Monday, December 31, 2007

2007

Ok a look back at 2007. For the most part, it was very good. The year started off well, we got some projects in the house done from my never ending list, we had lots of good times with friends, and shared many, many meals with people we love. Spring time rolled around and we started working on the garden. We were up to 9 Earthboxes this year. We had a bountiful harvest and ate lots and lots of fresh herbs and veggies.

In May our close friend Mitchell moved to Missouri. I was heartbroken. I was losing my buddy. The night he left the house for the last time was horrible. Oh my God the tears. I think we all cried for hours. It was hard, but we knew it was something he had to do, still we were sad.

We had a big 4th of July celebration and John got to try out his new smoker that he got for his birthday. We have had many delicious meals come outta that big ole bullet.

At the end of July we were off to Hershey Park. My in-laws and I secretly schemed together and made plans to have them surprise John when we got to Pennsylvania. It was hot in Hershey, really hot, with the exception of my Mom, who doesn't do so well in the heat, we had a wonderful time. John's Uncle Mark, Aunt Becky & cousin Vanessa came along too. We didn't get to spend as much time with them as we would have liked to, but it was a fun vacation. I liked Amish country best of all. The kids loved all the rides and the water park. Jesse & Evan even went on a little tour.

When we got back from vacation everything changed. We found out Mitchell had been in a very serious accident. I can't even begin to describe the torment that followed over that next month. We had absolutely no contact with him for almost a month. We were upset and very frustrated. He was hundreds of miles away from us and accurate information was hard to come by. I needed some way to communicate with him, so I wrote, and I wrote and I wrote. Almost every day I wrote him a letter. Just so he knew what was happening "while he was sleeping". At the end of August he awoke from his drug induced coma and called. I can't say that I have ever been as happy to hear someones voice on the phone then I was that night. He was back. Everyday he got better and stronger. Hell today, he's almost damn near perfect again. In '08 he will be moving back home, where he belongs and I am very thankful for that.

In October my in-laws came to stay for a week. We had beautiful Fall weather while they were here. They got to carve pumpkins with the boys, enjoy Evan's birthday party, and just hang with us, which was very nice indeed.

Christmas 2007 was relatively stress free. I had decided that I was wasn't going to make myself crazy and try to do "everything" this year. For the last 3 years I had literally made myself sick and didn't even get to enjoy the holidays. This year was different. I was healthy and productive and never even had a sniffle. So there.
I think we got the biggest tree ever this year. It was over 10 feet tall!! We had the whole family over for Christmas Eve, and as usual there was way too much food. Jesse got his iPod Nano and Guitar Hero that he wanted and Evan got a bunch of new games for the Wii and a cool flying dragonfly. There were loads of other presents which even lead Jesse to say "I got way too much this year". Wow! Nana came over Christmas Day. Physically she is well, but it's so hard to see her slip farther and farther into Alzheimer's. I'm thankful that she is still here and a part of our lives.
So I bid you adieu 2007. Here's to many much more good food, friends and family in 2008.

Fun & Games (and food)

We are celebrated New Year's with a few close friends. On the menu was:

Snail Salad, Filet Mignon (thanks Ken & Eva), Pesto Pasta Seafood, 2 loaves of my Honey Whole Wheat Bread, Mixed Green Salad, and my Stuffed Baked Potatoes. Dessert was the
Scandinavian Cake and a Coconut Raspberry cake Eva brought.

As with many of my recipes, I don't use specific measurements, I just kind of toss stuff in until I think it looks and smells good. For these recipe I just eyed everything. The ingredients can vary depending on what I have in the fridge at the time. Here's what went in this time (all ingredients are approximate).

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

4 large baking potatoes

3 shallots sauteed until tender.
3 cloves of garlic - thrown into the pan when the shallots were almost done.
1/4 - 1/2 cup warm half & half
1/2 - 3/4 cup cup sour
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup cheddar
salt & pepper


Bake the potatoes in a 350 degree oven until they are fork tender. I let them rest for about 15 minutes, cut them in half and then scooped out all the insides. I then return the skins to a baking sheet and put them into a 350 oven for about 10 minutes, just until they are a little crispy. I think this step is crucial. You don't have a soggy potato bottom. Mash the potatoes with the half & half. Stir in the sour cream, cheeses, salt & pepper. Add the shallots and garlic. Let the skins cool for a few minutes then stuff them with the mixture.

Since I prepped these a day ahead of time, I stored them in an airtight container in the fridge. To re-heat, let them sit at room temp for at least an hour then put them into a 500 degree oven, yes you read that right, 500 degrees, trust me, it works. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned.


Pasta Pesto Seafood

1 pound medium shells (or any other pasta with a little nook or cranny for the sauce to cling to)
1 pound bay scallops
1 pound medium cooked shrimp
1 pound imitation crab (yes, imitation. I've tried to use real crab and the kids and hubby would rather have the imitation, which is usually Alaskan Pollock and not crab at all, but they like it).
1/2 pound clams
6 - 8 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
2 - 3 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons Pesto
Fresh parsley
Pecorino Romano cheese


Boil your pasta and have it ready for all the seafood to go into. In a large skillet heat the olive oil and butter. Add the garlic and heat about 3 minutes. At this point when the oil is good and hot I throw in the scallops and crab and heat them through, another 3 -4 minutes, then in go the clams and shrimp, heat those for another 3 -4 minutes. Now add the pesto to the hot pasta. You don't want the pesto to overpower the dish, just put enough in to give it little more flavor. Grab a handful of fresh chopped parsley and another good handful of cheese...into the bowl of pasta it goes. Now transfer everything into a BIG pasta bowl or pan. You need room to stir so don't use a dainty little bowl for this. Top with more cheese and serve immediately.

Needless to say we were all stuffed and everyone sang my praises about the meal! We set the kids up in the living room, closed the door and told them we would see them at midnight. Someone went and got Taboo, a game we have played many times over the years. When we first began playing a long, long time ago, Tati was excluded because her knowledge of the English language was so poor that she only knew the word on the card about once every 25 cards. Really, I'm not kidding, she would pick up a card, look at the word and say "I do not know this". Well since she has mastered the language (for the most part, see cot comment coming up), she can now participate which is much more fun for all of us.

We split the teams into guys and girls. Now take into consideration that the girls were not drinking. Tati had 2 shots of Jagermeister early in the night, and the guys....well they were drinking. By 11:45 the Jagermeister bottle was empty and Ken and John P were the only ones drinking that. My John's choice of beverage was tequila. Ugh! Anyway.......I cannot begin to tell you how hysterical a night we had. I laughed so hard, so many times my stomach muscles ached this morning.

Here is just a few seconds of the game. Notice Tati's unique description of Lady Liberty. This video my not be safe for work cause Ken was way drunk and fondling himself.

video

A human like building?? At the very beginning of the video you can hear Ken say "COT". Earlier Tati picked a card that said COT and she had no idea what it was. Her husband insisted she knew, she insisted she didn't, after a 5 minute argument we let her pass on the cot card, but someone brought it up like, oh every 2 minutes in the game. We had a lot of fun. A very happy New Years indeed.

Mitch we all missed you.

P.S. - Yes the timestamp thingy on this is makes it look like I posted this before New Years cause I had typed out the recipes earlier in the day and I'm too lazy to cut and paste everything into a new post....so too bad.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Scandinavian Almond Cake.


I got this recipe from Eva's mother-in-law, Mrs. Bird. I haven't made it in a long time. It's rich, buttery and has a deep almond flavor. I do use a special ridged German made pan to make it. The original recipe called for margarine. I hate margarine....I use butter and it comes out delicious. Mine cracked a wee little bit when I turned it over on to the platter (I didn't wait long enough for it to cool!) Oh well, that's what confectioner's sugar is for.



Scandinavian Almond Cake

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
2/3 cup milk
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick melted butter
Pre-heat the oven to 350. Spray pan with vegetable oil. With a wire whisk mix the sugar, egg, almond extract and milk until smooth. Add in the flour and baking powder. Pour the melted butter in and mix well. Just before you pour the batter into the pan you can sprinkle it with sliced almonds. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan or cake will break.

I'm hiding this cake until tomorrow nights party. If Evan finds out where it is, half of it will be gone. He loves this cake.

Yeah I'm still braggin'

Saturday, December 29, 2007

History has been made.



I just have two things to say:

1. Phew!

2. I can't stand Bryant Gumbel.

Peanut Butter Swirl Bake Sale Brownies

From the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. These brownies look so scrumptious. I can't believe I have had the will power to cut them, and photograph them without eating a single bite. Jesse just had one and told me they were "awesome".

Peanut Butter Swirl Bake Sale Brownies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter.
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (do not substitute).
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter - room temp

Put oven rack in the middle position and pre-heat to 350. Line and 8 inch square pan with foil and lightly coat with vegetable oil spray. Melt the butter and the chocolate together in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 2 minutes. Let mixture cool slightly.
Whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Drop the peanut butter in 10 small dollops over the batter. Run a butter knife through the batter to create swirls without touching the foil lining. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs, 22 to 27 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Ham & Navy Bean Soup

I baked and cooked all day today. Here's the soup we had for supper. Thanks to my mother-in-law Carol for the recipe. I called her twice today to make sure I was going to make it right. I took the ham bone from Christmas Eve and put it in a big pot and got cooking. Here's the recipe.

Ham & Navy Bean Soup
6 - 8 cups of chicken stock
3 meduim carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 ham bone
1 pound navy beans, rinsed
Leftover ham, cut into bit size pieces.

Bring soup to a boil then lower to a simmer and cook for approximately 2 hours, or until beans are cooked through. I also added some Mrs. Dash, fresh parsley, a bay leaf and some cracked black pepper while it cooked. I added the ham during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

It was really tasty and went especially well with the honey wheat bread for supper. Warmed our bellies nicely. Thanks Mom!

Bread - Part 2

Success!!! Oh I had my doubts. The whole yeast thing really had me worried, but I guess that little bit of sugar really did help. After a little knead on the marble board it was into the pans to rise again for an hour. They looked good in the pan but I was still skeptical. Into the oven they went. I set the timer for 40 minutes. Good thing I checked at the 35 minute point cause they were golden brown and the smell in the house was so unreal. Sara was over and she came down stairs and said "wow what smells like bread baking?". Um, that would be bread - baking. I let them cool for a good hour before I cut into one. Looked good.......tasted fantastic. John came to pick Sara up and I gave him 3 big pieces to take home. Tati called me as soon as she bit into one and said "this is the best bread I have had in a long time". Tati is the biggest bread lover I know so I took that as a huge compliment. We had ham and navy bean soup for supper...with bread of course. I am very pleased with my first attempt. I think I'm going to make 2 more loaves for New Year's Eve.

Bread - Part 1

I spent 2 days reading about making bread. This morning I attempted to start the dough. It didn't go so well. I was following the Williams Sonoma recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Bread. The recipe said to warm the milk to 105 - 115 F. My milk was at 111. Perfect I thought. In went 2 envelopes of yeast. I set the timer for 5 minutes. The mixture should have started bubbling and foaming, notice I said should have. Mine did not. After almost 10 minutes with no bubbles or foam I gave up, threw the mixture into the sink and tried again. Maybe my milk was too warm? I stirred the yeast when I first put it in, maybe that's what went wrong. I checked the expiration on the yeast - October 2008. Huh? So I give it another try. 2 cups of milk and 2 more packages of yeast later - nuttin'. I was so mad. Went on line....one site says the yeast should be room temp. Well mine was in the fridge cause the package said store in the refrigerator! Great!

I got in the car and trekked my butt to Whole Foods. I bought a bottle of yeast. $7 for a little bottle of yeast. Geesh. I warm the milk, I put in 5 teaspoons of yeast and.....NOTHING! I went online and tried to troubleshoot what went wrong - again. Looks like I'm doing everything right. Saw a few sites that said I could put in some sugar to give the little yeast bastards something to eat. So in goes the sugar. 2 minutes later it is starting to look a little foamy. 3 minutes later it's foamy but there is still milk that looks like, well milk, in the bottom of the bowl. After another 3 minutes I decided that nothing was going to change and on to the mixer stand it went. In went eggs, salt, honey and flour. After 5 minutes in the mixer it looked like dough to me, smelled like dough too. Oh well, this will have to do. I have no idea how this will come out. I have a very bad feeling that I will be pulling 2 lead balloons outta the oven. It's resting comfortably in a big bowl now.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Things that make me happy #3



TOPKUSS CHOCO. Imagine a light puffy cloud of marshmallow, not sickeningly sweet marshmallow like the crap we buy in bags here. Creamy, fluffy, melt in your mouth marshmallow with a tiny little wafer at the bottom that look likes a mini waffle, now cover the whole thing in chocolate and you have a Topkuss Choco.

So unbelievably good.

Tati bought them in a little German market she goes to a few times a year. I had them once before a long, long time ago when her Mom brought them from Germany, but I bet it's been at least 15 years now since I had one.

My mouth was very happy.

Like a cross between a hyena and screaming banshee

I have been friends with Tatjana (Tati to us) for over 20 years now. As anyone who has met her can tell you, she will make you laugh. I could never accurately describe the high pitched squeal that emits from her body, but it in infectious. When she laughs, you can't help but laugh along with her, even if you have no clue what she is laughing about, which happens more often then you may think.

We got together last night to have our Christmas together. Every year we tell each other were not going to buy for each other, just the kids and every year we end up buying something for each other cause we just can't resist when we find whatever it is that you just have to buy. This year I got her a clock with a rooster on it. Tati is a bit chicken and rooster obsessed. I think it goes back to her younger days in Slovenija when she played with the chickens to occupy her time. I have a clock with a rooster on it in my kitchen. For the last 7 or 8 years, since I bought the clock, she has wanted it. Whenever she would look up at my clock she would say "Gimme that clock". "No I like my clock, you can't have it." Then John, who hates my rooster clock, would "chime" in (sorry, bad pun) "Take it, you can have it". It's funny that my clock stayed on the wall all this time, cause as with many things over the years, when one of us would say "Oh I love that" the other will say "here take it". It's just a thing we do, we give our stuff away to each other, cause after all, it's just stuff. I'm sure Tati expected that at some point she would wear me down and I would tell her to just take it, but I like my rooster clock dammit!

Over the summer I found a clock very similar to mine and knew I had to buy it for her. When I wrapped it for Christmas I wrote on the tag "here - now you can quit your bitching". Needless to say, when she opened it up, she omitted the highest pitch squeal that we have heard in a very long time. She has her own rooster clock now. I'm sure it will be just a matter of time before she has her eye on something else in my house.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Things that make me happy #2



BIG RINGS. I love 'em. I'm not talking about some dainty, delicate pinkie ring. Oh no. I love big, giant, stone rings. I love to wear them on the middle finger of my right hand, and I love it when cashiers, or old ladies grab my wrist and say to me "oh that is a beautiful ring". I know.....thank you very much I say. I can even tell them what stone it is. Oh yes, I am a regular gemologist when it comes to my big rings.

Things that make me happy #1





When I look around I can literally find hundreds of things in my life that make me happy. I decided to number them and show you some. Here is #1. My Wood Wick candle that John got me for Christmas. The Wood Wick candles are unique cause the wick crackles like a itty bitty fire when you light it. When my house is very, very quiet (which doesn't happen very often) I like to lay on the couch with a book and light it just to hear it crackle and pop. It's so much more economical then a fireplace too! This one is biscotti and I like it a lot.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Finally.....

I have been saying that I was going to start my own blog for almost a year now. Well the year is almost over so I decided I better get my butt in gear and start one. Here is it.

I have had some friends tell me they wish I would post my recipes, pictures, even my thoughts and ideas. I never really thought that I was interesting enough for anyone to want to read any of it, but we shall see. I named it The Cutting Edge of Ordinary. Please don't think that ordinary is a bad thing. I am ordinary. My life, my job, my skills, all ordinary. I think it's the ordinary in the world that connects us. What is extraordinary is the family and friends I surround myself with. Most of which I am sure you will meet in upcoming posts. You will not be disappointed.

So here is my first post on my brand spankin' new blog. Pretty ordinary so far.