Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm Leavin'....on a jet plane!

But I DO know when I'll be back again! That'll be Wednesday afternoon. I'm off first thing tomorrow to see my sister out east, so I'll be absent for several days. Don't go running away on me - I promise I'll be back and I'll have lots to blog about! I have a bunch of fun food I'm planning to make for her while I'm visiting.
Oh, and you just might get an occasional mobile post from me while Little Man and I are travelling. He's flown before, but was too young to remember, so this should be fun for him.

See you next week!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Soup and ‘Shrooms

Big doin’s in my kitchen last night!
I was asked by Marcus’ wife to make her some diabetic beef vegetable soup, which I am more than grateful to be able to do, so I had that as #1 on my agenda last night.
I also know that she loves my Artichoke Pesto, so I whipped up a batch of that.
At the same time, I still had to make supper for the hubs, so I threw together a Stromboli.
AND, yesterday the neighbor guy dropped by the house (weird, since we don’t speak to him since he robbed our house several years ago….) and offered Matt an unspoken olive branch… the form of a gallon Ziploc bag nearly full of morels.
SO, I slipped into my kitchen gloves (food allergies are greeeaaaatttt....) and split those bad boys up and ran them through some egg wash and cracker crumbs and got them into the fryer while they were still good enough to eat. (for the hubs, not for me. Ew.) The hubs was in hog heaven.
Diabetic Beef and Vegetable Soup
1 pound extra lean stew meat
1 TB olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups fat free beef broth or stock
1 cup dry red wine
½ bag frozen mixed veggies
10-12 fingerling Yukon gold potatoes, sliced in ¼” coins
Fresh parsley, chopped

In a dutch oven or stock pot (love my Wolfgang Puck enamel coated cast iron dutch oven….browns meat some wonderfully), brown the meat in oil until just browned.
Add in the onion and cook another minute or two until the onion begins to soften, then add in the garlic until it just begins to get fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the wine, then add the stock.
Once the stock comes to a simmer, add the veggies. Let them cook for a few minutes, then add in the potatoes.
Cook until just barely fork tender (they will continue to cook until the soup cools down), then toss in the fresh parsley right at the end.
This soup was nice and flavorful, and there was no need to add other seasonings or salt, it was just nice and comforting.

Morels on Foodista

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My 200th post - in Memory of a Friend

Can you believe it? I shot right by post #100 without even noticing, but for a few weeks now, I’ve known the 200th was coming up. I thought and thought about what to post about. I wanted it to be something really special. Since I am leaving for a visit to see my sister this weekend, I thought I would wait until I got back and make the post about her and my unborn niece.
Funny how life has a way of changing your plans. Somehow I think my sister will understand, but this post isn’t going to be about her after all.

Last night I lost a friend. He was way too young to die. Marcus’ death resulted from a tragically senseless accident at his home, when he took a nasty fall down a flight of stairs, thus sustaining a head injury. We knew yesterday that the outlook was grim, but thought we had a little more time. Instead, he left us last night around 8:30pm, leaving behind his parents, his sister and her children, his wife, and a host of people who knew and worked with him who will feel the loss of him in their own lives.

Marcus and I had worked together off and on for more than eight years. I first got to know him on a work trip to Mexico. Over the next few years, we spent a lot of time working with our Spanish speaking customers, me translating the calls between them. When I moved to the Internal Training group, I worked closely with him on many occasions, helping him prepare for classes that he taught. We were never close outside of work, but he was a good man.

One day, a woman came into his life. And into ours as well. I was so excited that he had found someone to make him happy, and I immediately wanted to be her friend, too. Since she was new to the area, I offered to throw her a bachelorette party. I remember this very clearly. When his wife-to-be told him about it, he seemed confused. “Oh no, I don’t think you’ll like her”, he’d said. “She’s a basketmaker” he had told her. I still remember when she told me about it. He only knew me as being the girl who makes quilts and does crafty things, and was probably quite dull outside of work. Well, suffice it to say he found out how wrong he was when I poured his fiancĂ©e into her mother-in-law’s house that night after getting her royally drunk and celebrating her upcoming nuptials with a blast of a sendoff. After that, we had a different understanding of each other, as I too, saw him in a new light. His wife showed me that he had a side to him that I never knew existed. He had a heart of gold. He adored his wife. He was soulful.
That is how I will always remember him.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, Marcus, until we meet again.


To realize
The value of a sister
Ask someone
Who doesn't have one.
To realize
The value of ten years:
Ask a newly
Divorced couple.
To realize
The value of four years:
Ask a graduate.
To realize
The value of one year:
Ask a student who
Has failed a final exam.
To realize
The value of nine months:
Ask a mother
who gave birth to a stillborn.
To realize
The value of one month:
Ask a motherwho has given birth to
A premature baby.
To realize
The value of one week:
Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize
The value of one minute:
Ask a person
Who has missed the train, bus or plane.
To realize
The value of one-second:
Ask a person
Who has survived an accident.
Time waits for no one.
Treasure every moment you have.
You will treasure it even more when
you can share it with someone special.
To realize the value of a friend or family member:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Peace to our friend

All our prayers and tears go out tonight to two friends, one who was taken from us too soon, and the one who was left behind to mourn him.

We will all feel your loss, each in our own way.

You will be missed, Marcus.

Taking Cake on a Test Drive

Here comes another recipe on a test drive for my brother in law's birthday in July. I ran across this recipe on Chef Chuck's Cucina and it really spoke to me!
I don't usually have a sweet tooth, but I do love a good, rich chocolate. I made my version with unsweetened chocolate, for two reasons:

1. my store didn't have the Bittersweet the Chef Chuck recommended.
2. I like my chocolate extra dark and bitter

So, the torta turned out beautifully, although it took almost twice as long to cook as Chuck's did, and it was definitely bitter. I liked it very much, but you've got to like it really dark to do it this way. I may try it again with a different chocolate for the BIL. But, I think we might have a winner, the texture was wonderful, very dense and rich. And as an extra bonus, it was incredibly easy to make. I didn't have a tart pan, so I lined my springform pan with foil and it worked just fine...but I'm thinking I might have to get back up to TJMaxx now for the tart pan I talked myself out of there last weekend!
Chocolate Torta
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla (I got to use my new homemade vanilla extract!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
powdered sugar for dusting

Slowly melt chocolate and butter over low heat, remove from heat. Whisk in sugar, add 1 egg at a time, vanilla, salt and flour. Pour in a 9 or 10 inch pan and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or till tooth pick comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar.

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta - PRESTO PASTA NIGHT!

Ever the favorite in our house is.....anything with bacon in it. I couldn't tell you where I came up with this recipe, but the hubs loves it, and its yet another recipe that I save for when I've made a bunch of bacon and I have leftovers. Better this than just stuffing the pork fat directly into my mouth, I say.
I am submitting this recipe to Presto Pasta Nights this Friday. This week, Hillary at Chew on That is hosting, so check back on Friday to see all the great dishes!
Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta
8 ounces ziti, penne, or other short cut pasta, uncooked
1 pound ground beef
6-8 slices bacon
1 can tomato soup
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta in boiling water until just al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown the ground beef and drain off any grease. Set aside.
In same pan, cook bacon and drain off the fat, then chop bacon into bite size pieces.
Return beef to pan. Add pasta to skillet, as well as beef, soup, and chopped bacon. Heath through.
Top with shredded cheese (this is also very good with a cheese sauce instead of shredded.)
Cover the pan and cook until cheese melts.
** When I make this, I usually do it when I already have bacon leftover so that it saves me a step at dinner time.
**Also, the cheese in these pictures doesn’t look very gooey because I put it in the oven (I had it warm anyway because I was baking a cake) and it didn’t get all melty like it would if I steamed it by putting the lid on the pan and turning off the heat. The hubs like crispy cheese, so this works for him, but if you like yours gooey, try it with the lid instead.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Microwave

Recently, our microwave (which was a wedding gift nearly six years ago) gave out on me. It was a nice appliance, and it will be missed. However, I am not one to pass on an opportunity to upgrade when it presents itself. Fortunately, we were holding onto another microwave, belonging to a coworker of the hubs, until it could be returned to him, so I had a backup to get me by, which gave me time to research and shop, in order to get a machine I will be happy with for (hopefully) a long time to come.

I drooled over the convection microwaves, and even found one in my price range on walmart's website. However, it is not available i stores and I am a big fan of actually seeing an appliance before I buy it. After doing my homework online, I made a trip to the city this weekend and found something I liked at Target. Since I wasn't going to pony up the money for the convection version, I decided that I wasn't going to skimp on size. I have always wanted a microwave that could hold a 9x13 casserole.

What I ended up with?

Sharp R-520KS 2-Cubic-Foot 1200-Watt Microwave Oven, Stainless Steel
I even stopped at TJMaxx in the hopes of finding a handle-less 9x13 casserole, just to ensure success, and lo and behold! I actually found one, in my favorite serveware color....white. I love white serving dishes. Bowls, platters, casseroles....its just such a nice clean background for a beautiful meal. As it turns out, I wouldn't have had to find one withough handles, because as you can see here, there is plenty of room.Mama is in kitchen heaven.

(and no, I couldn't just leave with ONE thing from TJMaxx. I did end up with a pretty white square casserole, and two pretty white receptacles that will be good for dips or hors d'oerves.)

Chicken Pot Pie – Again

It was pointed out to me by my good friend Ginny that I had, indeed, already posted this. Of course, it was discovered when I was already taking pictures of last week’s pie-in-progress. So, since the first post didn’t have much in the way of pictures, I’m posting it again! Enjoy! Again!

Rattlesnake, and Other Deep-Fried Midwestern Euphemisms

I realize that all regions have their own specialty foods as well as their own takes on traditional recipes. When I moved to Illinois, I discovered several such items, including toasted ravioli, horseshoes, and, of course, rattlesnake.
Rattlesnake, which is really no kind of snake at all, is just deep fried steak bites with a lovely buttery dipping sauce. There is a local restaurant that serves this entree as their “claim to fame” and although they are less than forthcoming about the ingredients, I’ve come across a recipe that is pretty darn close, thanks to a friend.
Rattlesnake combines several of my husband’s favorite characteristics in a meal, hence this is a favorite and I whipped it up for him last night.

1 large thick cut top sirloin steak, trimmed of all fat and cut into bite size chunks (my friend uses Ribeye, but I am too cheap for that with meat prices being what they are, and the sirloin does just fine)

2 eggs
1 cup milk

½ cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 cup flour
About 5 good shakes of Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

1 stick butter
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 TB minced garlic
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon black pepper

First, chunk up the steak into bite sized pieces. Mix the eggs and milk together in a large bowl and let the steak bites soak in the egg wash.
Meanwhile, get your oil heating up, and mix together your dry ingredients in a pie plate, or zip-top bag.
Dredge the soaked beef thoroughly in the breadcrumb mixture, patting the crumbs onto the steak as you go to make a nice crust.Deep fry in batches until all pieces are golden. While frying, melt the butter in a small saucepan and mix the rest of the ingredients in to form the dipping sauce.

Voila! Rattlesnake!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter, Part 2

I just thought I'd put a couple more pictures out of my adorable little guy enjoying his Easter fun this weekend. Yeah, because I'm THAT mom, and you WILL look at my brag book! LOL
(at home after hunting Easter Eggs in our mudpit of a front yard)

(at Grandma's house after the big Easter Egg Hunt with his cousins)

Taco Soup

(Ok, NOT the best picture in the world, taken in the dungeon that is my office)
A friend of mine gave me this recipe some years ago, and until now, I would rarely give it out, because it really wasn't MY recipe. However, I have made enough changes to it since then, and it has grown in popularity so much that I am posting it here today in honor of his birthday which is this week! Somehow I don't think he'd mind. Plus, I entered my version in a local soup and chili cook off a couple years ago and took a ribbon, so here we go!

I decided to make this last night to bring in to my coworkers today (who are now anxiously stalking near my office with their tongues hanging out) because when I was making my weekly grocery list, I noticed that I had 6, count 'em, SIX cans of Ro-tel in my pantry. Considering I only have two recipes that call for Ro-tel in my entire repertoire, I can only assume that I either found them on sale at some point, or had Taco Soup on the brain a lot this winter when grocery shopping.

Everyone I know loves this soup, and with Old Man Winter refusing to loose his grip on us, even this far into April, I thought this might be a good way to shake off the chill today. It is an insanely easy recipe to make and also alteration-friendly if you are the kind of person who can't handle spice, or if you can't find the Chorizo in your local store. Shockingly, even in my small po-dunk town, I can get it (well, the Johnsonville variety, anyway, but even I have to admit theirs has a decent flavor!).

Taco Soup
1 package johnsonville Chorizo links, removed from casings (or 1 pound bulk chorizo) or 1 pound ground beef if you can't find chorizo
1-2 cans corn (I like the Green Giant white shoepeg corn, so I use 2 cans since they are shorties)
1 can red beans
1 can black beans
2 cans Ro-tel (whatever flavor you prefer, I use Orignal)
1 package Ranch Dressing mix
1 package Taco Seasoning (if you are using ground beef instead of chorizo, use 2 pkgs, unless you prefer your soup milder)

Brown the ground chorizo in a soup pot and drain off any fat that it renders.

Add taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix and stir to combine.

Add all cans of veggies and beans, and 2-3 cans of water until the soup is the consistency you desire.

Simmer for at least an hour, then serve! This is great with corn chips, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Oriental Baked Chicken

This recipe is a twist on one for Asian chicken wings that I got from a relative a while back. When I was planning my dinners for this week, the split chicken breasts at the store called out to me, but I didn't have any inspiration for what to do with them. SO, this is what I did!

Oriental Baked Chicken
4-6 split chicken breasts (I took the extra step and cut the bone off, leaving the skin intact)
1 teaspoon onion salt
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon (or more, to taste) red pepper flake
1/2 teaspoon ginger
drizzle of sesame oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 can Coke

Mix together all ingredients except for the chicken in a saucepan and simmer for about an hour.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil and bake the chicken breasts at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until just cooked through.

Toss the chicken in a bowl with the sauce and let sit for 15 minutes, then put the chicken back on the sheet and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

**as an alternative, put the "marinated" chicken on the grill and baste with leftover sauce to caramelize. I would rather have done this, but our grill is shot and we haven't bought a new one yet this season. The chicken does not caramelize in the oven like it would on the grill.

I just served this with some cheesy hash browns for the hubs last night.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm a Foodie!

I am very pleased to announce that I have been accepted to the Foodie Blogroll! Please note that I have added the Blogroll to my page, where you can find lots of other foodie blogs! If you've got a food blog, jump on over and get signed up, too!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Happy Easter!

Ok, even I have to admit that the background the photographer had set up was pretty cheesy, but it went well with the "ham" that my boy was emanating. Isn't he just a cutie?

Ty had a great weekend, with lots of Easter eggs to hunt, both at our house, and at Grandma's. He was a real trooper and save the "overstimulaton-holiday-exhaustion" meltdown until almost everyone had left yesterday afternoon.

It was a good weekend, but unfortunately very busy, so I didn't get hardly any sewing done at all. I was really hoping to have finished pictures of the baby quilt to post today, but it wasn't meant to be.

On a happy note - it is less than two weeks until Ty and I will be boarding a plane for the coast to see my sister, and we can't wait!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Its a Start!

I finally buckled down last night (ok, this morning, but I did THINK about it last night!) and started a tentative block on my sister's baby quilt. This is actually only half the block, so you really won't be able to distinguish the pinwheel pattern just yet. With any luck, this weekend I will manage to get the vast majority of it done so I can get it to the quilter very, very soon!

What do you think, sister?

(for those of you quilters out there, this is a paper pieced pattern called Petite Posies, done with a batik background and Kaffe Fassett 'Milliefiori' and 'Paperweight' prints.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Yeah, yeah, I'm a blog-slacker...this I know.

Ok, so I haven't been posting a lot lately. Its not that I don't love you, people, truly I do. Its just that life seems to be getting in the way lately. So, I'm going to give you some blog farts (also known as random bits of what's going on in my life because I just have no time for a real post).
  1. Earth Day is coming up and I am spearheading a movement to begin a "freecycle" program at my office, as well as organizing a Brown bag session promoting our local recycling center.
  2. The hubs has been spending a lot more evenings hunting lately, so I have much less time at home to try out new recipes and blog. You would think that would give me more time, but without him there to distract the lovable little snuggle bunny that our son has become, my time is pretty well spoken for.
  3. The FIL has officially been moved to a nursing home (aka "hospice") and we have been trying to see him as much as possible (for reasons that may not be obvious, but if you read the word "hospice" you should get the idea). I know, I really haven't talked about this before now, and that's out of respect for the hubs, as he is kinda private about things likr this.
  4. Work.
  5. Getting ready for Easter. This year there is a lot to do! I will add pics of us dyeing Easter eggs, but we also had an Easter egg hunt at my office, Easter party, including treat bags to give away at Ty's school, Easter egg hunt at our house Sunday morning, and at the MIL's Sunday afternoon, which will involve me assembling a rather elaborate antipasto/relish tray.
  6. I'M GOING TO SEE MY SISTER! My PREGNANT sister. (Yes, I just love saying that!) And that is occupying the vast majority of my thoughts right now. Planning the trip, itself, including everything I need to bring along to entertain or sustain the 4 year old. Also, I am trying (rather unsuccessfully, I might add) to get the baby quilt I am making done in time to take with us. Among other things, including just daydreaming about going to see my sister! I'm going to cook for her while I'm there, so I've been browsing my vast recipe archive as well.
  7. The Mother's birthday falls during the trip, so I hope I get the chance to cook something special for her while we're there. Oh, and the BIL's birthday falls on the second trip we're taking out there in July, and I am in charge of his birthday cake, which means I have been test driving cake recipes at home. I haven't found one yet that I am satisfied with, or even that I find worthy of posting here, but up next is Chef Chuck's Torta di Cioccolato. I'll try and take pics and let you know how it turns out after I've had a chance to whip it up!
  8. Oh yeah, did I mention WORK? Mmm hmmm.
Well, anyway, I've been busy, but I'll try to do better. And if you can just hang on and bear with me for a couple more weeks, I'm sure I'll have an endless supply of blogtastic material when I get back from the coast.
For now, here's some pics of my precious little man.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cordon Bleu - Revisited

When I originally posted about the hubs' favorite version of Chicken Cordon Bleu, it just so happened that my camera had died before I could take a picture of the finished product.

In the interest of trying to use things up out of the freezer, I made the dish again last night with the leftover chicken chunks and managed to snap a couple of shots as the casserole came out of the oven. For whatever reason, this time instead of mixing the chunks of cheese and ham BEFORE adding them to the dish, apparently I put the ham on last, and there it is, poking up all over the top. The hubs didn't complain, though.