Monday, January 31, 2011

Are you ready for some football.....

Sweet Chicken Wraps terrible towel

Football FOOD that is!

It's that time of year again. I know some of you could care less about the big game on Sunday, but football is taken very seriously in my house. The Super Bowl is fast approaching and my husbands team is playing.

I don't think I have to clue you in as to who he's rooting for huh? My husband and his whole family are Steeler fanatics. I've been planning the Super Bowl menu for a week now and I just found the perfect football food to accompany the game.

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

Sweet Chicken Wraps CU

I can't begin to tell you how amazingly delicious these are, and they're easy to make too! Double bonus! Wait there's more...you only need 4 ingredients! I'm not kidding. Here is the last kicker (kicker, ya get it, football...meh, never mind, lol) This is a Paula Deen recipe and it contains no butter! Amazing isn't it? Well then again, there is bacon so that kinda makes up for the lack of butter. But anyway....YOU MUST MAKE THESE!

If you are making them for the game, or just for a party, I highly recommend doubling the batch. I doubled it this time and let me tell you, I could have easily tripled it and there wouldn't have been one left.

Thanks to my mother-in-law Carol who sent the recipe to me. Without her our bellies wouldn't have been full of this deliciousness. Thanks Mom!

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps
recipe from Miss Paula Deen
1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pound sliced bacon
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Cut the bacon into thirds. Wrap a slice around each cube and secure with a toothpick. Stir together the brown sugar and the chili powder. Dredge the wrapped chicken in the mixture.

Line a sheet pan with foil and place a rack over the pan. I used a cookie cooling rack. Don't skip the foil or you will have one sticky mess to clean up. Spray the rack with cooking spray. Place the chicken on the rack and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.

*Note - I used 2 1/4 pounds of chicken and 1 pound of bacon and had enough of the brown sugar and chili powder mixture to coat all my chicken. It made 58 pieces. I'm going to use at least 3 pounds of chicken for the big game.

Sweet Chicken Wraps with helmut

Oh one last thing...

GO STEELERS!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Productive Saturday

Up and out early, hit 5 stores. Picked up the ingredients for some delicious recipes.

The Asian market is a madhouse on Saturday morning. Won't do that again.

Ripped the fridge apart. Emptied the whole thing out and started cleaning. Sometimes you just have too. Only found 3 moldy things and 2 were recognizable!

Organized page after page of recipes. Now I want to make everything.

Did some photo editing.

Wish I had so much more time to take pictures.

Snoring dog at my feet.

Snoring hubby napping on the couch.

Quiet from the boys room. Engrossed in a video games.

Had to share this fat (male) squirrels picture, cause it makes me smile.

Birdfeeder 12jpg

Had Mom's birthday party last night. Take-out pizzas and a store bought cake. Everyone seemed to be fine with it. I felt relief for not having to go crazy cooking all the food like I always do and also a tinge of sadness or the same reason. Birthday cakes should be homemade. Maybe next year a snow storm won't stop me from getting my ingredients (or I'll just shop way ahead of time). I just have to let it go, but that's always so hard for me. I am the Queen of "I should have" and I need to just get over it.

My head is full of things I want to make for Superbowl Sunday. Deciding which ones to choose.

Time for tea and a magazine.

Hope you are enjoying your Saturday~

Friday, January 28, 2011

Banana Bread with Dates (and a secret technique)

Banana & Date Bread

January is slowly coming to a close. You all know I'm really looking forward to that. I'm gradually getting myself out of this slump. Picking up the pieces of this long month and looking forward to a happier February.

I do have to admit that one of the very bright spots in this otherwise tempestuous month for me is getting to watch one of my favorite rock stars judge on American Idol. I have adored Steven Tyler since I was a teenager. Aerosmith has always been a huge part of my life (hey I met my husband at an Aerosmith convention). Getting to watch him twice a week has been a real joy.

I also wanted to say thanks for all your words of encouragement and emails. They really meant a lot to me. I'm picking myself up and dusting myself off and moving on. I guess if I was using Steven's words....."I'm back in the saddle again".

I have a birthday party planned for Mom tonight. I always bake a cake for her birthday, and I had every intention of doing just that, when Ol' Man Winter decided to dump another foot of snow on us. I couldn't get to the store in time to get the ingredients that I needed to make the cake. I know that lots of people have store bought cakes at their party, and we have some really great bakeries very close by, but it still it bothers me that she won't have a cake that I made. I hope that is Januarys last little pinch.

Ok then....let's talk about something completely different....

Mushy black bananas.

If you're a banana buyer, I'm sure you've had them. I know when I buy them and first bring them home a few will go right away and then after a few more days they just seem to sit and go mucky.

I'll admit there are times when I just pitch the buggers into the compost pile, especially during the summer when the fruit flies seem to have a feast on them, but most of the time I just hate the thought of wasting them. So I don't. Instead I'll make banana bread.

Banana & Date Bread 1

My banana bread is different almost every time I make. I'll add in chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, even blueberries or chopped apples, but I've never added in dates...until now.

The reason? I bought a big container of them right before the holidays and only used a few of them. Every time I open up the fridge I see them and I feel guilty about just leaving them in there, so I decided to put some in my banana bread.

The result - deliciousness!! The dates are sweet and chewy, nothing like a raisin and for that I'm thankful cause I don't like raisins in my banana bread.

Banana & Date Bread 2

This is a recipe that is about a hundred years old. It really is, I'm not just saying that.

I found it in an old Yankee Magazine. It dates back to the turn of the century. The secret to this amazing banana bread...whipping the bananas. Yup, you take your mixer and whip them up until they are light and fluffy. It really produces a much less dense bread.

Banana Bread
3 large bananas
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped nuts or dates or whatever you fancy

Crush the bananas with a fork and then whip them with a mixer until very light and fluffy. Set aside.

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add in the eggs and mix. Add in the flour and baking soda and mix again. Add bananas in and mix just until incorporated. Don't over mix! Fold in the nuts or dates. Turn into a well greased loaf pan. Bake slowly at 325 for 1 hour or until toothpick tests clean.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

What did the Boomtown Rats say?

Storm 19

I don't like Mondays. Well I have another line to add.

I don't like JANUARY!

Do you have a month that always seems to drag you down? A month where everything seems to go wrong? A month where you are counting the days until it’s over?

In years past, that month was February for me. I say was because I am slowly beginning to dislike January.

I don’t dislike January for the reasons that most people dislike it…the snow, the cold the weather, the dark mornings, the bitter cold nights. I can deal with all of that. I love the snow, the cold doesn’t bother me so much and I can bare dark morning. There always seems to be a month that just kicks your ass and this year that is January for me.

I don’t like to complain….but here I go. This month has brought me medical flare-ups. I have a disease (that I haven’t talked about here, and probably never will) that can cause lots of pain, and when I am in the middle of a flare-up, its just sucks.

I lost my hot water for 2 days and then found out that I needed a plumber to fix the faucets in my bathroom sink and tub.

My son is struggling in English. This means a conference with guidance and his teachers. I’m worried for him. They want to move him to a collaborative class. He loves his teacher. He does not want to change classes.

One of my closest friends is losing his Dad. I listened to him sob in pain, the kind of pain that comes from deep inside you. It broke my heart into pieces.

John went to work this morning, tried parking in Providence, where on a sunny day that is a challenge, and his truck was towed. I can only imagine how much this is going to cost.

Then there was lots of other stupid stuff, trivial little things that normally I could just brush off and move on from. All those things are just adding up, contributing to this shitty month. I’m feeling it from every little corner.

Dare I say I’m burnt out? Me, the person who never stops, who is usually always in a pretty happy mood, who tries to see the good and hopefulness in every day, yes, even I get to my breaking point and then I feel like I’m letting everyone down cause people are so shocked when I’m not “me”, like I’m never allowed to feel a little down.

It’s in times like this that I find my solace in baking. Standing in my kitchen with my mixing bowls, surrounded by sugar, butter and flour. It’s my therapy. I’m lost for a little bit and big bad January can’t touch me for awhile. It’s my happy place.

So another recipe will be coming tomorrow and the end of January is near. My Mom’s birthday is coming up, so there is one reason in January that can still make me smile.

Sorry for the bummer of a post. It’s not always lollipops and gumballs here. Just thought you should know. Here’s hoping February is filled with everything good that January wasn’t, oh and chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate.


That can never hurt.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brrrr.....

Day 2 of no hot water.

Repairman coming back again this morning.

My unwashed hair is not a pretty sight.

Not at all.

My friend calls me "Fraggle Head", as in, your hair looks like one of the Fraggles from Fraggle Rock. Remember them?

Fraggle

Ice cold shower yesterday. No fun.

I felt like this little guy.

Winter birds 6

Told you to be prepared for lots of bird pictures.



Drove to my friends house at 6:00am to take a shower so I could go to work without scaring everyone in the office.

Trying not to whine about this little inconvenience in my life and be grateful for the heat in the house when it's single digits outside, but I really miss my hot shower......badly.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie baked in a cast iron skillet

Choc Chip Cookie Cast Iron Skillet 6

What do you do when you have an unexpected day off from work cause you had a major snow storm hit??

Well of course you stay inside all cozy and comfy and you BAKE!


That's what I did Wednesday anyway.

You turn on the stove and pull out the mixer and gather all your ingredients and you measure and mix and bake, and then you do the dishes, and you don't even mind being stuck at the sink cause you have a bird feeder right outside your window and you get to watch the birds eating while you're cleaning up your mess.

Then while the cookie bakes you throw a load of laundry in, wipe down the bathroom, sweep the kitchen floor, pick out your outfit for tomorrow and straighten out your coupons.

At least that's what I do.

This is, yet again, another Martha recipe. What can I say, the woman knows her stuff.

I thought it was just genius making a big cookie in a cast iron skillet.

No messing with teaspoons of cookie dough. Just gather it all up into one big pile and plop it in the pan. Magic!

Choc Chip Cookie Cast Iron Skillet 2

Evan took the first slice of this cookie.

After one mouthful he declared it "the best chocolate chip cookie ever".

Oh yeah, I'm talking forever and ever, and happily ever after and beyond.

After a statement like that I had to take a bite and I must agree...this cookie was golden brown and crunchy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside.

Cookie perfection.

I may never make chocolate chip cookies any other way again. Seriously, it was that good.

Choc Chip Cookie Cast Iron Skillet 3

Martha suggests you top this cookie with vanilla ice cream and some caramel sauce.

I think that would be a wonderful way to serve this.

We didn't have any ice cream so we ate it straight outta the pan.

I am thinking about making this again and serving it the way Martha suggests. Wouldn't that be a great dessert for your next dinner party? It's definitely on my list now.

Choc Chip Cookie Cast Iron Skillet 1

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Baked in a Cast Iron Pan
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (9 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; mix until they are fully incorporated. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Transfer dough to a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (I sprayed mine with just a little cooking spray), and press to flatten, covering bottom of pan. Bake until edges are brown and top is golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Don't overbake; it will continue to cook a few minutes out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in pan, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into wedges.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Day!

We had a pretty major snow storm here yesterday.

Work was cancelled! Yahoooo!

We cozied up in the house.

I baked up a treat (coming tomorrow!)

Storm 16

We watched the birds at the bird feeder.

I bundled up, headed out and took a lot of pictures.

I drank tea and honey.

We ate spaghetti and meatballs.

We lazed about.

We had a perfectly lovely day.

Hope you did too.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

What I'm loving right now....

Each Christmas my parents give us money so that we can go and get whatever we like. Most of the time it's spent on something for the house, but this year we decided to take some of it and buy this beautiful bird feeder and some seed.

Birdfeeder 13jpg

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see dozens and dozens of birds at this feeder. It's positioned directly across from my kitchen sink so I get to watch the birds (and squirrels) while I wash. Makes me happy.

Get ready for lots of bird pics. I can feel it coming!

The second thing I bought was this adorable tea cozy from Kate at KnitStorm on Etsy. Have I ever mentioned that I could sit in front of my computer like a zombie and stare at Etsy for like 16 hours straight....or more. I think I may have.

Tea Cozy

As most of you know I love my cuppa tea and this homemade knit cozy keeps my cup piping hot.

She even hand stitched the little tea tag. Adorable!

Tea Cozy CU

I love it! Thank you Kate!

Another Etsy purchase was this primitive cupid from Lex at NorthWind Star Primitives. She makes the most beautiful stuff. I went back to make a link for this post and ended up buying two more things. I couldn't resist!


Cupid

Just look at the details. Lex is a true artist. Beautiful!

Cupid 1

Another thing that I'm totally loving right now is this jar of Tupelo Honey. My friend Eva gave it to me for Christmas. See, one of my most favorite songs on earth is Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison. Eva saw this honey and thought of me. How sweet is that? I have the best friends.

Tupelo Honey

Wanna hear something cool about Tupelo Honey?

Tupelo honey never crystallizes. Harvested for only a few days in April, it is one of the rarest and most valuable honeys in the world.

That's right...I said THE WORLD people.

How cool is that?

Let me tell you, it melts on your tongue, just melts. I had to stop myself from downing the whole jar. I'm going to try and ration it!

Wish me luck!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Turkey Meatloaf with leeks, mushrooms & fontina

Turkey Meatloaf with leeks, mushrooms and Fontina2

I'm a little slumpy with the blog lately.

Don't think I don't think you didn't notice. (Did you get that???)

It's not that I haven't been cooking, it's just that I haven't been cooking anything that I really think is bloggable. I haven't even made any sweets. I think Christmas got me sweeted out...for a bit. I have plans for this weekend. Oh I have plans. We are supposed to get some more snow and snow always makes me want to bake, so some baking shall commence.

Let me just throw these words out there...

Pistachio
Oatmeal
Devils Food.


Oh yeah. Wait....I'm not making something with all those ingredients combined, although now that I think about it, it really wouldn't be that bad, lol.

Since my men cannot live on sweets alone, I give you meatloaf.

My husband is all about the meatloaf.

I think he would be one happy man if I served meatloaf two times a week.

He's not picky either.

He'll eat when I make it with ground beef or with ground turkey.

He'll eat it hot, room temp or cold in a sandwich.

He really loves his meatloaf.

I found this "Martha" recipe for a Turkey Meatloaf and I tweaked the heck out of it, so I suppose I should credit her with this recipe, but I doubt she'd recognize it at this point, and besides, I guess I did just credit her in the preceding sentence. So there Martha.

We really loved this somewhat "lighter version" of meatloaf.

Turkey Meatloaf with leeks, mushrooms and fontina.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small leek, sliced, white and light green parts only
4 ounces (1/2 of an 8 ounce pkg) baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups shredded fontina cheese
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 pounds ground turkey
salt & pepper

Oven to 350. In a large skillet heat the oil. Add the leeks and cook until softened. Add in the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms are cooked (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Set the mixture aside to cool.

In a large bowl mix the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, eggs and cheese. Season with salt and pepper and mix gently. Just use your hands. Add in the mushrooms and leeks and mix just until combined.

On a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet, use your hands to form the turkey mixture into a 10 inch loaf. Baked until cooked through (about 45 minutes). Rest 10 minutes before serving.

Turkey Meatloaf with leeks, mushrooms and Fontina1

Monday, January 3, 2011

Olive Oil and Garlic Croutons

Home made croutons 2

So we all made it through another holiday season. Mine was wonderful. Filled with family and friends and lots and lots of laughter. I'm one lucky girl. The New Year year is here and the blogasphere is filled with post after post about everyone New Year resolutions and re-caps of all their posts after over the past year and I'm sorry to tell you....that's not happening here, lol. I do have one resolution, to finally make the time to put a recipe index on the blog. I'm gonna try my darnedest to make that happen.

So back to the holidays past....we filled our bellies up with all sorts of deliciousness. The leftovers in the fridge have finally dwindled down to nothing and I'm ready to get back to "normal" eating again. Now I'm craving...

GREEN!

Ahhh. Green.

Crunchy green salad.

I always crave it after a holiday. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about the sweets and pies and cakes associated with them, but a few days after I'm craving veggies and greens.

Home made croutons 1


I always seem to have some stale bread around. This time is was a baguette that was getting a bit hard. I decided it was to become croutons.

No sense wasting a good loaf of bread.

Home made croutons

Making croutons is simple. Honest.

Just dice up some bread. Make sure it's stale. You really can't make croutons with fresh bread.

Heat up a skillet and for every cup of croutons you have heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a clove of garlic.

Throw in a few cups of bread at a time. You don't want to crowd the pan. The bread needs to come in contact with the pan to get nice and brown and crispy. At this point I threw in about a teaspoon of fresh chopped parsley. It looks pretty, lol.

Turn it every few minutes. Don't worry if the garlic starts to get a little too brown. It's just there to give the oil some great flavor.

Once the croutons are nice and browned (about 8 - 10 minutes), take them out and place them on a paper towel lined tray to cool. Repeat with next batch if you have more than a few cups.

Done! Simple home made croutons that are 10 times better then the ones outta the box. My husband was eating them like popcorn!