems, and I am very pleased with the results. Anytime that I can work on my piping is a bonus, and I must admit that I am getting much more steady with my hands. I really think part of the key there is that I bought the large size piping bags, coupler, and tips. They are much easier to work with than those little Wilton starter sets. The larger bag is easier to get a good grip on, I am really enjoying it. I do need to find some more tips though so I can work on more intricate piping sometime. A flower tip and some pink sprinkles were all that these lemon minis needed.
I hope everyone is having a great weekend. Today we spent this morning shopping for new clothes for Abigail, and that is always a great time. She loves to try on clothes, and Zander even got into the action by selecting a couple of new shirts for himself. We've started doing some landscaping to our yard, and I'm looking forward to the next few weekends to come as we add a few plants to the landscape. Since the kids don't ever really play in the front yard, we'd like to give it a little curb appeal. The tough part will be coming up with a plan and sticking to it. We'll see how we do.
That's it for today. On tap for tomorrow will be some freshly caught trout on the grill. I can't wait for that one. Hopefully I'll get an opportunity to snap a picture or two before it is all inhaled. Happy weekend everyone!
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Tonight's was a good one indeed. I received the latest issue of Everyday Food in the mail a few days ago, and this recipe just jumped out at me. One of the things that attracted me to it was its simplicity, and the fact that I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. In fact, the only thing I needed to purchse today was the tomatos. Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta was a keeper. A real- live 30 minute meal was in my kitchen today. I made a few changes to suit our tastes, but mostly adhered to the recipe. One of the things I noticed about this recipe is that it relied heavily on two herbs- dried oregano and fresh mint. Right there I paused. I am not a huge mint person. And I also don't care for dried oregano as a lone herb. So I took the 2 teaspoons of dried oregano and only used half for the oregano, and then added a teaspoon of dried basil. I left out the mint completely and used a few tablespoons of fresh chive for freshness and garnish. The dish worked perfectly. It was simply flavored, but it came together so nicely. The only thing I would change, is I think I would like another clove or two of garlic. I matched this up with the Orzo and Green Beans on the same page, and the two dishes really melded together into one. I did use fresh asparagus instead of the beans- but I am sure the beans would have been fine as well. I really liked the lemony pasta paired with the salty feta shrimp. Andy and I have both declared this dish an instant weeknight hit. We would eat this anyday. The recipes for both can be found in the May 2006 issue of Everyday Food, and can also be found in the Recipe Trove.
Other than that, not much new here today. Zander and I went and did our grocery shopping this morning via Toys R Us. He was so cute...I just couldn't say no. So he spent some time playing while I perused the toy selection. I decided to pick up another outside toy for the kids, and settled on a pair of these huge nylon throwing discs-kind of like frisbees. The are for playing in or out of the water- so I thought they would be a blast. Well, we got home and I opened up both of them for Zander and he threw them around the yard a few times before heading upstairs to his train table and a little "private time". And of course, the wind picked up and it wasn't until about an hour later that I saw this large green disc rolling across the front yard. I ran out to pick it up and wouldn't you know, not a pink disc in sight. I'm so mad at myself. It wasn't a lot of money, but what a waste! And now some child in another part of town gets to have fun with it. Grr. Hopefully Zander forgets that I bought two of them for now, and Abigail will just think they have one to share. We'll just have to go to Toys R Us another day. I'm sure that will upset Zander terribly.
Depending on dinner tonight, I may be back with a dinner report...or maybe not. It depends what strikes my fancy between now and then.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
"Lead the information reformation with this medium roast from the prized Tarrazu region of Costa Rica with excellent body and robust richness." That is the description on Boca Java's New Media Mavericks coffee. This is a very nice cup of coffee. To be honest, I don't have much else to say about it. This is the coffee that could unite the coffee lover and the occassional coffee drinker. The aroma is very light, there isn't an overwhelming punch of coffee. The coffee itself is smooth. Very smooth. It rolls off the tongue so smoothly, leaving nary a trace of bitterness. Yet it has a lingering flavor! A smooth and bold coffee flavor, without any bitterness whatsoever. This coffee would be an excellent accompaniment to a brunch or a buttery pastry. Overall- I really, really like this particular coffee. It gets a huge thumbs up from me today. If you'd like to learn more about this or other Boca Java coffees or teas, be sure and click on the logo on my sidebar.
Tagged with: Boca Java, coffee
And like I already mentioned, they look great. But that darn caramel is overcooked. It's at the point where you can't even get your teeth into the stuff. Cutting into an apple, the caramel falls off in sheets. Not cooked enough to be brittle, overcooked to be caramel. Do you hear that? That is the sound of my head hitting the desk. Grr... So what is going on exactly? While I know the uneven heating of my stovetop is a contributer, I am leaning towards the pot. In the past I used a 6 qt. nonstick calphalon pot, and never had a problem. That pot was ruined last summer, so I've been relying on my stainless, and I have to think that is the problem. It's not conducting right, and the cooked sugar mixtures are sticking to the bottom of the pots and burning, where with the nonstick it is always moving and sliding around. I know it's not the thermometer, that works like a charm. So now I have a decision to make. Do I splurge this weekend and buy a new nonstick pot for my caramel or do I go with plan B and make truffles instead.
I think opinions would be welcome here. What do you think? The gourmet caramel apples are large apples, dipped in caramel, rolled in nuts/candy/etc. and drizzled with chocolate. Or should I go with the chocolate truffles- My specialty in assorted flavors. Let me know what you think in the comments section.
Oh, and I completely spaced and forgot it was Weigh-In Wednesday, so I will push that post back to tomorrow. And I'll be back later today with my second coffee review.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
"Blog the night away with this exotic flavored coffee featuring vanilla, kahlua, and caramel." This is the description of Boca Java's Blogger's Pajama Passion coffee. As I'm looking at the package- which is quite stunning, btw- what I notice most is the stork on the back of the package. He is holding up a sign which says when this package of coffee was roasted. Today is April 18, and this coffee was roasted on April 12th. Can it get any fresher than that??!! I open up the package, and it's instant aroma. Intense coffee with a lingering sweetness. I can clearly identify the caramel and the kahlua both. I confess to being a little apprehensive. My experience with flavored coffees is that they are more hype than anything. Most often the aroma does not make it to the cup. Or it provides a cloying artificial sweetness to the coffee. However, I am hopeful, and I brew my pot.
My perfect coffee is 1/2 cup of grounds to 10 cups of coffee. Our coffee maker has a water filter in it- and it does brew a mean cuppa. As my maker starts churning, the kitchen starts to smell glorious. You know that smell when you are walking in the mall, and you catch a whiff of Gloria Jeans or Caribou Coffee, or Starbucks? That smell was in my kitchen. But would it taste like it smells? I pour the coffee into my cup and give it a minute to cool down a bit. I drink my coffee black, so it requires a little rest to come down in temperature. I raise my mug and immediately I am rewarded with the scent of vanilla. I tip it back a bit, and my mouth meets the coffee.
I am rewarded with a great mouthful of coffee. I can taste the coffee itself, which is very smooth and perfectly roasted- not too harsh, and also not too mild- a great coffee itself. In fact, it's hardly even bitter. Very mellow, but quite flavorful. Then I swallow and I am left with the combination of kahlua and caramel together. A very nice flavor to be left with. I am hooked, I go in for another sip and again, I am rewarded for my efforts.
At first taste, I am in love with this coffee. I like to think that I know my coffee pretty well, and this coffee in one word is incredible. I am really looking forward to trying the other flavors, and will try another one tomorrow. So until then, happy coffee drinking!
Tagged with:[Boca Java, coffee, bloggersfuel]
This my friends, is six packages of go-juice. Six beautiful packages of small-batch roasted coffee. And an awesome coffee mug, and a pretty cool baseball cap to go with. And what did I pay for these fantastic treasure? Not a lick. Not one red cent. And I simply couldn't wait. I was scheduled to pick up Abigail from school in 15 minutes, but I had to make some now! My coffee maker makes 10 cups in 5 minutes, surely that is enough time to get the coffee to a drinkable temperature. As fast as my little hands would work I chose one and brewed up a pot of mocha colored bliss. And how was it?
I'm not telling just yet. :-) This coffee comes to me from Boca Java, and in return for the free coffee, I will be sharing some reviews of their coffee with you. Each flavor will get a full blown review from me, and let me tell you, such work is truly daunting...okay, not really, but I am certainly relishing the task ahead of me. In addition, you will also see a link to Boca Java on my sidebar. Just from opening the box today, I knew this was some fantastic quality coffee. The aroma in my kitchen right now is simply heavenly. I feel like I've walked into an upscale coffee shop. Indeed, if I owned a coffee shop, I would be contacting Boca Java about carrying their coffee. The only thing missing from my experience today is a flaky pastry. Coming soon I will review the first of six wonderful coffees, so stay tuned for that.
If you are anything like me, you have plenty of hard-boiled eggs around your house. Easter, for some odd reason, seems to cause plenty of extras. :-) Fortunatley, there really are quite a few things to do with leftover Easter Eggs. Like egg salad sandwiches. And egg salad sandwiches. Hmm. What does one do with literally dozens of hard-boiled eggs? You can chop them up and add them to just about anything, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and the like. But there has to be something I could do to them that would make them "special". One item that came to mind is something I have only seen, called an Egg Curry. A search brings up plenty of recipes, but I seem to lack most of the ingredients necessary to accomplish that one.
So I turn to a friend for the answer. We had a quiet Easter this year. We spent it at home, while family was busy running around. We were facing a very quiet Easter in fact, until we invited our good friend Elizabeth and her daughter Ashley to dinner. We always love having them over. And Easter was no exception. You know that feeling at the end of the day when you can sigh and say, "Now that was a great holiday!" That was Sunday. We really enjoyed our time together, and are looking forward to next year when perhaps they will join us again for Easter- next time bringing along the hubby who is overseas right now. But back to those hard-boiled eggs.
Elizabeth mentioned a dish called Eggs Goldenrod and proceeded to describe it to me. It is so simple, yet it intrigued me in a homey sort of way. The decription reminded me of biscuits-n-gravy, my all time favorite breakfast. So I filed the information away and thought that maybe I would give it a whirl later in the week. Fast forward to this morning. A quick search on Recipezaar produced two actual recipes- but to be honest, no recipe is actually necessary. You start by making some toast. Easy enough. Next you melt some butter in a saucepan and add some flour. Whisk the two together so you have a roux. Let this cook for a little while, stirring it pretty frequently. Add about two cups of milk and cook to thicken, stirring constantly. Season with plenty of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Finally, take a couple of peeled hard-boiled eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Chop the whites and add to your white sauce. Pour the bechamel/egg white sauce over your toast slices. And for a final touch, mash up those egg yolks and sprinkle them on top. Eggs Goldenrod. The idea is that the egg yolk on top resembles goldenrod pollen. (Why you'd actually want to eat that is beyond me.)
And the end result? A fantastic comfort food. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of Eggs Goldenrod. Unfortunately it is one of those dishes like biscuits-n-gravy that will only come out once in a while, but man is it good. And it is a fantastic thing to look forward to those leftover hard-boiled eggs. Thanks Elizabeth!!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Holidays are great. Especially with kids. The simplest things bring such joy to a child. Just thiking about Easter made Abigail happy today. She can't wait to hunt her Easter Eggs and Easter Basket. And she can't wait to see Auntie Rachel and Uncle Cody. She's just so excited! Zander was able to share some of that Easter-y fun with her today. Here was today's project:
They sure had fun dyeing those Easter Eggs. The fun part will be eating some of them tomorrow. Zander doesn't particularily care for eggs- especially hard-boiled ones, so we'll see if the neat colors and stickers on them make him want to eat them. Doubtful, but it is possible.
Mommy also got into the Easter spirit today. Other than waiting for the little bunnies to turn themselves in for the night so we can hide the eggs and baskets, that is. I decided to try and create a simple Easter cookie. Usually for Easter I make cut-outs. Yes, always good, but I just wanted something easier. As I surveyed the pantry, my eye landed on the tubs of colred sugars. What if I used those somehow? Well, a stick of butter and an egg later and I have a rather tasty Easter cookie which I am dubbing Easter-Doodles.
Anyone can make this cookie. Start with your favorite Snickerdoodle recipe. Prepare it as written EXCEPT take the cinnamon that the cookie gets rolled in, and add it with the flour. Putting the cinnamon into the cookie instead of on the cookie. Then take your choice of colored sanding sugars and place them on a plate. Roll your cookie dough into little barrel shapes instead of round balls- this will get them to spread in an egg shape in the oven. Roll your barrels in the colored sugars and proceed with baking. Out pops some very pretty Easter-Doodles. If anyone needs a good Snickerdoodle recipe to start, I will get one into the Treasure Trove in the next day or so. It will be hard to keep our hands out of the cookie jar until tomorrow...
Friday, April 14, 2006
They also enjoyed feeding the goats and the alpacas. Here's Zander near the billy goats, although the black goat is hard to see: Both kids were very excited to see the penguins today. Unfortunately, the penguin exhibit needs some post-winter TLC, so we didn't see the penguins. Oh wait. Here's a pair that we found hiding:
It was a blast today. We went early enough that we saw every single animal out and about, it was great. We followed that up with a picnic lunch, some playground time, and a trip to Dairy Queen for some twist ice cream cones. I seriously doubt that we can top today tomorrow, tomorrow's shopping trip will certainly be dull in comparison.
And for a dinner report, we found out something interesting! We really like lamb. I mean, I daresay I might be in love. I got so many bits of advice over the last day, and I totally appreciate every single one of them. My intentions had been to take the lamb sirloin and smear it with freshly chopped garlic and rosemary. The best laid plans though... My rosemary was fuzzy, and the local store was out, so I used a bit of dried rosemary and fresh chives to get that bit of freshness in. I was really nervous. I made chicken legs for the kids, plus extra for us in case we didn't care for the lamb. I hesitated before taking that first bite, and was pleasantly surprised. It was wonderful! And I got a good sampling of lamb on both the rare side and the more well done side. I do see why people would prefer it rare, but I enjoyed it both ways. Next time I won't be so nervous about overcooking.
Anyway, I have crabby kids to tuck away into bed, so I will leave it at that for tonight.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
To start, I chose the store I would do my shopping at. The store I chose is my favorite to shop at, but it is not always the most economical, as I know for a fact a lot of their items are cheaper at my regular stomping ground. The reason I chose this particular store was because I have their savings card in my wallet, and I had every intention of shopping with it. Armed with the sales flyer and a stack of coupons, I planned a week's worth of groceries by choosing items on the flyer. Then I went through and pulled out the coupons that matched up with some of these sale items. Today I did my shopping. I very carefully stuck to my list and bought what I needed. Now, lately, a normal shopping trip at my regular store has been about $150 for a weeks worth of groceries, plus a few staples. Today's total? After coupons and card discounts, my total bill came to $111.34! And are you ready for this? My total discounts at this store on this visit was: $32.21. Seriously! That my friends, is serious savings!
So what did I do with that savings? Lol. Went to the butcher and bought a few extra specialty items, including some never before had lamb which will be on the menu tomorrow. So while technically I spent my savings this week, I'm greatly ecnouraged by the results so far. I will do the same thing next week, and report back again. Where I may have gone wrong this week was that I didn't buy extra of the REALLY good deals. Like butter was on sale at a pretty low price, I probably should have picked up 3 or 4 packages to last a while, but instead just picked up the one I needed. I'm sure it will be trial and error. But for my first few runs I want to try and stick to my list.
Not much of a dinner report tonight. Andy is working late, and of course tonight I have some ribs slow-cooking to be grilled later. It was Abigail's request to have ribs for dinner soon, and I figured tonight would be a perfect night for that. We all have the day off tomorrow, and are planning on spending it at the zoo before attempting to cook that lamb... tune in tomorrow to see how that goes. I'm not so sure about that one.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
So that brings me to the topic of today's weight loss post. The Empowerment of Garbage. It sounds funny, I know, but it is soooo true. What exactly do I mean by Garbage Empowerment? I simply mean the ability to toss something delicious into the garbage without a second thought. The ability to turn away from those brownies that have been around since Saturday and put them in the garbage. And also the ability to realize that putting less-than-stellar calories into my mouth is a waste of calorie space and should be used for something better. An example. When I first started watching what I'm eating I made some white chocolate brownies for church. I ended up bringing about half of them home with me and they sat on the counter. Normally a favorite of mine, I didn't have quite enough white chocolate when I made them and they just weren't up to snuff. So Monday morning I found myself reaching for the third not-so-good brownie when I stopped myself. Why was I continuing to inhale these sub-par brownies? Simply because they were here. So I grabbed that plate and slid them all into the garbage. Ah. Empowerment at it's finest.
That was a huge first step for me! I hate being wasteful of food. I grew up with my share of lean times, where every morsel of food counted. Andy and I have had our share of lean times together, so throwing out food was a big deal. When Abigail started table food, it was second nature to finish cleaning up her plate when she was done. Or when Zander is done munching on a bowl of peanuts, it's normal to pick at the remaining few to clean it up. No longer. Actually, Andy and I both stopped doing that a long time ago, but it is a hard habit to break. I think what broke us was one time finishing up something for Abigail, and then she came back an hour or two later looking for more. She was so distraught, that we established our house rule of letting the snacks lie for about 3 hours before they officially become garbage. And that's exactly what happens to them, they become garbage.
And now, things go into the garbage. There's a handful of potato chips left in that bag? Garbage. That Halloween Candy has been there for over a month with no one picking at it? Garbage. Or from the other day, Zander is finished with his ice cream sandwich and there is most of it left? Garbage- not even one single bite for Mommy. I don't feel so bad about throwing out food anymore. Inferior calories are just not worth keeping around just to munch on. I will feel bad if I forgot about some baby zucchini in the fridge and they go bad- that I will be quite sad about. But the junk food, and the leftovers, and the scraggly bits on my children's plates make their way happily into the eternal wasteland. I have been known to toss half a banana cream pie, simply because I am the one home during the day. I know it is there, I will dream about that pie, and before I know it, a slice will make it's way onto my breakfast plate. And then after lunch it will be "just a small slice." And even later still, Zander will want a slice, take two bites, and I will finish it for him. Much better to remove the temptation than regret it later. And I know that the Garbage Empowerment translates directly onto the scale, so I feel even better about it. So give it a try- you'll be amazed at the results.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an episode of The Thirsty Traveler on the Fine Living channel. I had never seen the show before, but being a fan of Iron Chef America, I was familiar with the host, Kevin Brauch. So I watched in fascination as Kevin took me on a tour of Chile and tasted some Chilean wines. It was a very interesting show, and I learned quite a bit. One of the standouts of that episode was the story of the Carmenere Grape. What a great story.
Carmenere was once a reverred wine grape grown in the Bordeaux region of France. In the late 1800's a blight ravaged Europe and the Carmenere Grape was lost to the world. Fast forward nearly 100 years. Chile has become well known for it's wine producing. It's climate is perfect for growing grapes, and they take great pride in their winemaking skills. In the mid 1990's winemakers distinguished several of the Chilean Merlots as having something unique about them and proceeded to investigate. Investigation of the merlot vineyards found vines of Carmenere planted amongst the merlot- unbeknownst to the vintners. While very similar, the Carmenere grape leaves have a slight pinkish tinge at the end of the leaves. Let the world rejoice! The carmenere grape has been found again!
So imagine the joy I had when I discovered a bottle of Carmenere on my grocers shelves last week! I immediately snagged a bottle, resisting the urge to grab more than one bottle...just in case. So while Andy's parents were here for the weekend, we had to give this one a try. Now I am far from a sommelier, but this was a darn good wine. It is on the dry side, and while it is similar to a merlot, it has a lingering spiciness that has you diving back into the glass for more. It has such depth...it is full-bodied and really, in simple terms, it is delicious. Full and fruity, I really can detect the notes of blackberry that set Carmenere apart from other wines. I suspect many a bottle of Carmenere making it's way into my wine cellar. I am eager to try other vineyards take on this lucious grape, but in the meantime, for less than $10 a bottle, this one is a bargain to boot.
I have really enjoyed all of the Chilean wines that I have managed to try out, and this one certainly won't be the last. In fact, I have half a mind to build a wine cellar around Chilean specialties. So I raise my glass today to the wonderful country of Chile and their beautiful vineyards.
Friday, April 7, 2006
I did make a few changes to the salad though to be completely honest. I omitted the chicken called for because this was a side dish after all. I also added more dried cranberries than called for and I doubled the dressing. Oh, and I used whole wheat couscous instead of regular. The salad was so good! A perfect balance. The orange flavor really shines here- I used freshly squeezed orange juice, and I highly recommend that. And definitely double the dressing. It was perfect as it was, I think it would have been slightly on the dry side had I used the dressing as written. I didn't double the amount of olive oil in the dressing though, I like my vinaigrettes and dressings to be mre vinegar than oil, so I didn't double that. A big thanks to Joe of Culinary in the Desert for taking the salad for it's maiden voyage. Most definitely a keeper, and I'm sensing some replay time this summer for picnics and potlucks and the like. It would even be good with the maple glazed salmon mixed in...
That's all for tonight, it's been a long day and I'm looking forward to waking up in the morning without the alarm, so have a great weekend!
Tagged with: VRC, VRC:Salads, Couscous
Thursday, April 6, 2006
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Sadly, that success is not directed at the scale this week. No change from last. However, being the eternal optimist I like to think that the reason the scale has not changed is because my body is busy converting my fat stores into muscle- which is denser and weighs more. Right? I have been very successful with exercising over the last week. I ordered an aerobic step and have been enjoying the benefits. I feel very good physically when I exercise, and I do just enough that I can feel it in my muscles just a tad, so I know things are working. My pants are also feeling a little less snug, so perhaps I have a broken scale? Lol. C'est La Vie.
No, my success today comes from my multi-grain bread that I have been working on. Two weeks ago I picked up a new healthful cereal. Hodgson Mills Multi-Grain Cereal with milled flaxseed and soy. Sounded okay to me. I love oatmeal, and have been enjoying Mother's brand Multi-Grain cereals. But this one...not so much. I made it for the first time yesterday, and I just was having a hard time getting into it. I was expecting something like oatmeal, but this was (texturewise) more like Cream of Wheat. And as I was eating the cereal, I thought it tasted very much like a slice of soggy bread. Ah!! That was the light bulb moment. I had about a cup of cooked cereal remaining, could it work? I didn't have time yesterday to attempt another batch, but took to it first thing this morning.
My whole wheat bread has about 5 cups of flour in it total- give or take a half cup or so for moisture in the air. And to make whole wheat I swap 2 of those cups of bread flour for whole grain whole wheat flour. This makes a great bread. It's tasty, healthy, and still has that fantastic softness that I love about bread. So today I took out 1 cup of the whole wheat flour, and subbed in 1 cup of pre-cooked mulit grain cereal. Then as I was getting my milk mixture ready, it occurred to me that cooked grains of cereal already had moisture in them, so I reduced the water from 1 cup to 3/4 cup. Next time I'll reduce the water by half. I kneaded in the remainder of the flour, and was quite optimistic. Three rises later I have 16 heart healthy whole grain rolls on the cooling rack. It worked perfectly!! I am quite excited about this one, who would have thought breakfast cereal would do the trick? My next step is to attempt kneading in some whole wheat berries or sunflower seeds to give it some texture, but otherwise, this bread is perfect! I am thrilled.
Have you ever had one of those days where you just feel a little off when you get up in the morning? And you chalk it up to not getting enough sleep? That's me today. I know I didn't sleep the best, but when I got up I got right to work cleaning up the kitchen, doing laundry, baking bread, etc. But of course as the day has gone on, I've felt a little more off and a little more off. And now I have a distinct tickle in my sinuses and a bit of a lumpiness going on in my throat, and my eyes feel hot. (if that makes any sense). So today I am not going to do my workout, I did quite a bit scrubbing the kitchen today, and I am starting to just not feel well, I think. Zander's had a mild cough and a runny nose, and I think that he has shared. Lucky me. Just in time to have company for the weekend of course. And again, that eternal optimism chalked it up to spring allergies arriving early. Alas, the Alavert I took earlier has done squat for me, so I suspect a touch of a cold. Thanks Zander.
Lucky for me, I have supper already in the fridge for tonight. Sunday for Company Dinner I made Sloppy Joe's, and I had plenty left over for dinner tonight. I can't say that I use a specific recipe for sloppy joe's. But essentially it is ground beef, browned up with some onions and peppers. Then I add in a can of tomatoes and a bottle of barbecue sauce. Cook the liquid away and you have sloppy joe's. But this week the sneaky Mom made an appearance while making the sloppy joe mixture. In addition to the 3 pounds of ground beef, I also took 3 carrots, 2 celery stalks, half of both a red and yellow bell pepper, and 3 scallions and whirred them all up in the food processor until the veggies were the size of ground beef crumbles. Ah. See where I'm going with this? I ended up with about 3 cups of finely minced veggies, and by the time they have cooked for a couple of hours in the ground beef and sauce mixture, the veggies look just like the ground meat. So we get a fantastic addition of flavor, and picky kids have no idea they are eating good for you cooked vegetables. It really is good, and a great way to add some good-for-you nutrients.
So that's it for today. I'm going to go see what's left on the DVR for this afternoon.
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
I don't know what got that song into my head.
My, I have been a little Blogger-Slacker lately. I had every intention of posting last night with a dinner report. Then dinner happened, and it really was a bummer and not blog-worthy in my opinion. Ever have one of those? I planned to make baked chicken yesterday, but as dinner time creeped closer, I wanted to do something different, but not too different. So I spent some time surfing and found an interesting recipe on Recipezaar for a baked chicken that had great reviews. Basically it was an oven fried chicken, with the chicken being dredged in seasoned flour, and baked in a stick of butter. I know. I am hanging my head in shame because I should have known better. And I really did know better, but how could 16 other 5 star reviewers be wrong, and in addition, fried chicken sounded great, but since I don't fry chicken...
Well, it smelled fantastic in the oven. Really it did, and I tweaked the seasoned flour mixture to my taste, so that was not the problem. And actually, the kids kind of liked it, but man, it was such a disappointment. All the flavor you could smell must have gone somewhere, because the chicken was rather bland. Bland and, of course, greasy. And stupid me had two pieces of chicken to make sure I didn't like it. GAH! The only benefit was that the three breast pieces I cooked up were untouched and cooked perfectly, so now I have some shredded chicken in the fridge awaiting some tortillas and sauce for enchiladas. I won't share the recipe, because it wasn't great, and you cna always look around on Recipezaar and eventually find that recipe.
However, I do think that I have redeemed myself. Most people know by now that I love to bake bread. Love it. The only problem I have is that my favorite bread recipe that I have tweaked to be mine makes two loaves of bread. Homemade bread is best fresh and for a day or two, but after that...kinda not so good. So yesterday and today I experimented with turning my bread into rolls, and I must say, met with great success. One batch makes 16 rolls, which I can easily wrap up and tuck into the freezer to be pulled out just a few at a time. Plus, it's just fun to make the smaller rolls, and fun to eat them as well. I now have two dozen safely in the freezer, and I intend to try another batch tomorrow. Another baking quest of mine is to attempt a whole grain version of my bread, and I may have stumbled upon an unlikely product to assist with that. I promise to share those results tomorrow, along with the regularily scheduled Weigh-In Wednesday.
Not much else on tap for tonight. Andy's parents are coming for a visit this weekend from Buffalo, and we're very excited about the visit. We always have such a nice time with them. And the kids are beyond excited. They will get here on Friday, and Abigail mentioned that it wouold be more fun if they came on Wednesday. So cute. So since I am busy baking and exercising, and helping Zander ward off the beginning of a cold, tonight's dinner is going to be a couple of steaks seared on the grill and served with *gasp* boxed mashed potatoes. Tomorrow is going to be even easier as the sneaky mom takes over dinner tomorrow. So check back tomorrow for the results of my weekly weigh-in. I do like to be optimistic...