Sunday, March 30, 2008

Meet Ming

This is Ming. She is my brothers 11 week old pug. Isn't she just the cutest thing? Moose was very jealous of her and snipped at her a few times. He got a few snaps on the nose and went and sulked. Now he's kissin' up to me cause he knows I wasn't happy with his behavior. Freshy boy.

I took about 70 shots of her when she was here. It was hard not to get her moving. She makes this little sniffing noise constantly, sounds like me when it's allergy season. My brother says she snores when she sleeps. I sleep with a snorer too bro. It may be cute now, but trust me, it will become so not cute in a matter of time. My snorer doesn't have those cute bug eyes and pushed in face though.

I smell like puppy kisses now.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

This recipe is from Elise's ( father. While I was busy baking this sat on the stove most of the day and simmered. I had let it sit overnight in the sauce to really soak up all the flavors. The smell of chile and paprika filled the house every time I opened the lid of the pot to turn the pork. I bought a 10 pound two pack of pork shoulder at Sam's Club, so my pork was a wee bit bigger than the recipe called for. I added a bit more of everything and cooked it longer. It was so tender that when John pulled it out of the pan, the shoulder bone slid right out. Pulled Pork sandwiches tonight and pork tacos tomorrow night!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 pickled jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons of Chipotle chile powder
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 bay leaf
3 lbs of pork butt shoulder roast, trimmed of excess fat
Hamburger buns

1 Purée all of the sauce ingredients (everything except the bay leaf, the pork and the buns) in a blender until smooth. If you have extra time, marinate the pork in the sauce overnight or for several hours before cooking.

2 Put sauce, bay leaf, and pork into a large pot and add 1 quart of water. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, covered, turning frequently, for 2 hours or until the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.

3 Remove from heat and cool pork in the sauce. When cool, remove the pork from the sauce and shred into small pieces. Set aside.

4 Reduce the sauce by two thirds. Add the pork back to the sauce. Salt to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve hot over open-face hamburger buns.

Cappuccino Cupcakes

John got a cookbook for my birthday that I had been wanting for quite some time now, Julie Hasson's 125 Best Cupcakes Recipes. 125 delicious recipes. 125 different cupcake recipes to try. Better go stock up on cupcake liners.

Cappuccino Cupcakes
From Julie Hasson’s 125 Best Cupcakes Cookbook

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely ground coffee
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon warm water
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sour cream
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl mix together flour, ground coffee, cinnamon, baking powder, soda, and salt.

In another bowl mix together sugar, oil and egg until smooth. Whisk in instant coffee mixture and vanilla. Alternately whisk in flour mixture and sour cream, making three additions of the flour mixture and two of the sour cream, beating until smooth. Mix in chocolate chips.

Scoop batter into prepared pan, with paper liners and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely on rack.

What better to top this babies off with then some coffee buttercream frosting!

Coffee Buttercream Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon hot coffee
1 teaspoon Kahlua

Beat on low with an electric mixer the butter, sugar and salt until well combined. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, beat until frosting is smooth.

In small bowl mix together coffee granules, hot coffee and Kahlua. Stir until coffee granules are dissolved.

Add coffee mixture to butter mixture beating until smooth and creamy. You will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times while mixing. Spread icing over cooled cupcakes with a knife or place in pasty bag and pipe decoratively. This recipe said it would make 12 cupcakes; I got 13 out of the batter. I topped mine with a chocolate covered hazelnut so it would look prutty!

Next steps:



Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stuffed Shells

This is another recipe that I have been making for more than 20 years now. Never wrote it down, it’s all crammed up there in my noggin. I tried to approximate amounts while I was making this, so I am taking notes from my sauce and cheese spattered paper to re-type this.

Lisa’ Stuffed Shells
1 pound ground pork
1 ½ pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds of whole milk ricotta (I use about ¾ of a 2 lb container)
2 large eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella
8 ounces whole mozzarella
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 box jumbo shells
Your favorite sauce (I usually make my own but you can use jarred and it still tastes delicious)

In a large pan cook the onions in a little olive oil until they are tender. Add the minced garlic. Let cook for 1 minute, add ground pork and beef, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Cook until browned. Drain any grease out of the pan. Set aside.

Boil your jumbo shells for about 8 minutes. You want them really al dente. While the shells are cooking, start on the ricotta mixture.

In a large bowl combine ¾ of a 2 pound container of whole milk ricotta. Add 2 eggs and mix well. Add 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella, ½ cup of grated parmesan, ½ cup parsley. I also added a good bit of Mrs. Dash at this point. Mix until combined. Add in the meat mixture and mix it up again.

Drain the shells and immediately run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Pour some sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 pan, just enough to cover the bottom so the shells won’t stick. I make a bit of an assembly line to put it all together. I put the shells to my left, the pan in the middle and meat/cheese filling on the right. Fill each shell with about 2 teaspoons of the mixture. They should be full enough that the ends of the shell don’t meet. Like this:

Line them up in the pan:

Pretty huh? I buy the 16oz square cube of mozzarella. I cut about half of it up into thin slices and layer it all over the top, and then I sprinkle on about another cup of shredded mozzarella. Can’t have enough cheese you know. Top it all off with enough sauce to cover up all the shells and bake covered with aluminum foil in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, or until the shells are nice and bubbly. I usually take the foil off during the last 15 minutes cause I like the ends to get all brown and crunchy. Let stand for 10 minutes before you dig in.

I usually serve this with a nice big salad and some crusty bread. They are great heated up the next day too!

Ear Picks?

I work with a guy who always picks his ears with a car key. I kid you not. He sticks the end of the key in there and starts diggin'. It's a disgusting habit and every time he does it I yell at him and remind him about all the filthy germs he is ramming into his eardrum, but he still does it. It's such a compulsion with him that half the time he doesn't even know he's doing it until I tell him to stop. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the Asian Market this morning and saw EAR PICKS!

Ear Picks! I couldn't believe it. The make an item specifically designed to pick your ears with! That can't be safe right? Why would you want to poke a skinny stick into your ear? Why? That's why they make Q-Tips (which you aren't supposed to stick into you ear either, but who doesn't do that?). There were 75 cents so I totally had to get them for the car key ear picker, just to make him laugh. They have a little scoop on the end. How gross is that? I swear to God if he sticks one of those things in his ear while I am around I am going to whack him upside the head. I'll warn him before I give them to him...these are for decorative purposes only.....go back to picking at yourself with a key.

I also picked up a few other things:

Evan went a little crazy in the candy section. Jesse was sleeping over a friends, so we picked some stuff out for him too.

I still can't get over the ear picks.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New York Style Cheesecake

I got this recipe from one of the Kraft Foods magazines last year. I wanted a cheesecake that wasn't as dense and heavy as most, and this one was perfect. Light and fluffy and not too overly cheesy. I served it with sweetened strawberries, but you could use any topping you'd like.

New York Style Cheesecake

1 ½ cups graham crackers
½ stick butter
1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
4 pkgs (8oz each) cream cheese (softened)
2 tsp vanilla, divided
1 16 oz sour cream
4 eggs
2 cups strawberries sliced

Preheat oven to 325. Line a 9x13 pan with foil with the ends extending over the sides of the pan. Mix the crumbs, butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar and press firmly into the bottom of prepared pan.

Beat the cream cheese, 1 cup of the remaining sugar and 1 tsp of the vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium until well blended. Add 1 cup of sour cream, mix well. Add eggs one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until just blended. Pour over crust.

Bake 40 mins or until the center is almost set. Center might still be a little giggly, that’s ok. Mix the remaining sour cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until almost blended, carefully spread over the cheesecake. Bake an additional 10 mins. Cool, cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Lift cheesecake from pan by using the foil handles. Top with strawberries, blueberries or whatever fruit you like. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake (approved by Nana)

I spent the last few days cooking and baking for Easter. We had a really nice dinner with Nana. She will be 84 on Friday. There is exactly 40 years and 1 weeks age difference between us. She was in good spirits today, making us laugh as always. For those of who don't know, my Nana has Alzheimer's. She is in the later stages of the disease but she still knows who we are, and she still knows who she is, most of the time anyway. She is fascinated with my fridge. She can't believe that it is black, and every time she is here, she comments on it, about 15 times. Today she was also fascinated by a wooden cow I have in my kitchen. She commented on that about 20 times. Always seeing it for the first time when she looks at it. It's funny, but it's sad too. I asked her why she wasn't wearing her glasses and she told me that she never wore glasses in her whole life. (She wore glasses for 50 years). So I showed her a picture of herself with glasses on. "That's not me", she said. You just have to agree, cause arguing with someone who has Alzheimer's has no point.

She loves Moose.

She had a good day. She had all her jewelry on as always. She likes to wear every necklace that she has at once, kinda like an old Mrs.T. She was happy when the sweets came out. She loves her sweets. I think that must be where I get my sweet tooth from. Before we brought out the desserts she had already eaten some Wandies, 2 pocket fulls of Cadbury mini eggs, 3 chocolate covered strawberries, 2 deviled eggs (which she later proclaimed that she never ate "I don't care for deviled eggs". Nana you ate two!!!), and some pizelles. We brought out the chocolate sheet cake and she ate FIVE pieces of it. I kid you not, five pieces! Then she moved on to the cheese cake, she only ate one piece of that, and she finished everything off with some more chocolate eggs, and another strawberry.

After all her sweets she announced that she needed to get back to "work". That's what she calls the assisted living facility she lives It was a nice day and her sweet tooth was very happy.

Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake

Combine in a bowl:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a saucepan melt:
2 sticks butter
4 heaping tablespoons of cocoa (stir together)
Add 1 cup of boiling water. Allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds then turn off the heat. Pour over flour mixture and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup pour:
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking make the icing:
Chop 1/2 cup pecans finely
Melt 1 and 3/4 sticks butter in a saucepan
Add 4 heaping tablespoons of cocoa, turn off the heat.
6 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 1/2 cups powered sugar

Stir together, add pecans and pour over warm cake. I used an icing knife to spread it. I also omitted the pecans this time, cause my kids don't like them.
This cake was a big hit, especially with Nana. The kids loved it too.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thank you

You always make my birthday so happy. Thank you hunny.

And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coloring Eggs

I tried a new technique this year using herbs and leaves. They came out pretty cool! At Easter we will have funky colored deviled eggs!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sharing Rocks

John's home from work on vacation this week. He has so much vacation time that he has to use it up cause he just keep accruing more and more....bastard. Anyway, he calls me at work today and says:

"You got three packages in the mail".

"Three? From who?"

"One from my Mom, one from Aunt Becky, and one from Cali-forn-i-a".

Yes he said Cali-forn-i-a. Whoooo Hoooo. Presents from Mom & Becky for my birthday (no not today). I knew the one from Cali had to be from Diane & Todd at White on Rice Couple. I was right. They sent me some beautiful rosemary. The smell is unbelievable! I also got some tangerines and a very special juicy naval orange, all grown in their very own yard. Lucky me!!

I already have thoughts swirling around in my head for using the rosemary. The orange & tangernies will be snackage for me! Yum!
Thank you guys so much. I'm so glad I found you two through this crazy internet thing! Like your card said.....thanks for the Happy California Sunshine!

St. Joseph's Day

Every St. Josephs Day for the past 25 years I have brought my Sicilian father Joseph, Zeppoles. What the heck is a Zeppole you ask? Zeppoles are Italian bread dough that is either baked or fried and then filled with custard. Some bakeries use a cannoli filling, but that is not a true Zeppole. Thousands upon thousands of them will be eaten today….not by me freshies!! I don’t even like them. I’m really surprised that my Dad even likes them. He really isn’t much of a sweets eater at all, but he likes his Zeppoles.

Some say that the tradition of St. Joseph’s Day began in Sicily, during the Middle Ages. There was a severe drought. The people prayed for St. Joseph, their patron saint, to intervene. They promised him that, if he answered their prayers and brought rain, they would prepare a big feast in his honor. Their prayers were answered and the rains came. True to their word, the people of Sicily prepared a banquet and placed huge banquet tables for the poor of the town to enjoy. The day is a day of generosity and kindness. It was not only a way for the people of Sicily to thank St. Joseph for answering their prayers, but also a way to share their good fortune with the poor of the town.

To me it’s a day to remind myself how lucky I am to have my Dad in my life. We had our struggles during the teenage years when he wouldn’t let me do anything!! Being the only girl and the oldest was a real test for him (and me) let me tell you. Thanks goodness Mom was there to cover for me all the time. There is a reason why they call her Saint Mim. He watched over me and took such good care of me when I was living on my own for the first time ever, that I really don’t know what I would have done without him. Even though he drives me crazy sometimes, and I am certain that he is the person that I inherited all my worrying and anxiety from, he’s a pretty awesome guy who would do anything in the world for me and my family. He loves his grandsons so fiercely it amazes me. I see a side of him as Grandpa that I never saw growing up. I suppose that’s how a lot of parents are.

So every year I bring my Dad his Zeppoles, and every year he always acts surprised, as if he had no clue that I would be coming by with them. I love my Dad.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Turkey Meatloaf

When I first made Ina Garten’s turkey meatloaf, I went by the book, the cookbook that is. I made it just as the directions called for and it was huge. Really a great recipe for a crowd but I only wanted to feed the 4 of us, so I cut the recipe in half for future use, hence some of the strange measurements. You should have seen the faces on some the engineers where I worked when I asked for their help with conversions. Yeah it’s for a meatloaf man. Important stuff. They all think I’m a crazy hippie anyway, and that’s ok with me. I have fine tuned it so it works well with 2 ½ pounds of ground turkey. You certainly can use ground beef if you’d like, but I’m sticking with the turkey.

Turkey Meatloaf
Recipe from Ina Garten
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons & 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup & 2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 ½ pounds ground turkey
¾ - 1 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 325. In medium sauté pan over medium low heat cook onions, olive oil, salt, pepper & thyme until translucent but not brown, approx 15 mins. Add Worcestershire, chicken stock and tomato paste, mix well. Allow to cool to room temp.

Combine turkey, bread crumbs, egg and onion mixture in large bowl. This will be a fairly wet mixture. I think that’s why the meatloaf comes out so moist, so don’t add so much breadcrumbs that you dry it out. Mix well and shape into rectangular loaf.

At this point in the recipe I turn to a Cook’s Illustrated technique using aluminum foil and a cooking rack.

Allowing meat loaf to stew in its own juices makes for a greasy mess. Here's our solution: Fold heavy-duty aluminum foil to form a 10 by 6-inch rectangle. Center the foil on a metal cooling rack and place the rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Poke holes in the foil with a skewer (about half an inch apart). Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread ketchup evenly on top. Bake hour or until internal temp reaches 160 and meatloaf is cooked through. My meatloaf took an hour and 20 minutes to reach 160. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking). Serve hot, room temp, or cold in a sandwich.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Turkey & Bacon Rolls

Thanks again to Elise at Simply Recipes. She continuously comes up with never ending fantastic recipes.

Turkey & Bacon Rolls
4 turkey cutlets, turkey breasts cut open and pounded to an even ¼ inch thickness (about 1 pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dry basil or a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh basil
8 thin slices ham
4 slices Provolone cheese
8 thin slices bacon

1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Place each cutlet on a piece of aluminum foil (about 5x6 inches). Sprinkle each cutlet with salt, pepper, garlic, and basil.

2 Layer a slice of cheese and a couple slices of ham on to each cutlet. Starting with the narrowest end, roll up the cutlet tightly. Gently wrap 2 slices of bacon around each cutlet. Fold up the aluminum foil around the turkey roll and wrap it tightly.

3 Place in a baking dish and put in the 375°F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and gently open up the aluminum foil wrappings to expose the bacon. Increase the oven temp to 400°F. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until the bacon is lightly browned.
Serve immediately. Serves 4.

These were terrific! Really juicy and had wonderful flavor. I’m think I might even try this same recipe with chicken, cordon bleu wrapped in bacon…Mmmmm. The only changes I would make next time would be to eliminate the salt completely. I find that the ham has enough salt in it already. I also turned the broiler on during the last 5 minutes to crisp the bacon up.

Black Bottom Coconut Bars

John's not feeling too well. He's got a cold. I'm just glad he didn't get the fever that really brought the kids down. I wanted to make him a treat to make him feel better. He loves coconut, so I decided to make these Black Bottom Coconut Bars. The bottom layer is a rich chocolate brownie and the top layer tastes like moist coconut macaroon.

John had one of these just awhile ago and proclaimed them "my new favorite".

Black Bottom Coconut Bars

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 package sweetened shredded coconut (7 ounces), 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling

For chocolate base: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan* with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil (not overhang).

Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; melt in microwave. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake just until sides begin to pull away from edges of pan, 10 to 15 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.

For coconut topping: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and coconut (except 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling).

Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup coconut.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan, peel off foil, and cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days.

* I didn’t have a 9 inch square pan, only an 8 so that’s what I used. I also didn’t want to use butter to grease the foil, so I sprayed it with Bakers Joy. They didn't stick one bit.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Evan & Destroy

Check Evan out on Bake & Destroy's Flickr' Photo Set. Natalie the rad cupcake queen has a set of photo's with everyone displaying her shirts, hoodies, buttons, magnets, etc. We had a few pins that she sent us, decided to stick them in Evan's eyes, (cause that's the kind of loving and nurturing family we are), and snap a photo for Natalie. Relax, we put pennies in back of the pins so he wouldn't get blood all over his shirt.

Why don't I have a Bake & Destroy shirt?? Gotta rectify that. Anyhow, check Natalies site out, she's over there --------> Bake & Destroy, scroll down a little to the blogs sections. There she is.

Cabbage with Onions & Bacon

I am the only person in my house who likes cabbage. Can you believe that? The boys won't even try it! I tried to start small with brussel sprouts, but they would have none of it. Silly boys.

Cabbage is on sale everywhere cause of St. Pattys Day and seeing it at every store I've been in this week made me hungry for it. So I bought a little head of it for myself.

This is my dinner tonight:

That's a dessert size plate by the way. Don't want you all thinking I'm gorging myself out on a big ass plate full of the stuff. I like it but come on.

Cabbage with Onions & Bacon
(another thrown together recipe by Lisa)

4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 small head of cabbage, sliced in thin strips
salt, pepper, butter

Chop the bacon and cook it in a heavy pot until it is brown and crispy. Remove from the pan.

At this point I had a little too much bacon grease for my liking so I sopped some of it up with a paper towel and tossed it. If you like lots of bacon grease then by all means leave it in, but your heart will breathe a little easier if you take a smidgen out.

Add the onion and cook until it is just about caramelized. Add in the sliced cabbage. I cover the pan for about 5 minutes to let the cabbage steam a bit, then I remove the cover, throw in about 2 tablespoons of butter and salt & pepper it. Let it get nice and brown, stirring occasionally. Throw the bacon back in right before you serve it.

DELICIOUS!! I love me a plate full of fried cabbage.

Time to go take my gas pills!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You must be this tall.

9 times out of 10 I spend my lunch hour running errands. It's amazing what I can get done in an hour sometimes.

Today at lunch I visited a new grocery store that just opened up a few weeks ago (Aldi, I'm not crazy about it). It's the kind of store where you need to put a quarter in the carriage to use it. Yes we call them carriages in RI. John calls them buggys and sometimes carts. We like carriages. So I am coming out of the store and I hear an elderly couple near me saying that they don't have a quarter. I put the few things I bought in the back of my car and walked over to the woman.

Me: "Ma'am you can have my carriage"

Woman: "Oh wait my husband is in the car looking for a quarter"

Me: "That's ok, you can just have it"

Woman: "But wait, he's still looking for a quarter"

Me: "No really it's ok"

Woman: "Thank you sweetheart"

So I am walking back to my car and I hear her call to her husband that she's got a carriage, she didn't say buggy or cart, she said carriage cause she's a Rhode Islander like the rest of us dammit.

He says to her "Where'd you get that?" and her reply was:

"That nice little girl there gave it to me".

Little girl? LITTLE GIRL??? Now I know I'm short, and that she was fairly elderly, but I don't look like no little girl. Geesh. I didn't know if I should be offended or take it as a compliment?

John takes great pleasure in listening to all my antics. His favorite was one of my trips to CVS (local drug store).

So I buy something at CVS and I go to walk out the door. Now you know how they have those big column things that will beep when you walk out with something that has the beepy strip on it? I hope you are all keeping up with my technical lingo.

Well I went to walk out and the door wouldn't open. So I backed up and I tried again. Nothing. Third time. Nadda. Now one of the cashiers sees me and comes over to help me. He's a young kid, maybe 17. He walks through the columns and the doors opens. He walks back and tell me to try again. Again, nothing, those doors won't open. So now the manager comes over and he walks through and they open again. Now I just want to get out of the store but they both seems dead set on finding out why they won't open for me. So the manger walks through them with me and....they open. He asks me if I will try one more time, and of course being the tolerate person I am (shut up hunny), I walk though yet again guessed it, they aint' budgin'.

The manager says something to the kid, they look to see what I bought, and then he looks at me and says:

"Umm Ma'am we think your too short to activate the doors".

What??? Now hold on, I have been to CVS many, many times in my life and never have I been too short to activate the door. I am 5 feet tall. 60 inches to be exact. I know I'm no giant, but there are millions of people shorter than me. Trillions maybe (shut up again hunny). That is just plain nuts. How do children activate the door then I asked him? Oh Mr. 5 foot 10 manager can't answer that then can he? Can he?? Well he tried to answer it, but his answer wasn't any good! He tells me that maybe the doors open when I don't have the magnetic whatamacallit on any items, but once I have one of those thingamabobs on something I purchased I'm not activating the doo hickey. I beg to differ sir. I think it was all total BS. I finally had them "walk" me out of the store so I could get the hell outta there.

I get home and I tell John about what had just happened and does he say "Oh hunny I'm so sorry that must have been so embarrassing for you?" Does he run to get me a cup of tea to comfort me? Does he offer to rub my feet to make me feel better? Does he? Hell no, he laughs hysterically. Knee slappin' belly laughs. Then he immediately gets on the phone and calls my in-laws and my friends to tell them the story with great delight. Then I have listen to their belly laughs that are loud enough for me hear without him even taking the phone from his ear.

Nice. Very nice.

I will have you all know that I have been to CVS many times since that incident and I have never had a problem getting out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Things that make me happy #10

I love chocolate. I am a chocoholic in the worst sense of the word. I would bypass almost any food on earth for luscious, delectable, scrumptious chocolate. If I walk up to a dessert table I immediately focus in on anything chocolately. Vanilla is good, strawberry......good too, but chocolate, sweet, sweet chocolate is my downfall. Don't even get me started on chocolate mocha. Anything mocha sends me over the moon. This winter I have been hooked on Land O'Lakes Cocoa Classic hot cocoa's. The hazelnuts good, the French vanilla too, but the chocolate mocha.....oh lordy, it's just too good for words.

I was at Sam's Club a few weeks ago, stocking up on my baking supplies and as I turn to leave the aisle, I see this:

2.5 pounds of Ghirardelli Candy Making & Dipping Bar. Double Chocolate. Be still my heart. Now here's the part I really love. It was $3.28. Can you believe that? $3.28 for 2 and a half pounds of Ghirardelli chocolate. My initial reaction was to grab 5 or 6 of them, but I made it out with only 3. Inside the box are these huge bars of chocolate. Almost a foot long (Jesse measured).

Every Easter I make chocolate covered strawberries, so this is going to come in really handy. I also have been eyeing some biscotti recipes and this would be perfect to use for half dipped biscotti. The possibilities are endless.

For Mitchell

When I know your hurting, it shakes me to the core.

I wish we could be there with you or….

I wish you weren’t 1,500 miles away from us so we could take care of you.

You will always have a family with us.

You said a lot of things about doors shutting…..remember ours is always open for you

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday nights.

I love Monday night’s cause two of my favorite shows are on. Little People, Big World and Jon & Kate Plus 8. John says I like to watch Little People Big World cause it makes me feel tall. Very funny. I just want to live on that farm and clean that poor woman’s house up for her. She’s got this beautiful home and it always looks like it’s just been burglarized. Plus I could probably reach stuff a lot better in that house.

Jon & Kate are John and I, with 8 kids. For those of you who have never seen the show, let me explain. Jon & Kate had twins girls, decided they wanted another baby, took fertility drug and wound up with six more babies. So at the moment they have two 7 year olds and six 3 year olds. It’s chaos constantly, a little like our house. I think I love to watch the show cause I see what she goes through in a day with 8 kids and I’m grateful that I only have 3 males, a dog and a cat to contend with, oh and the neighborhood kids.

We watch that show and 10 times during the hour we look at each other and say “that is so you”. It happens all the time. Jon from the show is so much like my John, in his demeanor, his attitude, he even breathes loud like my John (just overlook the Korean thing). I admit I am a lot like Kate. She is a neat freak, she is obsessed with her children, and she is constantly in a state of panic and hecticness. (Is that a word? If it isn’t, it should be). I don’t think I am as bitchy as Kate, but John might disagree. I look at her and think, if I had 8 kids under the age of seven I would be bitchy sometimes too....cause, well, she has to be. After all, it’s the Mom’s that usually hold it all together isn’t it? In one episode she yells for one of the kids to put Aquaphor on their lips. My kids looked at me and said, “Oh my God Mom, she is you – Aquaphor!” So I like Aquaphor, geesh. I think Kate should be commended for choosing such a pristine product.

I just went through illness with two kids, I can’t imagine having one kid get sick and then watching the seven others come down with the same thing. This particular episode last night they all had the flu and she was washing pukey blankets 10 times a day. No thank you very much.

Last night as we lay in bed watching the show, we had a little Jon & Kate moment of our own.

John: “I think I’m becoming nerdier”.

Me: “Becoming?”

John: “Yeah I can feel it”.

Me: * laughs *

John “ I used to be cool you know”

Me “ Really? Sorry I missed that” *laughing again*

John: “Ummm, I wouldn’t laugh, you anal dork”.

Me: “Anal dork? Anal dork!

30 seconds later.....

Me: "Well I guess I am a bit anal about things and I am a bit of a dork”.

Definition: DORK: The term occasionally implies stupidity, though perhaps less often than it once did, and it can paradoxically imply an unadmirable (bookish, academic) intelligence, much like the terms "nerd" and "geek."

A match made in heaven.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pasta and Shrimp a la Lisa

Sometimes you just run out of ideas for supper don’t you? Coming up with something that 1) everyone will eat, 2) is new and different and 3) doesn’t take 2 hours to prepare is a challenge. The return of spring helps. The grill is utilized much more often. We do use it year round, but there are those days when winter storms and the wind chill factor make it a not so enjoyable experience.

I decided to experiment. Since both the kids appetites have been poor during this illness I wanted to create something creamy and cheesy, cause they both really like creamy and cheesy foods. Well if you think about it, who doesn’t like creamy and cheesy foods? I suppose those supermodels that eat a blueberry and are stuffed, they wouldn’t like creamy and cheesy.

Anyway…..I didn’t want it to be an overly heavy dish. Simple and quick. So off to the freezer, what do I have in there that can be defrosted fast??? Shrimp! I always have shrimp. One of the perks of living in the ocean state, lots of seafood available. I plopped the shrimp into some water to defrost and got started, and this is what I ended up with.

Pasta & Shrimp a la Lisa
1 pound ziti (or any other pasta that will hold on to some sauce)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup tomato sauce
½ pound cooked shrimp
freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

The first thing I did was to drain the shrimp and give it a toss in the old salad spinner to get most of the water out. I then cut them in half to make them bite size pieces. Set aside. Remember these were pre-cooked shrimps. I’m only going to heat them through in this dish.

While the pasta cooks, sauté the onion in the olive oil and butter. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the minced garlic. Pour in the wine, then the heavy cream and lastly the tomato sauce and let it come to a simmer. Just as the pasta is ready to come out of the water throw the shrimp in the sauce and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. At this point I throw in a handful of parmesan cheese, a la Jamie Oliver. Do you watch his new show and see how much cheese he puts on stuff? Amazing! He grates it on top using a monster grater and the cheese just falls everywhere. He is so messy! Ok back to the pasta…toss and serve.

This was good! Really good. Evan, who hasn’t eaten very well at all in the last 5 days asked for seconds! The sauce was very similar to a vodka sauce but lighter. Next time I would add some chopped parsley and some fresh basil, but I didn’t want to push it with Evan. All he needed was an excuse not to eat, and sometimes when he sees herbs in a dish he call it “grass” and will refuse to eat it. So this time I wasn’t taking a chance. Next time I will.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Broccoli Stir Fry with Ginger and Sesame

I had a craving for broccoli. I guess in the same way some people crave ice cream or chips, I get these moments when I just have to have some fresh broccoli. So off to the World Wide Web I went in search of a recipe. I have a handful of sites that I always turn to first and simplyrecipes is always one of them. I started to laugh when I began to read the recipe cause Elise said:

"Some people get chocolate cravings. I get broccoli cravings. Sometimes I think it's my body's way of telling me I've been laying on the bacon a bit too thick (or maybe the chocolate!) But honestly I could eat broccoli every day of the year and not get tired of it".
Strange huh? I go looking for a recipe cause I'm having a broccoli craving and I find a recipe that starts out with someone having a broccoli craving. So I whipped up this recipe and I have to say it was very satisfying. If you love broccoli like I do, make this.

Broccoli Stir Fry with Ginger & Sesame
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp dark sesame oil, peanut, canola, or some other high smoke-point cooking oil
1 pound broccoli florets, rinsed, patted dry, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

1 Toast the sesame seeds by first heating a small, stick-free sauté pan on medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and jiggle the pan so they spread out in a single layer. Let them cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 3-5 minutes. Do
not walk away from them while cooking, as once they start to brown they can easily burn. Once lightly toasted remove from heat and put into a small bowl, set aside.

2 Mix the stock, soy sauce, and dark sesame oil together in a small bowl, set aside.

3 Heat 1 Tbsp of peanut (or canola or grapeseed) oil in a large, covered sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the broccoli florets, stir to coat the florets with the oil, Sauté for about a minute. Clear a space in the middle of the broccoli and add the ginger and garlic. Add a little more oil to the ginger and garlic (about a teaspoon) and sauté for half a minute, stirring just the garlic and ginger, until fragrant. Then stir the garlic and ginger in with the broccoli.

4 Add the chicken (or vegetable) stock mixture to the pan. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cover. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, until broccoli is still firm, but can be pierced with a fork. Remove from heat. Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Return pan to heat, increase heat to high and boil down the liquid until just a couple tablespoons remain. Turn off heat, return broccoli to the pan, add the toasted sesame seeds, toss with the liquid. Put into a serving bowl.

Yee Haw!

My husband is a big country music fan. He grew up in New Mexico where they listen to lots of country music. Now I like some country music, in fact I love some of it. Johnny Cash, Tim McGraw, Hank Williams, the Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson…love them. Then there’s the music I call “Goat Roping”. It’s the Yee-haw, hoe down, hee haw, knee-slappin’, tobacco spittin’, woooo doggy music that I can’t stand. John loves and takes every opportunity to torture me with that music.

A few months ago I heard a song on the radio called “I Want to Check You for Ticks”. This was a hit song on a popular radio station??? I don’t get it. So it’s a “thing” in our house (come on all houses have their “things”). John takes great pleasure in finding the most twangy, dog gone awful (see it’s rubbing off on me) goat roping music that he can find and plays it very loudly to annoy the shit outta me. I retaliate with Abba, hee hee! Don’t even tell me your toes don’t start tapping when you hear Waterloo, if you say no you’re a liar!

Yesterday he found a list of titles of real country songs. I kid you not, these are real song titles. So sit back ya’ll, pull up yer overalls, put on yer favorite twangy banjo pickin’ CD and enjoy!

· Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth Cause I'm Kissing You Good-bye.
· I Don't Know Whether To Kill Myself or Go Bowling.
· I Sold A Car To A Guy Who Stole My Girl, But It Don't Run So We're Even.
· Mama Get A Hammer (There's A Fly On Daddy's Head).
· I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better.
· I Wouldn't Take Her to A Dog Fight, Cause I'm Afraid She'd Win.
· I'm So Miserable without you; It's Like Having You Here.
· If I Had Shot You When I Wanted To, I'd Be Out of Jail by Now.
· My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, And I Don't Love You.
· You're the Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly.
· Her Teeth Were Stained, But Her Heart Was Pure.
· At the Gas Station of Love, I Got the Self Service Pump
· Billy Broke My Heart at Walgreen’s and I Cried All the Way to Sears
· Get Off the Stove, Grandma, You're Too Old To Ride The Range
· Get Your Biscuits in the Oven, and Your Buns In The Bed
· I Gave Her My Heart and a Diamond and She Clubbed Me With A Spade
· It's Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chewed Your Ass Out All Day Long
· I Got the Hungries for Your Love and I'm Waitin in Your Welfare Line
· I Went Back to My Fourth Wife for the Third Time and Gave Her a Second Chance to make a First Class Fool Out of Me
· I'm Gonna Hire A Wino To Decorate Our Home
· There Ain't Enough Room in my Fruit of The Looms to Hold All My Lovin' For You
· Want a Beer as Cold as My Ex-Wife's Heart

My personal favorite:
· If I Can't Be Number One In Your Life, Then Number Two On You.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Billy's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes

I knew the key to get Evan to eat was to make something sweet. He has a sweet tooth almost as bad as mine, plus he needed to make his tummy happy again, and what better way to do that than a luscious home made cupcake?

As I was searching for a vanilla cupcake recipe, I came across a video on of baker Billy Reece of Billy's Bakery in New York City. I guess Martha sent her "people" out to find the best vanilla cupcake in NYC and Billy won, so I thought I'd give them a try. As far as cupcakes goes, this was a pretty simple recipe which yielded fantastic results. A moist and tender cupcake with a rich vanilla flavor. He does recommend using non self-rising cake flour, so check your package. They suggested Softasilk, which I just happened to have in my pantry.

The double Vanilla names comes from the vanilla he uses in the cupcake and also the frosting (which I did not use). I wanted a chocolate topped cupcake this time. The boys happily gulped down a cupcake as soon as I had them frosted.

Billy's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

The Frosting:

I got this frosting recipe from Nosh with me, who got it from 52Cupcakes. I was looking for a recipe that had the ingredients that I had on hand, so this one was it.

Chocolate Frosting
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 to 5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place the butter and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is soft and well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute.

Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more milk if the frosting is too stiff. Store these cupcakes, in a cake saver or under a glass dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze them, wrapped in aluminum foil or in a cake saver, for up to 6 months. Thaw the cupcakes overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

It always cracks me up when they give instruction on how to freeze cupcakes. I have never frozen a cupcake in my life. My co-workers would kill me. They look forward to all my leftovers. Freeze a cupcake…that’s just crazy talk.

Beef Stew

It’s been was such a doomy and gloomy day today I decided a beef stew was in order. Something we could scoop into a bowl and take into the living room with us while we watched a movie. Both kids are still recovering from sickness. Evan is better, but still very weak and has had about 6 bites of food since Wednesday. He has been drinking tons of Gatorade so he’s not in danger of dehydrating. Jesse doesn’t seem to be as sick, but has a good case of the sniffles and both of them have a cough. Everyone (‘cept me) has been napping on and off all day. There were a few times during the day that the house was so silent the only sound was of me chopping vegetables for the stew. I’m not used to this quietness. I’ll be happy when everyone is well again and the sound of video games being played, or of the boys laughing, or arguing, or talking on the phone to their friends fills the house again. I never thought I’d be happy to hear them argue.

Notes on the stew: I realized half way through making this that I didn’t have any potatoes. Wait that’s not exactly true, I did have potatoes, but when I went to get them in the bin they all looked like green mutant octopi. Not good eats. I knew I had mushrooms. I always have mushroom, so I threw those in instead and added a little more carrots then I usually do. Sometimes I serve this over noodles, home made preferably. This time I served it over rice.

Hearty Beef Stew
Recipe from Cooks Illustrated

3 pounds chuck-eye roast or stew beef cut into 1 ½ inch cubes.
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
1-teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions chopped coarse (about 2 cups)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup red wine (preferably full bodied)
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon, dried thyme
6 small potatoes, cut into small pieces
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup minced fresh parsley

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place beef cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in large nonreactive soup kettle; add beef to kettle in two separate batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch, adding remaining tablespoon of oil if needed. Remove meat and set aside. Add onions to now empty kettle; sauté until almost softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; continue to sauté about 30 seconds longer. Stir in flour; cook until lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to kettle. Add stock, bay leaves, and thyme; bring to simmer. Add meat; return to simmer. Cover and place in oven; simmer about 30 minutes.

2. Remove kettle from oven, add potatoes and carrots, cover, and return to oven. Simmer until meat is just tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove stew from oven. Add peas and allow to stand 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, adjust seasonings, and serve.

(Can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to 3 days.)

Spring is in the air.....kind of.

See the little love nut in the nest up there? I incorporate it some where in all my seasonal decorations.

I awoke this morning to the sound of birds chirping. It's been so long since I've heard that sound. It made me smile before I even opened my eyes.

Spring is my second favorite season. Fall is the ultimate for me. I can barely wait for summer to end every year. Spring means it's time to look through all my gardening catalogs and pick out seeds and plants. It means the t-shirts that I pass by daily in the closet get worn and the shorts get moved from the back of the drawers to the front again. I get to visit my favorite nurseries and choose the flowers, herbs and vegetables that will feed us through the summer and hopefully into the Fall. I was also born on the 1st day of Spring although my birthday doesn't fall on the official 1st day of Spring every year, it's neat when it does.

It's a rainy day today. This afternoon we are supposed to get some really heavy rains, torrential downpours the weather man says. Yesterday was beautiful. Almost 50 and sunny. Everyone at work had a touch of Spring fever. When I heard those birds chirping I decided it was time to take down my Spring/Easter decorations. Gone is the winter greenery, out comes bunnies, and chicken and eggs. Oh yes. I spent a few hours arranging and re-arranging decorations this morning. I'm sure I will change them a few more times before the day is over.

My favorite Easter decoration is this little chick with the bunny ears. How freakin' cute is that? I just love it.

And this one pecking! Adorable! I got these two chicks last weekend when Eva, Tati and I went up to my favorite store, Things Made Wonderful. I got them home, unwrapped them from the bag and giddily set them on the window sill. I went into the living room, and returned to find them in some soft core chicken porn positions. John and Tati spent the next 15 minutes putting my adorable chicks into some very compromising positions. Perverts. It did make us all laugh like teenagers though.

Most of my stuff is very primitive/country. I made the primitive eggs a few years back cause all I could find in the store were shiny and bright ones which I really don't like. I like things grungy and grubby and rusty.

So every thing's not so primitive. I still like cute, and this is damn cute. There have been arguments as to whether it's a duck or a chick. I like to think of him (yes I choose the gender too) as a chick, so he is a chick filled with worms.....get it??? Chick - worms......oh never mind.

How funny is that duck? There was no argument about him, it's a duck in a bunny hat. He greets everyone in the breezeway and believe me people "ahhh" when they see him.....even the men......well maybe not the men but the women, they ahhh.