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.