Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Yep, I said Merry Christmas! I know I've been a bit of slacker when it comes to the blogging lately, but I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, or whatever you choose to celebrate.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sick Day

One sick little boy, camped out on Mommy's pillow, watching Spongebob's Christmas Special for the 73rd time in 4 days.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shameless plug!

Ok, I know i've been slacking off on the blogging lately, but hey, its the holidays, what can I say? I'm swamped.
BUT! Jaci at Ravings of a Mad Housewife is giving away some absolutely stunning Fiestaware and it has my name on it! Well, at least I hope it does....and I get 3 extra entries in her contest by mentioning it here, so there ya go! Shameless plug.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I just gotta say...Its about friggin' time!!!!

Rod Blagojevich id going to jail!! Woo-hoo!!!!!

Someone finally did something right. Kudos to the feds.

And yes, I live in Illinois.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Tall Drink of.....

Hello All! And welcome back from a gloriously long holiday weekend! I was fortunate enough to recently have one of my blog posts featured on the SewMamaSew website. This particular post was the one about my favorite Coffee Liqueur recipe.

This is a recipe that I found in a random cookbook years ago at a kitchen outlet store in Iowa. Based on responses to the previous post, I am throwing a couple more out there that are tried and true favorites from the same book. (note: I have copied these exactly as they are in the book, although I tweak them a little) Enjoy, be merry, and THANKS FOR STOPPING BY!

From the book: Glorious Liqueurs, Edited by Mary Aurea Morris

(the picture isn't great, I had to round up some of the few remaining leftover droplets and snap some shots this morning! The Blackberry is on the left, in the glass, the vanilla is in the mason jar)

Blackberry Brandy
2 ½ to 3 cups ripe black raspberries, rinsed
2 cups (approximately) brandy
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 TB grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon glycerin (optional thickener – although I’ve never needed it)

Lightly crush 2 cups of the berries with a fork or potato masher; place in a quart-size glass canning jar or any other quart size glass jar that has an enamel-lined lid. Pour in enough brandy to cover the berries. Add equal portions of the remaining berries and brandy to reach the top of the jar’s lip; make sure that all of the berries are covered by the brandy. Pour in just enough brandy to begin a small overflow, then tightly cap the jar and wipe the outside clean.

Label the date on the jar. Allow to steep in a cool, dark place for 2 months. Every 2 weeks, gently shake the jar to distribute the flavors.

After 2 months, gently pour the jar’s contents through a regular strainer or sieve; discard the residue. Follow this by two strainings through slightly dampened cheesecloth. For true clarity and professional –looking results, pour the strained mixture through a large clean coffee filter placed inside a funnel or clean coffee cone; loosely covered with plastic wrap, since the process may take several hours.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Add the optional glycerin, if desired.

Funnel the strained brandy into a glass bottle, the funnel in the sugar syrup through a strainer, to remove the lemon zest. Cover tightly, shake to blend. Let mature at room temperature, or slightly cooler, for at least one month.

Vanilla Cordial
3 cups water
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or ¼ to ½ cup vanilla extract
1 quart light rum

In a large saucepan, combine the water, dark brown and granulated sugars, and the vanilla bean, if used. Bring to a boil over moderate heat and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
Add the rum and the vanilla extract, if used. Pour into 2 quart sized bottles with tight-fitting covers. Let stand two weeks, shaking occasionally. Remove the vanilla bean, if used, before serving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Its all my fault....

Yep, I made a big point of warning you all that there would be horribly disturbing pictures of deer hunters and their trophies....

I should have kept my big, gaping pie-hole shut.

Out of our entire group, only one person got a deer and it was just an average sized doe.

So, yeah, no pictures. Oh yeah, and we didn't really get the amount of company I was expecting, so I still have a vat of bloody mary mix left over and several bottles of wine.

I guess I won't have any trouble getting through the holidays!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be forewarned!

Friday morning begins DEER SEASON. Yes. We HUNT. YES, there will most likely be pictures of dead deer on this page next week.


I do not apologize for hunting, but I know some of you don't like it, so if you don't like it, don't look.

I actually probably won't be out there myself, this weekend. No one to watch the little guy at the ass-crack of dawn, and I love to cook for all the hunters, so I'll more than likely be at home with my comfy pants on, drinking wine with the girls and making biscuits and gravy. But still....there will most likely be pictures.

Don't say I didn't warn ya.

P.S. Any other female hunters out there?


It's done. I picked up the baby quilt from the quilter last night, fully intending to put the binding on it when I got done with supper. But, a headache started as I left work and, by the time I got home, was so bad that I nearly threw up. So, not only did I not put the binding on, I didn't even make supper.

I woke up much better this morning, however, and determined that this quilt wasn't going to be on my to-do list for one more day. I have a long list of things to take care of around the house before company comes for the weekend, so I sat down at the machine this morning and finished it.

I ran out of thread halfway through the binding. Coats & Clark have changed their spool design, and I didn't think anything of it when I bought the spool for this quilt. Normally a spool of thread would MORE than finish a baby quilt, which is why I have so many miscellaneous spools in my desk drawer. So, fortunately, there was a spool in that drawer in a shade of pink close enough to the one I was using that is won't be noticeable. Thank god.

But, sewers beware! Those new spools won't get you as far as they used to!

So, what do you think?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Really, how cute can one kid be?

Not that I'm biased or anything, but c'mon.

Se Habla Español....

And here I sit. Eight years ago, I started at this company as a Spanish language translator (after a short stint as a receptionist). After struggling with that job for two years, learning the hard way that I do NOT like what I went to college for, I finally got away from it and moved into another department. Internal Training. I loved it. I lovingly helped build that department for four more years, only to have it thrown in the trash a couple of years back. But, in the meantime, I was still filling in on an "as-needed" basis in the translation group, and I still hated it. Finally, about 2 years ago, that all came to a screeching halt when I changed departments, yet again.
And now, today, here I sit, strapped to my desk by the shackles of my headset, waiting for the phone to ring with the tell-tale heading on the phone screen "1-800-INBOUND SPANISH SUPPORT".
How did I suddenly get back here? Supposedly its only for an hour, while the lone support person goes to lunch....but I have a very bad feeling about it.
"Bueno? Habla Elizabeth....."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another recipe...and no pictures.

I love gnocchi. I'm Italian, so come on, what do you expect. Gnocchi are wonderful.
SO when I find a recipe that uses gnocchi, I gotta try it.
I made this Rachel Ray recipe (I sense a theme here) a while back, and when I caught sight of the gnocchi in the freezer case the other day, it reminded me of it, so I made it last night.
Quite tasty, I must say!

Faster Chicken Gnocchi Stew
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
3 slices pancetta cut just under 1/4 inch thick (have your deli counter do this for you), chopped (I had bacon ends, so I used those)
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, brushed clean of excess dirt and quartered (I never use mushrooms)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (I just poached 3 chicken breasts and shredded them)
1 quart chicken stock
2 15-ounce cans (or 1 28-ounce can) stewed tomatoes (I had Crushed Fire Roasted Tomatoes, so I used just one can of those)
1 1/2 pounds store-bought gnocchi
1/4 cup (a small handful) basil leaves, torn (out of season! Not paying $3 for a tiny little sprig at the store)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for passing at the table

Heat a high-sided skillet over medium heat with the EVOO, about 2 turns of the pan. Add the pancetta and cook for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to get golden.
Add the mushrooms, onion, carrots and bay leaf to the pan. Sauté 4-5 minutes, until the onions start to get tender, then add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Season the veggies with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and add the shredded rotisserie chicken to the pan. Pour in the chicken stock and stewed tomatoes, and bring up to a bubble.
Once the stew has come up to a boil, add in the gnocchi and cook according to package instructions. (They’ll sink at first -- wait until they come up to a float and stay floating for a few minutes. Test them for doneness by tasting one, they should be very tender and have the texture of a dumpling.) Once the gnocchi are done, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the basil and serve with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.


Yes, folks, its true....I finished the quilt last night. YAY!! It wasn't as easy as I had planned, but that had nothing to do with the quilt. A few rows into it, Little Man called me from the next room, where he was watching a movie.

"Mommy, can I snuggle you?"

Oh COME ON! How am I supposed to work NOW?

So, we snuggled for awhile and I still managed to get the quilt done. What do you think?
It still needs to go to the quilter tonight, and then when I get it back I'll put the binding on it, but that involved minimal effort and time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It is Quilting Season!

The weather has turned cold, and just in time! I'm in charge of making a baby quilt for my MIL to give as a gift at a baby shower later this month. It is really hard for me to get motivated to quilt until the weather is cold.

I did NOT want to make this quilt.

I have been fighting it tooth-and-nail for weeks.

This weekend I finally gave in and started sewing the blocks I had cut out weeks ago.

The quilt is going to be "Trip Around the World" style, and 17 blocks wide by 17 blocks long. The lighting in the picture isn't great, but the colors are pink and brown. Also, I took the picture with my phone to send to the MIL, so I apologize for the poor photo quality.

This is a picture I took when I got all of the rows done last night (yes, they are pinned to my living room curtain so I could track my progress).
This morning, I pressed all the seams and sewed the first 4 rows together. All I have to do tonight is attach the other 13, which will be no problem. This is a simple quilt with no borders. So tomorrow night I should be able to take it to the quilter, and get it back just in time to put the binding on it before the shower, Thanksgiving weekend.

I Support You

To all my family and friends in the military, past, present and so honorably serve our country and I want you to know that I support you. Happy Veterans' Day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thank you, Rachel Ray!

With the freezer trying to die on us, I’m trying to use up some things that are in there. One of the many wonderful things about Girl Scout cookies is that they freeze very well, so when I order, I always get a few extra boxes and put them straight into the freezer. Well, a while back, I found a recipe from Rachel Ray that we all just loooooove, and it is super easy. I’m starting to sense a theme with the recipes in my blog….very easy, but very good. So, I made a batch of these cookies yesterday to send to work with the hubs. Don’t they look yummy?

These cookies are really just a step up, difficulty-wise, from the ready made cookies from Nestle that you just drop on a sheet and bake, but oooh so much tastier. Especially if you love Thin Mints....and I do.

First, just to make removal easier, I line a sheet pan with wax paper.
Then, open a LARGE tube (24 ounces, I think) of store bought cookie dough and crumble it all over the pan.
Next take and entire box of Thin Mint cookies (my batch was short about 3, thanks to the tiny little cookie monster in my kitchen), break (or cut) them in pieces and scatter them on top of the dough.
It should look something like this:

Then, gently press the dough down onto the pan, moving the cookie bits around so they are evenly spread out. It might seem like you're not going to have enough, but trust me, press enough, and you will.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or just until the dough gets a little puffy and golden, like so:

Let them cool completely. This is going to be hard, because right about now, your whole house smells like a nice, warm, Thin Mint.
While they are cooling, melt some white chocolate. I think Rachel's recipe says to use some white chocolate chips, but since I always have almond bark in the pantry, I break off 2 cubes of white almond bark and put it in a glass bowl with a couple tablespoons of milk and microwave it about 20 seconds at a time until its nice and smooth.
Then drizzle the white chocolate all over the pan.

Then, you gotta let them sit again until the drizzle sets or you'll get it all over yourself. Cut them into pieces and you have Heaven in a bar.
Grandpa is going to be very happy to see me, today.
Rachel's recipe also only uses half these ingredients. Meaning, she makes a 9x13 pan, using a small tube of cookie dough, and only one sleeve of Thin Mints, but come on. Trust me when I tell you, its not enough. I barely have enough making a FULL sheet pan!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Defrosting Meat is not a sport

We recently had a whole hog processed. Since the hubs didn't ask for my opinion before he ordered it, I barely had enough time to use enough stuff from the freezer to make room for the new hog. And, even then, I'm not sure how I got it all in there. Last night, I went to the full-size upright to get out a package of chicken, and the door Not far, just a crack, but enough that everything on the top shelf was fully defrosted, and the rest of the freezer was completely frosted over. Then, apparently thinking it would help the door close better, the hubs bent the door.
So, now the door is taped shut until we can go buy a new freezer this weekend, undoubtedly an enormous chest freezer, exactly like the kind I HATE because you can never find anything in them. Ugh.

On the up-side, this week is Wellness Week at work, and among other things (such as the free cholesterol test I had this morning) yesterday we had a Healthy Eating Potluck. In a last minute trip to Walmart the night before, I pieced together an idea from a few different recipes I had seen, but not necessarily tried. I figured, its supposed to be healthy food, which everyone here expect to taste like crap anyway, so its the perfect time to experiment because no one will know the difference, right? No worries about winning the contest for "Best Dish".

Yeah, well, I won.

And it was an awesome dish! Honestly, I didn't know how it was going to turn out, so I didn't take any pictures of it, but I'm going to post the recipe anyway, because it was terribly yummy and I've got to make it again! Enjoy! As a side note, I usually despise whole wheat pasta, because it always tastes gritty to me, but as I was shoppnig I saw a box of Barilla (which I always use) Whole Grain Thin Spaghetti. It said it was new, and I had never seen it before. I trust Barilla, so I gave it a shot. It was good. Really, I'd eat that anytime. Just a plug for another good product! The only thing I might do differently with this dish is use more onion. I had a really big one, but for a whole package of pasta, I think 2 would have been better. Either that or use half the pasta and sausage.

Whole Grain Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Caramelized Onions

1 package Whole Grain Spaghetti
1 pound Italian Turkey Sausage
1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 TB olive oil
1 TB minced garlic
Salt and pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley

Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan over medium-low heat and add onions, salt and pepper. Allow onions to cook in an even layer, stirring only occasionally over medium-low heat until golden. You must be patient as this process takes around 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in well salted water until just al dente.
Brown the crumbled turkey sausage in another skillet and drain off any excess grease.

Once the onions are caramelized, add a couple of ladles of the pasta cooking water and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Drain the pasta and add it to the onions. Mix in the browned sausage. Add the Parmesan cheese and mix well to combine. Add more pasta water as needed to keep pasta from sticking together. Chop the parsley and toss it with the pasta.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

As Promised….Stromboli.

I am not 100% Italian, but I grasp the part that is Italian firmly and with both hands. Most of my “italian” food is not true Italian, but my picky men-folk would never eat it if I didn’t make some concessions. In the process, I have come up with some very simple faux-italian meals that just about anyone can make. Stromboli is the first Italian meal I made for my husband when we started dating. He had never heard of it, let alone tried it, and it immediately became one of his favorite meals. I mean, really, give a country boy a plate full of sausage and cheese wrapped in bread, and he’s pretty happy.

So, here we go!


1 tube of Pillsbury pizza dough

1 pound bulk Italian sausage

½ cup pasta sauce (whatever kind you like)

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1 egg

  1. Brown the crumbled sausage in a skillet and drain off every bit of grease that you can.
  2. Mix in just enough pasta sauce to lightly coat the meat, about ½ cup, but you don’t want any excess to drip out the edges of the pastry.
  3. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  4. Open the can of pizza dough and either roll it out gently into a large rectangle, or press it out with your fingers, being careful not to tear it.
  5. Pile the meat onto the dough in a line down the center of the dough.
  6. Top with the mozzarella.

Now, with a small knife, cut slits along the long, exposed edges of the dough, trimming off the four corners. (Save the dough you just cut off in case you tear one of the strips, you can patch it in to cover the torn spot.)

Fold one of the short edges of the dough over the end of the meat and, one strip at a time, braid the dough strips, one over the other, left, right, left, right, etc. Do this about halfway down the stromboli, then turn the pan and repeat, starting at the opposite end until all the strips are braided, and tuck the last tail into one of the holes.

Beat an egg up in a small bowl with a fork and rub it all over the braid. You can use a brush for this, or you can be like me and just dip your fingers in it. Come on….your fingers are already gooey from the dough and you’re going to have to wash them anyway. Why dirty another dish?

Put a little salt and pepper on the top and throw it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is nice and golden.

**Note – if you scoffed when I told you to be careful to drain all the grease off the sausage, you’ll regret it when this comes out of the oven. All the excess grease will pool up and bubble out of the pastry, rolling around on your baking sheet until the Stromboli is swimming in it. Or, if you use a flat sheet, like I do, it’ll end up on the floor of the oven and then you’ll be up on a chair beating at the smoke alarm.
**Note – you don’t have to use the egg, but it keeps the dough from getting dried out around the edges and helps it brown evenly. Your choice.
**Note – you can put ANYTHING in a Stromboli! We make one with breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs, and Velveeta sauce. Also, a lighter version with broccoli and feta….yummy! Try new combinations. If you like Supreme Pizza, fill this full of veggies! Although, I would recommend lightly sautéing anything crunchy first, like peppers. Let me know how it goes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A picture is worth 1000 words....

I couldn't resist "stealing" this from my friend Tom's blog. Hope you don't mind, T, I think it really puts things in perspective.


Yep, just, Wow. I am in shock. A happy kind of shock, but I still can't believe this country elected Barack Obama. It all sounded good, people were changing their way of thinking, but I really thought that at the last minute, people would think about having a black man as president and get scared. Change their mind standing at the polls.

America - you impress me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thank you, early voting!

I voted Thursday at the courthouse. And BOY am I glad I did. There was no time this morning, and for sure there will be no time later. Anticipating this, I went to the courthouse last Thursday and took advantage of the early voting they offered there this year.

Civic duty? Check!

So, aiming for a quick and easy meal, last night I served up an old standby.

Apple Chops and Onion Rice.

I must preface this by apologizing, because I am NOT going to post the recipe for my Hot Apple Pie. Nope. Not a chance. Often imitated, but never duplicated, that one is mine, all mine! SO, if you want to make this one (and I do recommend it) you can just use a nice flavorful cider from an orchard (if possible), or a nice bottled hard cider. No worries about the alcohol, it'll cook off.

What is Hot Apple Pie, you ask? I have a feeling it may be a regional thing, so I'll explain. Basically it is a mix of apple cider or juice (depending on who you ask) various other spices and sweeteners, and alcohol, cooked down and bottled. In my town, you frequently see (a poor excuse for this) served in a shot glass at local bars. Where I used to tend bar in Iowa, we served it in a rocks glass, warmed in the microwave for just 10 seconds. Just enough to warm it up, not enough to burn off the alcohol. And in the cold winter months, I would line up a slew of these on the bar at 5:03pm exactly, as the local construction and factory workers were filing in the door, peeling off their coveralls and shaking off the winter chill. Its also great for cold weather outdoor activities. Post-skiing, four-wheeling, etc.

But enough about that!

Apple Chops

4-6 pork chops (I prefer loin cut, but your choice!) salt and peppered on both sides

Sear the chops in a little oil in a VERY hot pan, to a nice golden brown on both sides, but not completely cooked through.

While the pan is still screamin' hot, pour in 1 cup of Hot Apple Pie (or other substitute) and let the sucker boil down to almost nothing, turning the chops to let the caramelly goodness glaze them on both sides.

That's it. How yummy do those look?

As for the onion rice. This is NOT a gourmet dish. This IS a pantry lifesaver. Healthiest side dish on the planet? No. Does everyone that I've ever served it to scarf it down anyway? Yes. One disclaimer. My sister in law (who originally passed this recipe on to me) also adds a drained can of mushrooms to her version of this. If you like mushrooms, go for it. I, however, am allergic, so that is not on my list of ingredients.

Onion Rice

In a large bowl ( has to be able to fit in the microwave) combine the following:

1 stick of oleo or butter (whatever you have on hand)
2 cups of minute rice
1 can beef broth (I like the seasoned variety)
1 can french onion soup
(1 can of mushrooms, drained, if you are so inclined and not sharing it with me!)

Microwave 15 minutes. Stir. Consume.

Is that not the easiest meal you've ever seen? Warm up some peas or green beans and you've got the whole she-bang. I challenge anyone out there reading this to say they can't make this meal. Seriously. I dare you.

Just as a side note, this even beats Rachel Ray. Last night, I put the rice in the microwave, and by the time it was done cooking, the chops were done, too. To heck with 30 minute meals! This one is a FIFTEEN minute meal!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

Attention all you Stealth Readers!

Yep, you know who you are....the ones out there reading my blog and thinking I don't know you're doing it!

Well, thanks. Seriously, its so cool to me that you are reading my posts.

But you know what? I'd looooooove some comments occasionally. Yes, I'm talking to you, Tom. Well, ok, BOTH of you, Toms.... And David......and my own DAD!!!

Come on, I know you guys have something to say....lemme have it! It really brightens my morning when I log on and read all the cool comments. Humor it an early Christmas present.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Howdy, folks!

Say hello to my little cow-poke, Marshall Ty.
We very nearly missed out on trick-or-treating last night, as Ty was a little tyrant at school yesterday and THREW a school bus toy at his girlfriend. Not a good night to punish him effectively, and, as it turns out, it was a bad day for nearly the whole class, so I chose to fore go the worst of the punishment for the night.

He was adorable. He ran around all night telling anyone who would listen, "I a COW-boy!" or the equally effervescent, "I'm SHERIFF!" He was quite a doll. The pictures on my camera weren't all that great, as he wouldn't hold still worth a darn, but I am hoping for better from the photographer we went to see. Who knows, maybe he'll make it into the costume contest again this year. Although, I am not holding my breath, since it was such a beautiful night, there were a lot of kids out and he had some stiff competition.
Likewise, today was Halloween at work, for me. I do not normally participate, as Halloween really isn't my favorite holiday, but my good friend Melyssa is a die-hard Halloweener, and I agreed to "participate" in her "game", as she put it. She entered the contest as an individual and won this year's title of "Scariest Individual". I was merely an accessory. Anyone care to guess who she was? Anne and Syl - no fair guessing since you already know!
Hint: Look around her office for the details.....and think outside the box.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Those bastards at Hershey

The last few years, Hershey has been putting out limited edition Kisses at the holidays. I walked into Walmart this morning to find that all the Halloween candy has already been replaced with Christmas candy. And this, in my opinion, their best Kiss effort yet: the New Yrok Cheesecake Creme Herhsey Kiss.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth....

Ok, I know I haven't been very active in the blogosphere the last few weeks, and its not because I don't have anything blog-worthy to post. Frankly, I just haven't had the time or energy to make it happen! So, just to catch everyone up real quick:

I spent last weekend in Iowa with my good girl, Ginny, just hanging out with Ty and visiting. I picked up a fun new trinket for my car while I was there:
Yep, I gots to have me some HAWKEYE GEAR!!!

Since the hubs was gone on a hunting trip in Minnesota, when I got home, T and I snuggled a lot, and I got the nightstands put together. However, once put together, it occurred to me that they may not have been a good choice. See, the hubs has a projection alarm clock on his nightstand. Meaning, it projects the time onto the ceiling. Well, the built-in lamp on the nightstand covers most of the table.....hmmm...gonna have to think about that some more.

I've been doing a little Christmas shopping, designing our Christmas cards, and several other little projects around the house.

Also, made a wonderful batch of chili Monday night, and last night, I got certified in AED and CPR! How great is that?

This week, and weekend, are Halloween festivities. I'm sure you'll be hearing lots more from me once I have pictures of my cutie in his cowboy costume to post. Until then - I've got tons of work to do! See ya!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Baby, its cold outside….

Yes, it is definitely that time of year. It doesn’t take much more than the slightest chill in the air, and there I am, standing in the kitchen, making soup. I don’t need an excuse, any old reason will do. In this case, the girls and I are getting together over lunch to make jewelry today. Well, GEE, that means we need FOOD!

Little Man was in the dog house last night so I didn’t get pictures taken, but I promise (to try) to post those later. The one here is right now, sitting on the floor in my office warming up.
White Chicken Chili
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 tsp. minced garlic (or, if you are like me, its more like 2 TABLESPOONS)
2 TB olive oil
2 cans (15.5 oz.) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans chicken stock
2 cans (4.5 oz.) chopped green chilies
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt1
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more ;-)
2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup whipping cream

Saute onion, garlic and chicken in olive oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and remaining seasonings. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream and whipping cream. This makes a very thin “chili”. You can beef it up by using another can of beans and more chicken if you want yours chunkier.

By the way - shameless plug here, the crock pot in the picture is the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go slow cooker. I cannot recommend this one enough! The lid clamps shut and has a rubber gasket so that when you are transporting it to work for a luncheon, it WILL NOT SPILL. I mean it. I had to slam on the brakes one time for an idiot in front of me, turned the thing completely upside down, and nope, NOT A DROP escaped. Go getcha one. Seriously.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hammin' it up!

I admit, I am technically from the Midwest, but after moving here, I felt like I came from an entirely different planet. So, suffice it to say that my first experience with Ham and Beans was less than stellar.
By now, you all should know me fairly well, and not be shocked that I found a better way.
I will also admit that I am lazy in the kitchen. Not that there is anything wrong with a beautiful, albeit labor-intensive meal. And I have made more than my fair share of those. But when I find a shortcut that works, I embrace it.
Here is one of my favorites. Hurst's Hambeens.
Yep, this is a dried bean soup mix that you can find with the other dried beans in your local mega-mart (Super Wal-mart, for me). I prefer the 15 Bean Soup Mix (Cajun variety) because, well, I like my food to have flavor.
So, here is my recipe for the best ham and beans you'll ever eat.
Put 3-4 smoked ham hocks or shanks in the bottom of a 6 qt slow cooker (don't be skimpy, you know you want a lot of meat in it!).
Top with the dried beans.
Add 2 quarts of water.
Cook on Low all day (it helps if you can stir it a couple of times so the beans on top don't get dried out, but if it happens to me, I just skim those off.)
After about 8 hours, remove the ham, and discard the bones, skin, fat, and other undesirable bits.
Mix the seasoning packet from the Hambeens into the slow cooker.
Return the ham to the pot.
It should look like this:

And then like this......


And this.....

Savory and just a tiny bit spicy, rich and thick, and perfect with cornbread to soak up the gravy (and I don't normally like cornbread, either). An absolutely perfect meal on a cold night in October.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Its a pork fat thing....

Cruising through the grocery store last week, I was picking up a chunk of ham and, what? what is that? What does that package say? "Bacon Ends"
Hmm. Okay. Keep in mind, my local grocery store is about as big as my bedroom and about as well stocked, so when I find something different there, it always intrigues me.
What would one DO with bacon ends? I'm thinking about throwing the whole thing in a pan and using it on salads, or sprinkle it on top of roasts....
Has anyone every USED bacon ends? I'm interested....gimme some ideas.....

Busy, Busy, Busy.....

It was a very busy weekend, but in a good way. I got a lot done, still got to go out on date night Saturday, and did some baking to blog about.
Friday night was a very relaxing night at home.
Saturday I spend the vast majority of the day shopping with my son and MIL. It was very productive, and we found almost everything we were looking for.
Saturday night was date night again! This time it was a bonfire and hayride/party at a friend's house. It turned out to be a whole lot of fun, and it was cold enough I finally had an excuse to wear the new hoodie I bought the last time I went to the old college campus.
Sunday was breakfast at Grandma's, as usual, and then a million little projects. I worked on T's Halloween costume, which is now almost complete, make biscuits and gravy for the hubs to take to work for his guys today, and made Toffee Cookies for Grandpa.
Grandpa loves my Toffee Cookies.
Heck, I have yet to meet someone who doesn't love my Toffee Cookies.
These cookies are so good that milk has to compete to qualify for the right to be in the same picture as these cookies.
See all that melty toffee? Mmmmmm...they are so yummy even I can't resist one. And I don't even really have a sweet tooth.
And guess what? Just to be the nasty little critter I am, I'm going to post yummy pictures of them and NOT give you the recipe. :) Ancient Chinese Secret...... I never give this recipe out. Never. BWWaaaahahahahAHAHAHAHAhahahahah!!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sleep...I need sleep.

Between the husband coughing and hacking and Ty waking up to pee at 1:30 in the morning, I am running on empty. Its a good thing it is Friday. I sure do have a lot to do this weekend, though!
Last night I made one of Matt's favorites for supper. Stuffed Shells. Its also one of my favorites, or at least it would be if I made it my way with ricotta and spinach. This is the picky country-boy version. But everyone else sure loves it, including his entire family, so I brought leftovers in for his grandpa today, too.
World's Easiest Stuffed Shells
1 1/4 pounds Italian sausage
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
24 - 30 jumbo shells
1 jar pasta sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella

Brown the Italian sausage in a skillet and drain off the fat.
Take off the heat and add the cream cheese, stirring until all the meat is coated.
Mix in the Parmesan cheese.
Add the egg and mix well.
(all of this can be done a day or two ahead if you are pressed for time in the evenings like I am)

Preheat oven to 350.

While the meat is browning, cook the shells in boiling water until just pliable. DO NOT cook all the way through, as these will continue to cook in the oven.

Pour a thin layer of pasta sauce in the bottom of your baking dish (9x13, round casserole, whatever you have in that size range. I've also used 2 pie plates in a pinch).

Drain the shells and allow to cool just enough so they can be handled.

Using a spoon, scoop the meat mixture into the shells. They do not need to be super-full, a good spoon full will do.

Place the filled shells on the pasta sauce and repeat until all shells and meat are used.

Drizzle the rest of the pasta sauce over the shells and top with the mozzarella.

Cover the dish with foil and bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Dish it up and enjoy with garlic bread!

This is a little heavy if you are used to traditional Italian shells, but if you live in the Midwest, chances are no one will notice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another step closer.....

Ok, the headboard isn't technically done. I have to tweak it a bit so I can mount it to the bedframe, but it looks pretty good, don't you think? For our charming/rustic little country home, anyway.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Quiet Week

The vast majority of our employees are at our annual conference this week, so it is very quiet around the office. Likewise, there isn't much to talk about. Still working on the headboard at home, and the scrapbook for the baby shower, both of which I pan to have finished this week. On the way in this mornign I couldn't resist snapping a shot of the sunrise, even though I was running about 10 minutes late.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blah and more Blah.

Ok, so this weekend wasn't BAD, per se, just BLAH. Friday I had the day off for my, ahem, annual. I know as women, we don't look forward to these things, but I always try to make the best of it. For example, I start by scheduling it on a Friday morning. Then I use that as an excuse to take the whole day off. Now, my doctor is in Springfield. I used to go to Springfield about every other weekend, but with the price of gas trying to give me a nosebleed, I rarely go anymore, and definitely not without a good reason. SO, I made my list and ran around town all day while my son was at school. As an extra bonus, you ladies are not going to believe this. My appointment was at 8:45. I arrived about 10 minutes ahead and had barely even sat down when I got called back. Sitting in the driveway, waiting to pull back out into traffic, I looked at the clock. 8:58. How's THAT for service???? So, that left me with the entire day to work on my list. I did really well, too, finding almost everything I had jotted down, plus a few items. I ate lunch at my favorite Thai place. Sorry, I meant to take a picture, but I just couldn't take the time before I dug in! Got one complete Christmas present purchased, too! Getting back to town, I picked up Ty and found out he'd had a bad day at school. Unfortunately, I had already promised to take my nephew for the evening, so I couldn't effectively punish him for being rotten at school. Since I had already made the plans to do so, I took the boys to see IGOR, which opened at our small town movie theatre Friday night. I have to say....not really a good movie. Not impressed at all. Saturday, it was soccer for 3 year-olds again! And, as expected, Ty was ROTTEN. Again. What a miserable hour. We spent a little time with the MIL afterward and went home for a nap. While T was napping, I got the headboard stained. Ooops! I guess I forgot to mention that the new (3rd set) of replacement posts arrived Friday in, we'll say, acceptable condition. Not great, but I am SO tired of fighting them, so, they'll do. Anyway, I got them stained, but first, I spent over an hour on them with the palm sander because they had so many tooth marks in them from the machine used on them. Terrible. I thought I had them sanded down, but you can still see them through the stain. I started bolting the pieces together yesterday but discovered I am going to need a ratchet to finish the job. The hubs said he'd need to get me one. I took that to mean, borrow one from someone. I had really hoped to get the headboard on the bed this weekend. This morning I ask my husband "What size ratchet do I need for that, so I can borrow one from someone today?" He looked at me funny, and said, "well, I have one in the garage..." Ok, pardon my french, but, JACKASS! You couldn't have told me that YESTERDAY? Or, even better, walked your happy ass out there and gotten it for me so I could have this DONE? Apparently not. Does every little thing have to be like pulling teeth with him? So, he said he'd get it tonight, and then I need to get the drill charge up because the posts do not have holes pre-drilled for mounting it to the bed frame. *sigh* I wish I had remembered to put it on charge this it may be tomorrow before I get it done. Oh well, in any case, here's a picture, partially done.

Sunday was breakfast at Grandma's, as usual, and then home to do...well.....not much of anything. I worked on the scrapbook I am making for the niece's baby shower next month, but other than that I accomplished the difficult task of disposing of a few glasses of wine....
Around 6:00, the SIL called and said our farmer was taking the beans out. I know this doesn't mean anything to most of you, but to us, it translates to "Come over quick and maybe Ty can take a ride on the COMBINE!"
So, we did,
Unfortunately, they were just breaking for the night when we got there, so, no ride. But, we did get to go up in it! Ty had a blast.

So, for an unproductive weekend, it wasn't all bad.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Good Gift!

Every fall, my company has their annual users' conference. During that conference, we give a gift to every attendee, and then, we all get one as well. We've had mouse pads, notepads, coffee mugs, umbrellas, tote bags, and many more such items.
This year, the company has started a "green" initiative (admittedly, we were already doing quite a bit in the recycling arena, but we needed to take it a step further. One of those steps is to eliminate the Styrofoam cups that they provide in our lunchrooms. To that end, we just received the best conference gift yet!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, the Tervis Tumbler!
(with interchangeable lids for hot or cold beverages.)
And, this time, they had everyone's names printed on the back, so that they can't be "misplaced" in the lunchroom. How cool is this?

From the recipe archives

The weather is changing and the days are getting shorter, which always leads to one thing for me.
Comfort food.
On the menu last night was Chicken Pot Pie. Definitely one of my all time favorite comfort foods. Rich and steamy fresh from the oven. And, as a bonus, very easy to make. Now, I am not an avid baker, and I admit to using Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust when I make pot pie, so there. Hate me. Whatever. I only have so much time and energy to get a satisfying meal on the table for my family, and if that's what I gotta do, well, that's just how its gotta be.
My pot pie recipe is a conglomeration of several I have tried in the past, a la Barefoot Contessa, Paula Deen, and others of the like. It is a favorite of my mother-in-law's, among others, and I gotta say, I like it pretty well, too. I generally poach the chicken breasts in advance to save myself the grief later on, but you do whatever you like. Here she is, in all her glory.
Chicken Pot Pie
2 cups poached chicken, cubed or shredded
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup mixed vegetables (I use the frozen peas and carrots mix)
6 TB real butter
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 pie crusts (1 package from the refrigerated section)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and saute the onions in the butter.
When the onions are softened, add the flour and cook to make a roux.
Add the chicken stock and stir to combine.
Let the mixture come to a boil to thicken.
Add salt, pepper, and cream.
Mix in the chicken and vegetables.
*This is important. If you don't want the pie to be runny, make sure you add enough chicken and veggies to make the mixture very thick, even if it is more than what is called for.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust (So, roll the bottom crust out a bit on a floured surface and put it in an 8-9 inch pie plate. If your crusts have a tendency to stick to the pan, pre-bake the bottom crust a bit first.)
Top with the second crust (you won't need to roll this one out) and pinch the crusts together.
Brush the top with more cream, top with salt and pepper, and cut three slits in the top to vent the steam.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until top is golden.
Let is cool a bit before cutting to keep the juices from just spilling out everywhere like mine did last night.