Friday, February 29, 2008

Macaroni & Cheese

I think macaroni & cheese is one of those foods that everyone’s Mom made in a different way. I never remember my Mom making macaroni & cheese. It was not something that was in our house when I was growing up. Not even the blue box. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized this was a real staple food for lots of families. I have experimented over the years and made quite a few versions, one being the Cooks Illustrated version that actually turned out horrendous.

I found this recipe in my Yankee magazine years ago and had it tucked into one of the pouches in my recipe binder, always glancing past it thinking, I should try that. Well tonight I did and I was pleasantly surprised. This produces a velvety smooth cheese sauce topped with a crunchy panko breadcrumb topping. The traditional elbow macaroni is absent too. This recipe suggested penne, rigatoni or ziti be used.

Macaroni & Cheese

Yankee Magazine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
8 ounces pasta (that’s half a box)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoon flour
2 cups milk
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

2 cups sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 350. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add panko and stir until coated. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, stopping 2 minutes shy of suggested cooking time (just make sure it’s very al dente).

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat; whisk in the flour until smooth. Mix 1 minute being careful not to let the mixture brown. Gradually add the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture is thickened and starts to bubble (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat, add salt, peppers, and cheese, whisking until the cheese is melted.

Add the pasta then spoon mixture into a lightly greased 2 quart casserole. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until bubbly.



I doubled this recipe cause a half a box of pasta just won’t cut it in this house with all the boys I’m feeding. I didn’t double the panko topping and there was just enough. Next time I might double it cause the crunchy top is my favorite part.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

That had to hurt.



As you know from a previous post, I am lucky enough to get farm fresh eggs from some of my co-workers. Well today one of them brought me a dozen "jumbo" eggs. To me the word jumbo does scratch the surface at describing the gargantuality of these eggs. I could not believe it when I saw them. The cover of the egg carton would not even close half way. I took a picture of a few of them in a carton of extra large store bought eggs and it's just too funny when you see them together.

The one in my hand in the top picture actually cracked on the ride home so I broke it open after John took the photo. Double yokes. Just as I had suspected. I could make an omelet with 2 eggs!

Poor chicken sphincter.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is another one of those recipes that I really don’t have a recipe for. I just use up whatever veggies I have on hand, cook up some chicken and make it all into a pie.

I was trying to be conscientious of what step I was using while I was making this, but since I just toss stuff in, there really aren’t too many specific measurements.

I had taken out 2 large boneless chicken breasts from the freezer the night before. I seasoned them up nicely and baked them until the juices ran clear. After I let them cool, I torn the meat into chunks and set it aside.

In my fridge I had asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms & carrots. I always have frozen peas in the freezer so I knew I would throw some of those in later.

I started by steaming the broccoli (crowns only), carrots & asparagus. Make sure you cut all of these into bite size pieces, and don’t steam them to death, remember they will all be going back into the oven to cook. After they had streamed I removed them from the pan.

I put approximately a tablespoon of olive oil back into the same pan and added a small chopped onion. I let the onion get tender and then I threw the mushrooms in. I used one package of baby bellas. I cut all the mushrooms in half. Once the mushrooms had cooked down I added them to the other veggie mixture.

Now I transferred the veggie mixture and the chicken mixture into a large bowl. I added in about a half a cup full of frozen baby peas. You can just throw them in frozen, they defrost really fast.

The next step was a can of cream of mushroom soup. You can use any of the “cream of’s” that you like, but I find the cream of chicken is too chickeny for this recipe and the cream of celery really doesn’t do anything for it. I suppose that cream of potato may work well, but I’m sticking with the mushroom for this recipe. Pour the soup into the bowl with your chicken & veggies. Mix well, and pour into a prepared pie pan.

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until pie is hot and bubbly. You might want to put a baking sheet on the rack under the pie in case of drips. If you find the edges are getting too dark, cover them with a crust saver or some tin foil. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before you cut into it or you will have a goopy mess.

I used the Cooks Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough recipe for this pie. I did make a top and a bottom crust. In the past I have just poured the mixture into the pie pan without a bottom. You certainly can bake it that way, but since the dough recipe made 2 crusts, I used them both. I did bake the bottom crust for about 8 minutes so it wouldn’t get soggy in the oven. Poke some holes in the bottom crust with a fork and weigh it down with some large dried beans to keep the crust from shrinking too much while its baking.

The pie crust worked perfect with this. It was moist and flakey at the same time. A keeper for sure.

Easy French Bread

I found this recipe on the food blog Baking Bites. She found it on allrecipe.com. It was a fairly simple recipe. Since the kids are going back to school tomorrow, I figured bringing a yummy sandwich made with homemade bread would be a nice start. Lunch is the highlight of the day after all. As you can imagine, they are both thrilled to be done with vacation and are raring to get back to all that homework and reading. All those nights of staying up past their normal bedtime as just become too much for them and they are highly anticipating their return to the 5:30am wake up call by yours truly. Yeah right.

Easy French Bread
5 cups all purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water

Put yeast in 1/4 cup of the water (with a pinch of sugar) for 5-10 minutes, until foamy. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour and salt. Stir in remaining 1 3/4 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Add in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Gently deflate the dough and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up tightly, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends and pinch to seal.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush on loaves. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.


With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and crusty.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ted's Montana Grill

Have you ever eaten at a Ted's Montana Grill?

Well if you haven’t…I highly recommend it. This is my second trip to this restaurant. I went once last Fall and I was very impressed. If you haven’t heard of Ted’s, let me fill you in. From their site:

Founded by media entrepreneur and environmentalist Ted Turner and acclaimed restaurateur George McKerrow, Jr., Ted’s Montana Grill is a Classic American Grill featuring fresh, made-from-scratch comfort food within an authentic turn-of-the-century Montana grill atmosphere. The first Ted’s Montana Grill opened in January 2002 in Columbus, Ohio, and has grown to over 50 restaurants in 18 states. The menu, under the direction of Executive Chef, Chris Raucci, features made-from-scratch dishes including all 100-percent natural premium Harris Ranch beef, National Bison Association-certified bison, Springer Mountain Chicken and seafood. The time-honored American favorites include steaks, meatloaf, crab cakes, pecan-crusted trout, cedar plank salmon, burgers, chicken grills and vegetable sides. Daily blue-plate specials, fresh-cut fries, hand-dipped salt and pepper onion rings, delicious soups and an array of salads and desserts round out the menu. Average entrée menu items range from $6 to $20.

I just love the place. I love that everything is made from scratch, I love the décor, kinda Old West and oh well…..here this is easier, from their site again:

No freezer. No microwaves. No boil-in-the-bag. No pretense. We use only all-natural beef, bison and chicken. And in keeping with co-founder Ted Turner’s focus on the environment, we are an eco-friendly establishment that is as passionate about the environment as we are about our food. Recyclable paper menus, paper straws and reusable glass are just a few of the industry-leading ways we do our part so you can eat great and do good. T
ed’s Montana Grill. Who knew making the world a better place could be so delicious?

Delicious it is. This time we went with my folks. When you sit down, they give you a bowl of fresh pickles, so good. The table is covered in rustic paper, the napkins are checkered, and everything is served in glass, not plastic or paper. When you order a root beer, you get the glass bottle. How cool is that?

We started with the onion rings, which were colossal. I didn’t get a picture of those cause we scarfed them down too fast. John, my Dad and I ordered the Bison burgers, my Mom got the bison meatloaf, which she declared delicious. The burgers are huge and moist and juicy. Th
is was the first time I had ever tasted bison. It was different, leaner and it tasted more like meat than meat, if that makes sense. At least it did to me. We all ate every last bite on our plates. Boy am I stuffed.

Pie Crust

I have always been intimidated by pie crust. Every Easter, I remember watching my grandmother roll out the pie crust for her rice pies and her ham & cheese pies. I always helped with the filling, but I never helped her make the pie crust.

I love to make pies. One of my very first cooking endeavors was pie. Over the years I perfected my apple pie to the point that my family and friends declare it “the best apple pie eva!”. That’s eh-va, not eva, we don’t pronounce the R’s in Rhode Island. When asked, I would confess, I did not make the pie crust. This was not information that I offered freely mind you, but I did admit it when questioned. I was a pitiful failure when it came to the crust. Not that I hadn’t tried, and met with horrible results. Then Pillsbury came out with the little red box with pre-made crusts! It was like the pie Gods reached down, opened up the sky, looked down directly on me and said “behold child you can’t make a decent pie crust, this will make your pie baking easier”, and it did. There is nothing wrong with using those pre-made crusts. They are tasty and pretty flakey to boot, but I knew I could do better. So I started to look into the perfect pie crust. I didn’t realize that there were so many variations.

At the base of them all was some type of a solid fat, be it butter or shortening or lard. The liquids had me confused. Some folks use cream, others milk, buttermilk, water, vinegar, etc. With so many different variations how would I know which one to use?

Yet again I turned to the people at Cooks Illustrated for their version of Foolproof Pie Dough. They haven’t let me down yet right? The first thing that stood out for me was vodka. Yup, vodka. Seems strange? Listen to what Deb at Smittenkitchen has to say about that:

That thing is vodka, my friends. Yes, I think they’re brilliant too. But really, vodka, because it is 80-proof, will mostly evaporate in the oven, meaning that your crust gets the liquid it needs but much of it will not stay. Worried about a boozy vibe to your pie? Vodka is, by definition, colorless and odorless, so once it’s baked, you’ll forget it was ever in there. Of course (aheeeeem) if you are the sort that likes to pick up small scraps of raw dough and eat them because, mm, butter is awesome, let’s just say that things can get a little messy and leave it at that. Really, it’s not always a bad thing.

Deb used a dough cutter for her crust. I just ordered one at Amazon last week, along with a scraper, a new muffin pan and the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I can’t wait till that box arrives. My heart jumps with glee when I see the UPS truck pull up in front of my house.

I used a food processor this time. I found myself looking at the finished product saying “Is that it?” That was too easy. Here’s the recipe:

Foolproof Pie Dough
Cooks Illustrated, November 2007


Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Mine will be sitting in the fridge overnight. I plan on making some chicken pot pie with it tomorrow.

Missing Michael

Last night I watched a documentary about Elton John. I love Elton John. He is one of few performers on my wish list of people to see live. Thousands of concerts and I have never seen Elton live. It’s just a shame.

Quite a few Elton John songs make me think of my friend Michael. Last night while I watched the documentary I was flooded with memories of him.

We met at work many, many years ago. He married one of my close friends Linda who also worked at the same company. The marriage didn’t work and they divorced. Linda left the company, Michael stayed. While we were always all good friends, after the divorce Michael and I became very close. He was very handsome (oh the girls were all after him after the divorce), he was very deep and very lonely.

He was struggling with the divorce, which was very amicable, and needed someone to talk to, and I was there for him, as he was always there for me. We developed a really special friendship. We would talk on the phone for hours and hours, he shared my love of music and we shared a love of a lot of the same artists…Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, the Beatles, Elton John, just to name a few. I fed him, of course, that’s what I do best. He was a bachelor and eating total crap so I would bring him good food to eat.

At that point in my life, he knew me like no one else. I was so comfortable with him and could tell him everything. Things I wouldn’t even tell my ex-husband. He and I were just so connected. I had never felt that in my life before. It’s not the same connection I have with John now. I’m in love with John and the connection we have is at such a different level. I think Michael came into my life when I really needed someone. Maybe we really needed each other at that point in time.

He left the company about 10 years ago. After he was gone he would send songs to the house on the answering machine or to my voice mail at work. Just so I would know he was thinking of me. I would pick up the phone and Nobody’s Girl by Bonnie Raitt would be playing. I would sit and listen, smiling. He would let the song play all the way through and then he would hang up without a word. This happened often, at home and at work…Levon…..Someone Saved my Life Tonight…..Bell Bottom Blues……Let it Grow, those are just a few of the songs I can remember listening to through the receiver. He would send me cards, with the most heartfelt notes inside. I still have all of them, though I can’t get through reading them without winding up in a puddle on the floor.

We kept in touch weekly, then monthly. Then he moved to Georgia. He had met a school teacher and fell in love. I was so happy for him. The calls got fewer and fewer, and soon they stopped.

It has been years since I have heard his voice. I want to tell him about John and about how happy my life is. I want him to see how big the boys have gotten. I want to know how he is. Is he happy? Does he have kids? Did he finally find “the one”? I want to know everything.

I miss him so. This is one of the songs he would play to me.






I thank the Lord there's people out there like you.



Friday, February 22, 2008

Beef Goulash with Dumplings

It ceases to amaze me how every recipe I make from simplyrecipes.com comes out just perfect. How does she do it time and time again? Blows my mind.

Anyway, as you can see from the previous post it has been a cold and snowy day, the perfect day for soup, or home made mac & cheese, or....goulash!

This was my very first attempt at goulash. Tati makes it quite often but I'm not sure just how she makes it. When I told her I was making this tonight for supper she said "My sister says you have to have as much onions as you do meat". Her sister is a great cook. Well I guess her sister was right. There are a whopping 4 cups of thinly sliced onions in this recipe. Fortunately I love onions, so not a problem for me. I used my handy mandolin slicer and it took me about 2 minutes to get 4 cups. I also left out the caraway seeds cause:
1. I don't have any. 2. I don't like them.

Let me just say, this was so damn tasty. All the flavors mixed together perfectly, the paprika's make this whole dish a beautiful color. The dumplings were terrific too.

Goulash
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cups onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp caraway seeds, toasted and ground
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon spicy Hungarian paprika
2 Tbsp minced fresh marjoram leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes (remove excess fat)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dumplings
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter

1 In a large covered sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and sugar until caramelized. Add the garlic and caraway seed. Cook another minute.

2 Add the sweet and spicy paprika, marjoram, thyme and bay leaf. Sauté another minute, until fragrant.

3 Add the tomato paste. Deglaze with the vinegar and the stock and add the pieces of beef, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook until very tender, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

4 To prepare the dumplings, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Combine with the milk and melted butter, mixing lightly. After the stew has cooked until tender in step 3, drop the dumpling batter by (heaping) teaspoonfuls into the simmering stew. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Once you have covered the pan, do not uncover while the dumplings are cooking! In order for them to be light and fluffy, they must steam. If you uncover the pan, the steam will escape and the dumplings will boil instead. After 15 minutes, test the dumplings with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, the dumplings are done.

For my mother-in-law

So you can see why he's so grumpy.

John bought this snow blower...wait the new term is "snow thrower" about 6 weeks ago. I thanked him for his purchase, cause I knew if he bought it, we wouldn't get snow for a really long time. 6 weeks with no major snow in Rhode Island is a very long time. I knew it wouldn't last.

He wanted to use that thrower so badly that he could hardly wait for the snow to accumulate. He's been out 3 times already. Even though he hates the snow, he loves playing with that thing. Men and their toys.


video

Granola

I came up with this recipe about 2 years ago. It’s a combination of 2 different granola recipes that I had made over the years. In 2006 I packaged it up in beautiful mugs and containers and gave it away as Christmas gifts to co-workers, friends and relatives. Everyone really loved it and wanted me to make more, so I did. I have been making it pretty steadily for 2 years now. I also got my in-laws and John’s Aunt & Uncle hooked. Many packages have been shipped to Ohio. I almost always double it, and sometimes triple it out of granola demand. I’m pretty sure they are out in Ohio, so some of this batch will be doing some traveling. I always share.

Lisa’s Crunchy Granola
4 cups rolled oats

1 cup wheat germ (I use the honey sweetened when I can)
1 cup chopped walnuts or slivered almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
1 (6-ounce) package dried fruits such as cherries, raisins, pineapple, cranberries or papaya. (When I can find it, I use about a package and a half of Sunsweet Fruit Morsels for each batch)

You can also add Raisins, coconut, flax seed, etc. You can throw just about anything you like in. I sometimes will add maple flavoring into the wet mixture, like I did this time. You can pretty much adjust it to your taste.
Step 1


Heat the oven to 300º. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, wheat germ, nuts, sesame seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. If you are making a double batch, like I always do, use a BIG bowl. You want lots of room to stir this.

Step 2

Mix the oil, honey, and water and add to the dry ingredients. Toss the mixture until the ingredients are well combined, then spread it evenly on a cookie sheet. You don’t need to spray the sheet or use tin foil.

Step 3

Bake the granola for 40 minutes or until lightly browned. You need to stir this every 10 minutes to keep the mixture from sticking and to make sure all the granola get nice and browned. I set my oven timer for 10 minutes and then I rotate the trays and flip them top to bottom, bottom to top every 10 minutes.

Let it cool completely, and then stir in the dried fruit. One batch makes about 7 cups.

It’s great mixed into cereal or yogurt, topped on ice cream
or just eaten as a snack.

Cream Cheese Muffins


It's been snowing since dawn here. Everything is covered in a nice white blanket. The kids are off from school, John & I have the day off too, so we are all snug and warm in the house. What's better on a snowy morning than warm muffins? I had this recipe in my ever growing "to try" pile. It wasn't until I had these made and in the oven that I remembered John doesn't like cream cheese. Oh well, the neighbors will be happy.


Cream Cheese Muffins
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

Cream cheese mixture
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar

Topping
1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 butter, softened
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375. Grease/spray a 12 cup muffin tin and set aside. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.

Stir together milk, oil and eggs and pour into the well of dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened.

Combine the cream cheese and the sugar and fold about half of this into the muffin batter.

Spoon the batter into a greased muffin pan, about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture onto the muffins (about a teaspoon full) and press it into the mixture with the spoon handle. It won't sink into the batter, but try to press it down into it a bit.

Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle generously over muffins. Bake 24 - 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Things that make me happy #8


Pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla

I know there are lots of people in America who don’t know their neighbors. I am very thankful to say, not only do I know mine; but they our also our friends. My neighbors own an ice cream factory. Yes kids, you heard me right, a whole freakin’ factory that makes one of the most delectable treats known to man. How lucky are we?

They have been very generous with their ice cream treats over the many years we have lived beside them. Tom takes my boys on what we now refer to as “Willie Wonka Runs” and lets them loose inside the humongous walk in coolers to let them pick out whatever there little hearts desire. We have had their ice cream for every party and celebration in our home since 1988.

Over the weekend I brought them some of the clam chowder that I made, some of my bread I baked and a few others treats. They returned the favor with ice cream cake and home made grapenut pudding (one of my absolute favorites). He also asked me if I would like some Pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. Uh lemme think about that? Hello? Do bees like honey? Did Elvis dig on peanut butter and nanner sandwiches?? YES would be the answer. Are you kidding me?

So he brings out a gallon! A big gallon of the stuff they use to make the ice cream with, and he tells me to bring back a container to put some in. So I look around and find a small plastic container. Tom sees it and says “that’s too small” so CeeCee gets a cruet, you know the Good Seasons ones that you make salad dressing with, and he fills it to the top. If I could only convey to you in words the smell that was wafting through the room when he was pouring that vanilla in the bottle. It was heavenly. He then proceeds to tell me that he pays over $300 a gallon for it! Holy Bejessus!

I got some kick ass home made vanilla in a Christmas swap I participated in a few years ago, and now this! The vanilla Gods have smiled upon me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Beautiful Rustic White Bread


I found this bread recipe on one of my favorite food blogs - smittenkitchen. It looked so beautiful and sounded so wonderful I knew I just had to make this. So I did. The are instructions to make the dough in a food processor and to knead by hand, but I would much rather use my stand mixer when I can. So I did, cause I could.

Rustic White Bread
Nick Malgieri, The Institute of Culinary Education

From Nick: This bread reminds me of the rough country bread found throughout France and Italy. I like to shape it into a thick baguette (long loaf) to get the most crust. I also sprinkle the loaves heavily with flour after they are formed - this keeps them from crusting during the rising and also gives the baked loves an appetizing appearance.

2 cups warm tap water, about 110 degrees
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
5 1/4 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons salt 1/3 cup flour for dusting the loaves

Cornmeal for the pans 2 small cookie sheets or a large (at least 11×17-inch) jelly roll pan

To mix dough in a heavy-duty mixer, place smaller amount of flour and salt in bowl of mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add water and yeast and mix on low speed to form a smooth, elastic and slightly sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Incorporate the remaining flour a tablespoon at time if the dough is too soft.

Place dough in an oiled bowl (you may need to use a scraper) and turn dough over so top is oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled. If you wish to interrupt the process, let the dough begin to rise, then punch it down, cover it tightly and refrigerate. When you are ready to proceed, bring back to room temperature until it begins rising again.

To shape loaves, scrape risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it to deflate it. Divide dough in half and shape one piece at a time. Press dough into a square, then roll it up tightly. Rotate cylinder of dough 90 degrees and roll up again from short end. Arrange dough seam side down, cover with plastic or a towel and let it rest of 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.

Dust pan with cornmeal. Roll each piece of dough under palms of your hands to elongate it. Work from middle of loaf outward, pointing the ends slightly. Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheets and dust each loaf heavily with flour, using about 1/3 cup in all. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise until doubled. About 30 minutes before you intend to bake the loaves, preheat oven to 500 degrees and set racks at the middle and lowest levels. Set a pan on the lowest rack to absorb some of the excess bottom heat and keep the bottom of the loaves from burning.

Holding a razor blade or the point of a very sharp knife at a 30-degree angle to the top of each loaf, make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes in each loaf. Immediately place loaves in oven and lower temperature 450 degrees.

After loaves have baked for 20 minutes and are completely risen, lower temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking about 20 to 30 minutes longer, until bread reaches an internal temperature of about 220 degrees. Remove loaves from oven and cool on a rack.

When I took those loaves out of the oven, I almost wept. I tell ya, it was just a beautiful sight. I finally made some beautiful loaves of bread. I was starting to think it was never gonna happen for me. I think I am finally getting the hang of this bread baking thing.

I brought my neighbors a big helping of chowder and half a loaf of this bread (I also threw in dessert, some of the chocolate chip bars for their grand daughter Madison, who I just adore, and a few of the apple pie pastries. Sometimes I think sharing the food I make is almost better than eating it.

Creamy Clam Chowder


It's a Winnie the Pooh kinda day in RI......cold and blustery, the perfect kind of day for "chowda". That's how we say it 'round these parts. I found this recipe in one of my Taste of Home magazines (are ya startin' to see a trend here??) I have made it several times over the past year. It was one of their blue ribbon winners and if I remember correctly, the person who came up with this recipe won a state fair competition with it, so I thought I would give it a try.


This is a New England clam chowder. For those non swamp yankees out there, that means it's a white chowda. At first I thought it was a little "semi-ho" cause it used potato soup as an ingredient, boy was I wrong. This chowder is thick and rich and totally delicious, and it's easy enough that you can make it on a weeknight. Everyone I serve it to raves about it, then asks for the recipe, then I blush when I tell them "it has potato soup in it". Hell, they don't care, it just damn good. You need to make this chowder.....unless you don't like chowder....then move along......nuthin' to see here.


Creamy Clam Chowder
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, sliced
3/4 cup butter, cubed
2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of potato soup, undiluted
3 cans (6-1/2 ounces each) minced (or chopped) clams
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 quart half-and-half cream

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, carrots and celery in butter until tender. Stir in the potato soup and two cans of undrained clams. Drain and discard juice from remaining can of clams; add clams to soup. Combine cornstarch and a small amount of cream until smooth; stir into soup. Add the remaining cream. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Yield: 9 servings (about 2 quarts).

I add an extra can of drained clams. I also buy the chopped, not minced clams. We are used to big ole pieces of clams in our chowder here, so minced just wouldn't cut it. You can use whatever you prefer. If you have fresh, by all means use those. Come summertime that's what we'll be using in our chowda.
I also added a small handful of fresh chopped parsley (optional)

Apple Pie Pastries

This is another Taste of Home recipe. Little Apple Pie Pastries. They looked so cute in the magazine. Mine didn't look quite as cute when they came out of the oven. I think the next time I make these I will make sure the crimp on the dough is much tighter. They seemed to open up too much in the oven. I used my apple peeler/corer/slicer for this. The recipe called for 6 small tart apples. I have no idea why you would need 6 apples when this recipe only needs one apple ring for each pastry. I used 2 big Granny Smiths.

As soon as these came out of the oven, I cranked the heat up to 500 to bake my bread for dinner. The smell in the kitchen was unreal. John and I couldn’t wait. We split one of the little pies in half and promptly wolfed it down. FANTASTIC! The crust was rich and buttery, the cinnamon/sugar mixture was just right, not too sweet. I am practicing total self control in not eating another. I really think I should eat dinner first. So they may not look as pretty as the picture in the magazine, but they taste wonderful. Next time I might even make a drizzle for the top…..something in the maple syrup family…..hmmmm.

Apple Pie Pastries
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup milk

Filling:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons cold butter - divided
6 small tart apples, peeled and cored
1/4 cup sugar

In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle with vinegar. Gradually add milk, tossing with fork until dough form a ball. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until easy to handle.

Meanwhile in another bowl combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in 2 tablespoons of butter until crumbly set aside. Melt the remaining butter. Cut apples in 1/2 inch rings.

Shape dough into sixteen 1 1/2 inch balls. Roll each into a 5 inch circle. Brush with the melted butter.
I found the easiest way to get 16 equal pieces of dough was to shape the dough into a circle, then divide the circle in half, then divide that in half, you get the picture, until you end up with 16 pieces. Then I rolled those into balls.

Place one apple ring in the center of each circle. Top each with 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar mixture. Fold edges of dough over the apple rings, leaving centers uncovered: crimp edges. Brush dough with remaining melted butter, sprinkle with sugar.
I had a lot of the brown sugar mixture left over, and I did use 2 packed teaspoons on each.

Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets (I used parchment paper). Bake at 375 for 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown and apples are tender. Serve warm.



Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies


Well I finally got off the chocolate and peanut butter kick. I saw this recipe on another blog (which I can't for the life of me remember, sorry nice brownie blogger whose blog name I can't recall!) It was titled Transportive Chocolate Chip Brownies (lifted from Cooks Illustrated). Well I went and searched on the CI's website and I can't locate this recipe, so perhaps it was adapted from an original CI recipe. It looked like a traditional bar recipe, so that's what I re-named it, cause these things won't last long enough in my house to transport anywhere.

Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies
2 1/8 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
12 tbs. butter, melted
1 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk melted butter and sugars in medium large bowl until combined. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in chips and turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with spatula.

Bake until top is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 27 to 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Notes*
Spreading this thick batter with a spatula just didn't work for me. I just patted it down with both hands.
Bake time - Mine took a little longer than the suggested 27 - 30 minutes. At the 30 minute point my toothpick still came up with wet batter on it. I baked mine for 35 minutes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Someone exactly like you.

Yummy dinner.

2 Van Morrison CD's replaced that were "lost".

Beautiful card.

Danced to this is in kitchen.

Someone Like You.
Van Morrison

I've been searching a long time
For someone exactly like you
I've been traveling all around the world
Waiting for you to come through.
Someone like you makes it
All worth while
Someone like you keeps
Me satisfied. Someone exactly
Like you.

I've been travellin' a hard road
Lookin' for someone exactly like you
I've been carryin' my heavy load
Waiting for the light to come
Shining through.
Someone like you makes it
All worth while
Someone like you keeps
Me satisfied. Someone exactly
Like you.

I've been doin' some soul searching
To find out where you're at
I've been up and down the highway
In all kinds of foreign lands
Someone like you... etc.

I've been all around the world
Marching to the beat of a different
Drum.
But just lately I have
Realized
The best is yet to come.
Someone like you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A different kind of love story.

In the corner of my living room sits a basket of overflowing dog toys. Amongst all the balls and pull toys, the mini footballs, and the torn and tattered remnants of animals that Grandma has re-patched and re-paired many times over, lays Bunny. Smelly, ripped, drool encrusted Bunny, the love of Moose’s life.

I have never experienced an animal who had an attachment to a toy before. Previously I had 2 massive Black Labs, who never had an attachment to anything. There goal with everything was “DEVOUR and do it quickly”. Toys didn’t last with them. Their mission in life was to destroy and disintegrate into pieces any object that was given to them as quickly as possible.

Moose arrived from Louisiana about 3 ½ years ago, when he was just a pup. I remember how excited we all were to go to the airport to pick up our new member of the family. The boys thought it was very cool to be going to the airport at 10:30 at night! Past their normal bedtime even! We’re livin’ on the edge boys! When he finally arrived, we saw a white ball of fluff scrunched in the back of a carrier, curled up in a blanket. When I peeked inside all I could see were two beautiful eyes, the color of Hershey bars, very nervously looking back at us. Clutched between his two front paws was Bunny. He slept in the carrier that night with Bunny tucked firmly under his chin.

Over the years he has gotten lots of chew toys and doggie stuffed animals. Some of them have lasted quite a few months before he has ripped and happily de-stuffed them. I can’t count the number of time I have returned home to find the living room covered in stuffed animal guts. He plays tug-o-war almost every night with one of us, one of his favorite things to do. He growls like he thinks he’s a big ole dog, not the whopping 12 pounds he really is. He’ll grab a dolphin, the mouse, or the thick rope toy, but he never, ever grabs Bunny for tug-o-war. I like to think that in his little doggie brain he’s protecting the one he loves and would never subject him to such harsh and destructive behavior. He’s his cuddle bunny after all, his security blanket. He lies with him under his chin, like a sweet bunny pillow. He will gnaw lovingly on his sticky bunny ears, and sometimes he whimpers while he carries him around in his mouth. You can clearly see that this is not just any ole toy.

I have the very first stuffed animal that my parents bought me before I was born. He is a bear with a plastic snout. I named him Roger (no idea where I got that name from). He used to be fluffy. I shaved him at some point. I don’t know why I did that either. 43 years later I still have him. John says he’s creepy and actual made me banish him to the closet, where he now sits alone on a shelf in the dark. Poor Roger.

I picked Bunny up last night and looked at his torn and tattered little body and wondered what Moose will do when bunny can no longer be stitched and sewn together. I actually got kinda sad for Moose. Could we ever find another bunny to replace this one?

Roger and I don’t think so.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

It seems we have been on a chocolate and peanut butter kick lately. I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter. It's okay. I like it, but I'm not one of those people that goes nuts about it. I know lots of people like that. I live with one of them, my 11 year old Evan. If he could reinvent the food pyramid it would include only these foods:

Chocolate
Peanut Butter
Bread
Peanut Butter
Chocolate
More Bread

Well, maybe there would be a side of pizza or soup thrown in there, but he could happily survive on those 3 foods, at least until he reaches adulthood.

His brother Jess loves just about everything I put in front of him, unless it's a vegetable. He ate tons of veggies as a baby, but right after kindergarten his veggie consumption went straight downhill. I can get him to eat corn, broccoli (only the crowns), and sometimes carrots. He recently discovered that he likes raw spinach! I was shocked. The kid who hates almost all greens loves spinach, go figure.

So since tomorrow is Valentines day I asked them what special treat they would like me to make and they both said "the pie with the peanut butter cups in it". So being the good mommy that I am, I dug through my recipes and found it.

I don't like this pie. Look at it - it's not even pretty. Its way too sweet and way to peanut buttery and chocolaty. John and the boys LOVE it. So may I present to you, one of the easiest, sweetest pies I have ever made....and oh yeah, it's loaded with fat and calories too.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
1 pkg (6 ounces) peanut butter cups
1 cup cold milk
1 pkg (3.9 ounces) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 carton (8 ounces) cool whip
1 chocolate crumb crust

Cut four peanut butter cups in half; coarsly chop the remaining cups and set aside. In a large bowl whisk the milk and pudding mix for 2 mins. Fold in the cool whip until blended. Fold in the chopped peanut butter cups. Spoon into pie crust. Arrange halved peanut butter cups on top. Refrigerate for at least 15 mins before cutting.

Well I used a shortbread crust cause they were out of the chocolate ones when I went shopping. I also used all the peanut butter cups in the pie and topped mine with Hershey kisses.

I am sure they will all moan with glee while they are eating their pie tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Conversation at 1:30am

We had very strong wind gusts last night. At some points it sounded like a freight train was bearing down on the house. I had been trying to get to sleep for hours.

Me: “I can’t sleep, the wind is howling too much”.

John: “Shhhhhhh”

Me: “It sounds like the trees behind us are going to uproot and crush us, it’s scaring me”.

John “Those trees aren’t big enough to kill us”

Me: “They aren’t?”

John: “No, we’d just have a lot of insurance paperwork to fill out”

Me “Oh…..well.....then I hope they land in the kitchen”.

John: “ Go to sleep”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Baked Ziti

One of my husband’s favorite dishes is my Baked Ziti. It is one of those foods that he eats so much of; I always fear he will be sick because of the sheer mass of volume that he consumes. The man can polish off almost half the pan. I'm serious. Later he will sit on the couch, rub his belly and moan because he is too stuffed to move. We have a saying in our house "No sympathy for self induced pain". This applies to John when he overstuffs himself on baked ziti night (and many other occasions which we won't discuss now).

This is Good stuff with a capital G. See I even capitalized it. This makes a big ole 9x13 pan and it weighs a ton. Whoever you make it for will praise you with every bite.

Lisa’s Baked Ziti
1 pound ziti
2 medium or 1 large onion, chopped
Garlic
2 pound ground beef or turkey
6 – 8 slices provolone cheese
8 oz container of sour cream
Shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (10 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (or make your own, it’s easy, see my recipe!)

Preheat the oven to 350°

About 20 minutes before you are ready to put this together, bring a large pot salted water to boil and cook ziti until al dente. (approximately 8 minutes). Don't over cook the ziti, if you do, you will have mush when it comes out of the oven.

In a large skillet cook the onion(s) in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until caramelized. Add some chopped garlic. (use as much garlic as you like, I use lots!) I also throw a good few shakes of Mrs. Dash in. Drain off excess grease, return to pan and add spaghetti sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes. I shut the pan off, and let it sit about 15 minutes so the sauce can cool a bit before I stir in the sour cream. (Sauce will look almost like a vodka sauce at this point).


Spray the bottom of a 9x13 inch-baking dish. Put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan. Layer ½ the ziti, ½ the meat sauce and top this layer with the provolone cheese. Add a layer of shredded mozzarella on top of the provolone. Top with other half of ziti, the meat sauce mixture, and another layer of mozzarella on top. Cover in tin foil (spray it with cooking spray so it won’t stick to your cheese) and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until cheeses are melted and you can hear it bubbling. I take the foil off the last 15 minutes so the top can get brown and crunchy – the best part! If you are refrigerating this to heat later, take it out of the fridge an hour before you are going to place it in the oven.

Beyond the Peanut Butter Cup

Since the peanut butter cups were such a success I thought I would try to make a few variations. Two of John’s favorite candy bars are Almond Joys and Turtles. I figured I would have a go at making a home made version of each, along with more peanut butter cups at Evan’s insistence.

The Almond Joy’s were fairly simple. I had looked up a few Almond Joy copy cats recipes to try and get the coconut filling right. I boiled ¼ cup of Karo syrup and added it to 2 cups of coconut. It looked and tasted like the inside of an Almond Joy.

When I went looking for caramel squares to melt I couldn’t find any. I did find Kraft Caramel Bits. I haven’t seen them before. The bag even said “unwrapped for easy melting”. I placed 1 cup of the caramel in a measuring cup, and micro waved it in 30 second intervals until it was melted. The mixture was sticky, gooey and very hot.

I also toasted the almonds and pecans in the oven for about 8 minutes before I began assembly.

So I had all my baking cups lined up on a baking sheet. A little of the same chocolate mixture that I had made for the peanut butter cups went into the bottom of each one. Evan helped me with the assembly line I had going. I topped each cup with either half teaspoon of the coconut or caramel mixture. The caramel was a pain in the butt to work with. It was hardening up really fast. Evan was right behind me putting 2 of the toasted almonds on top of the coconut mixture and a pecan on top of the caramel. They all got topped with more chocolate and either an almond or a pecan (so we would know which one was which). We made about 15 of each but I didn’t have hope for the Turtles using that caramel. Looking back I think I should have added something to it, like cream or milk. Oh well.

We then made another batch of chocolate and made about 30 peanut butter cups.

We set them in the breeze way to cool. When they were finally set I cut one of the Turtles in half. Just as I had suspected, the caramel was hard as a rock. Back to the drawing board on those. The Almond Joys came out really good. I didn’t really know how much of the coconut mixture to put in, so I started off with half a teaspoon. I think I could have used a little more.

I can’t believe I am about to type these words, but I am so sick of chocolate at this moment I can’t even look at it right now. My whole afternoon was filled with it and just the thought of it is turning my stomach. I’m sure tomorrow I will feel totally different.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry

I had every intention of making an authentic Chinese stir-fry this weekend in honor of the Chinese New Year. Well authentic did not happen, but delicious did. I just kind of threw together a bunch of stuff that I thought would taste good together. No recipe to follow, which is how I like to cook best. So here's my version of stir-fry.

Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry
4 boneless chicken breasts cut into thin strips
2 large heads of broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1 package of portabella mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pkg frozen Chinese vegetables
Fresh grated ginger
Stir-Fry Noodles
Cornstarch mixed with water

Fill a pot with boiling water and get that started for your noodles.

I started off by marinating the chicken in the rice wine vinegar. I'd say I had them marinating for about a half hour before cooking. In a very hot pan add the chicken, oyster sauce and sesame oil. When the chicken was about 1/2 way done, I threw in the broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, garlic and put a lid on the pan. I know this isn't traditional stir-fry, but I wanted to steam the broccoli a bit. After about 5 minutes I took the cover off and added some grated ginger, about a 1/2 teaspoon. At this point I added in a bag of frozen Chinese veggies that my grocery store just started it carry. The are a knock off of the Steam Fresh veggies and are really tasty. I nuked them for 5 minutes and threw them in the pan as well. There was a good bit of liquid at the bottom of the pan now so I thickened it with some cornstarch mixed with water. When everything was just about ready I threw in some stir fry noodles into the boiling water. They only take 3 minutes to cook.

These stir-fry noodles are my new favorite food item. They are cheap, made with only 2 ingredients (whole wheat flour a plus for me!) and cook in no time. I buy them buy the bunch so I always have them handy when I need to cook something quick.

I transferred everything into a large bowl, tossed and served. It was really good and good for us too.

Honey White Bread

My third try at bread baking went much better then my first and second attempts. Am I finally getting the hang of this?? My yeast even bubbled! Success at last! This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I saw on a great food blog called Cookie Baker Lynn. I must have spent 2 hours on her site just drooling over all her baked goodness. I hope my loaves did her (and Ina) proud!

Honey White Bread
Makes 2 loaves
1/2 cup warm water - (110 degrees F)
2 packages dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1-1/2 cups warm whole milk (110 degrees F.)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
2 extra-large egg yolks
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Place the water in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. If the bowl is cold, be sure the water temperature doesn't drop below 110 degrees. Add the yeast and sugar; stir and allow to dissolve for 5 minutes. You should see bubbles forming on the surface at this point.

Add the milk, butter, and honey. Mix on medium speed until blended. Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of the flour, and the salt. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add 2 more cups of flour. Raise the speed to medium and slowly add just enough of the remaining flour so the dough doesn't stick to the bowl.

When the dough forms a ball that comes away from the bowl, switch to the dough hook attachment. Knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes, adding flour slowly as necessary.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Grease a bowl with butter, put the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so the top is lightly buttered. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow it to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.

Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans with butter. Divide the dough in half, roll each half into a rectangle as wide as your loaf pan and twice as long. Roll it up into a log the width of your bread pan, and pulling just a bit so that you don't get big air bubbles inside. Pinch together the ends and edges. Place each seam side down, in a prepared pan. Cover again with the damp towel and allow to rise again for an hour, until doubled in volume.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, brush the tops with the egg white and bake the breads for 40 to 45 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

We practcially devoured a loaf at dinner. Tomorrow we have already planned toast and jam for breakfast.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

I had scribbled this recipe down and stuck it in the wicker basket that sits on top of the computer desk along with all the others. I call it my "to try" basket. I weed through it once and a month or so and see if there is something interesting to try.

I know Valentines Day is Thursday and it would have been nice if I saved my cupcake baking for then, but the weekdays are just too hectic for me, so I did some baking today....besides, chocolate and peanut butter don't need no reason.


Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm milk

Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. In medium bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda & powder and salt. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugars. Beat the eggs in one at a time. Add vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and milk, alternating in 3 additions, ending with the flour.

Evenly distribute into muffin tins. Bake for 15 - 17 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.

This frosting recipe comes from Natalie at Bake & Destroy. I'm not even a peanut butter fanatic, but this is truly a wonderful thing. Evan happily ate what was left in the bowl after I finished frosting the cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Frosting
2 cups confectionary sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
pinch salt
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter.

Beat first 4 ingredients. Add peanut butter and stir until creamy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Circa 1991

I think Tati's pants say it all.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Saving my pennies.

I want a digital SLR camera. I want one so very badly. I absolutely despise point and shoot cameras. I use a point and shoot digital camera now. I hate it. I curse every time I use it, ask anyone in my house. They can attest to the cussing.

I have been taking pictures for as long as I can remember. I was always the girl with the camera in her hand at every party or social gathering. I am so glad I was that girl now because most times I am the only one who has a picture from back in the 70's when I was a teenager, or all those concert photos when I smuggled my camera in, the parties in the woods, etc. I might have been annoying, blinding people with flashes to the face, but I have photographic evidence of my teenage years to present. When Jesse was born, oh lord, I took so many pictures, thousands upon thousands. Everyone said, "he's your first, you won't take as many with the next one". But I did.

I have made 2 major camera purchases in my life. When I was 18 I saved up for over a year and purchased my first real grown up camera, a Canon AE1 Program. I still have it. For it’s time, it took some beautiful pictures. I was very into photography during my teens and twenties. I did a few weddings in my day (which I despise also), I took pictures for family and friends when requested, that sort of thing. Mostly I took photos for myself. I really miss the days of heading out into the woods or to the water and just taking pictures all day. I haven’t done that since I had Jess in 1995. I miss it.

Just before Jesse was born I bought a Canon Rebel. Not a digital camera, the old model Rebel G I think it was. I have that camera in the attic I think. I always seemed to go back to my AE1 Program. I just love that camera. I remember when I went to buy the Rebel G, the guy at the Photo store handed me the camera and it was so light I thought it was a dummy model, so I asked him if he had a "real" camera for me to see. He explained that was a real camera. I turned red. I was so used to my AE1, which was pretty heavy by today's standards.

So now the digital age is upon us. Had I know it was coming so soon I would have waited, and saved my money for this:




The Canon EOS D5 12.8 Megapixel . Isn't she prutty?? Pretty expensive too. What you are looking at right there is over $2,000. Body only, no lenses. I want it so badly, but I know we can't afford it so.......I am now looking at this:




The Nikon D80 10.2 Megapixel. I have never owned a Nikon. I have always been kinda partial to Canon, but this camera intrigues me (and the price is much more reasonable for me). A little over a thousand and that includes a 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 Lens . Not bad.

Tati has this running joke with me. Whenever she would look at my pictures she would say "your camera takes great pictures" and I would growl, roll my eyes and reply, "it's not the camera it's the photographer". She still says it to this day, just to aggravate me.

I have my mind made up. I can no longer use the piece o' shit point and shoot matchbox of a camera that I won in a raffle (it's true). So let the savings begin. It might take me a year, but I've done it before, I will do it again. I'm going to try and think about it this way.....by the time I save up enough money to buy it, it will probably go down in price!

You know what you get asked that question "what would be your dream job?" For me, without a doubt, it would be freelance photographer. Getting paid to take pictures. I can only imagine.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Things that make me sad #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9......

Losing the Super Bowl and not achieving a perfect season.

Very sad indeed.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pork Wontons

For over a week I researched recipes for pork wontons. I ended up using a combination from one I found on a website and one from a video on youtube, believe it or not.

Pork Wontons
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 scallion
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 pkg wonton wrappers (45 – 50)

Mix all the ingredients together by hand. Beat one egg in a small bowl to use as “glue” for your wrappers. Lay your wonton out and put a little less than a teaspoon in the middle of the wrapper.


Brush the left and right side of the wrapper facing you with some of the egg wash.



Fold the wonton in half.


Then pinch the middle like this.



Put a little more egg wash on one side of the wrapper and pinch them together.


I made these a few hours before I fried them. I kept them in the fridge tightly covered so they wouldn’t dry out.
Fry in 2 inches of oil (canola or vegetable) until golden brown.

They were good, not great. Still tasted like something was missing. I’ll have to try and research a little more to see what I missed.

Well I’m off to watch the Super Bowl!

What a mess!


So I was in the kitchen, prepping food for the Super Bowl, remembered that I needed to jar and seal up some of the stuff I had bought at Whole Foods yesterday. Got all the jars ready, carried 3 of them over to the cupboards and this happens.......
Glass and organic popcorn all over the place. Uggghh.

Of course Moose hears the commotion and wants to check it out. I had to put him into the living room and blockade him out so he wouldn't get cut on the glass. As I'm dumping the first batch into the trash, Fatty my cat that is very old and has a failing bladder, decides this is the time to pee on the floor. Pee mixed with glass and popcorn to clean now. Lovely. I didn't take a picture of that mess. Oh bother.