Sunday, October 31, 2010

Right Now

Arcadia shrooms 2

I just looked back. I haven't done one of my "right nows" since June! Shame on me.

I think it's time.

Oh and just a little note...this is my 666th post! Honest, I'm not making that up! How appropriate today huh?

Time: 4:54 pm

In my mug: warm apple cider.

On the stereo: Black Sabbath -Hey it's Halloween after all! I adore Black Sabbath. If you think they are just heavy metal then think again. My fave song on this CD (which I think I wore out when I was a teenager) the only instrumental, Fluff. If you never listened to Black Sabbath, listen to this....

It may change your mind about them. I also love Spiral Architect.

In my belly: Turkey Meatballs & Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce. So good! Post coming!

In the fridge: Leftovers, acorn squash, butternut squash, baby eggplants, apple cider.

Last thing on the laptop: I'm reading stuff on this site almost everyday and learning so much.

On my wish list: Cookbooks of course!
These to name a few - Field Guide to Cookies - Anita Chu
Jamie @ Home - I love the way this man thinks and cooks.

John and I have vowed not to spend much at all on each other this Christmas. Maybe just a few little love gifts. We really have everything we need, maybe not everything we want, but surely all we need. I put these cookbooks on my wish list, but if I don't get them, I be fine. Really. Ok maybe if I just get the Jamie's one and I'll be fine.

Looking forward to: Thanksgiving. Love that holiday. No gifts, just food, family and friends....oh and maybe raiding the Halloween bag later!

On the nightstand: Latest copies of Bon Appetit, Saveur, and another Lennon Bio (honestly haven't I read them all yet?) Finished The Reliable Wife in 2 days. Great quick read.

Last thing that made me laugh: (idea stolen from Jen) Overhead a Mom saying to her little girl.

"I don't like your attitude".

Little girl: "Do I look like Little Rabbit Fu-Fu to you??"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Easy Chicken Enchilada Bake - my 2nd not so pretty (but darned tasty) meal.

Easy Chicken Enchilada Bake

I'm on an ugly food run.

I've been making some butt-ugly food lately.

It's ok. Ugly food needs love too.

Sometimes the ugliest food is the tastiest, and this casserole is no exception.

Go grab a rotisserie chicken. My local BJ's Wholesale Club now carries organic rotisserie chicken. Yippee! Clean all the meat off the chicken and your meal is half way done. Really. This is a super simple casserole that you can make any weeknight.

Layer on some sour cream, enchilada sauce and cheese. Repeat. Pop in the oven. Done!

How simple is that?

Chicken Enchilada Bake

4 ½ cups shredded rotisserie chicken (I shredded the whole chicken and it was just enough)
1 can (28oz) enchilada sauce
1 container (8oz) sour cream
6 corn tortillas (6inch) cut into 1-½ inch pieces
4 cups (16oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a greased 2-quart casserole dish layer half of the chicken, enchilada sauce, sour cream and cheese. (Start with a layer of tortilla strips on the bottom first) I dolloped on the sour cream and then spread it gently over the chicken. Repeat layers.

Cover and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before eating.

Easy Chicken Enchilada Bake1

So simple you can make it when you run home at 5:30pm from a crazy day at work, (if you had already took all the chicken off the bones the day before, like I did) throw this together, and have a happy family, with full bellies tell you how yummy supper was.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sour Cream Apple Squares

Sour Cream Apple Squares 1

A few weeks ago we went apple picking.

We've been going to the same orchard for the past 15 years.

It's a small family run place that is part of the rituals of our life.

There are lots of other orchards we could go to, but "our" orchard is the only place we venture to year after year and we kinda like it that way.

We picked 3 different varieties of apples...Cortland, Macoun, and Empire. I find this mix is the perfect blend for pies, applesauce and apple butter.

Speaking of apple butter. I canned quite a few batches last week, along with many more pounds of apples that I made into applesauce. I peeled so many apples (about 20 pounds give or take), that I actually had a sore shoulder from peeling and chopping for so many hours.

Before all the peeling and chopping began I made these Sour Cream Apple Squares. You have to come home from the orchard and make an apple dessert right?

Sour Cream Apple Squares

I found this recipe in an old Pillsbury cookbook called Eclectic Tastes of the 70's.

This was the grand prize winner of the bake-off from 1975. Groovy huh?

Sour Cream Apple Squares
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 (8oz) container of sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups finely chopped, peeled apples

Oven to 350.

Lightly spoon the flour into a measuring cup to level off. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, brown sugar, and butter. Beat on low until crumbly. Stir in the nuts. Press 2 ¾ of the crumbs into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.

To the remaining mixture add the cinnamon, baking soda, salt, sour cream, vanilla and egg. Mix well. Stir in the apples. Spoon evenly over crumb mixture.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes then cut into squares. Serve warm or cool. Store leftovers in fridge.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

Maple Roasted Butternut 3

I love squash!

Give me acorn, summer, spaghetti squash, pumpkin (it's a squash), zucchini, or just about any other squash you can throw at me. I love it.

One of my favorites is the butternut.

Since I'm the only squash lover in the house, when I make it, I get to eat it all by myself!

When I get the hankering, I'll roast up a small squash just for me.

This is my favorite ways to eat it. Roasted in the oven and drizzled with maple syrup.

Maple Roasted Butternut

The maple syrup helps the squash to caramelize in the oven.

It's like candy I tell ya.

I ate the whole bowl and it was beyond delicious.

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash.
1 small to medium butternut squash
olive oil
salt & pepper
maple syrup

Cut the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds and guts. Now grab your vegetable peeler and peel away all the outer skin. Cut into cubes. Place squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss. Not a lot, just enough to coat it lightly. Now add the salt and pepper and then drizzle with maple syrup. Toss again. Just use your hands.

Bake at 400 for 25 - 35 minutes, or until the squash is tender and lightly browned.

Try not to burn your tongue like I did when you hastily reach for one of these scrumptious babies.

Maple Roasted Butternut 1

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Muffins - only 3 ingredients!

Pumpkin spice muffins 1

Ok, ok the title of this post may be misleading. I actually used 4 ingredients when I made these, so that may put some of you off!

No really, these muffins are ridiculously easy to make.

Don't blink or you may miss the recipe...ya ready?

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
1 box (18.25 oz) spice cake mix
1-15oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup water
handful of chocolate chips (optional, but highly recommended)

Throw all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix them up by hand, no electric mixer needed. Place into lined muffins pan and fill 3/4 of the way full. Bake at 400 for approximately 20 minutes. I added in the handful of chocolate chips after the batter was mixed. No need to measure, just throw them in. Delicious!

Pumpkin spice muffins 3

I was shocked when Evan's friend, who is the pickiest eater on earth, gobbled one down...and then another.

Next time I'm going to make a chocolate version, by replacing the spice cake mix with a chocolate one.

Sounds good doesn't it?

Pumpkin spice muffins

Sunday, October 17, 2010

So grateful.

Evan 14

For family and friends.

For my cozy little house.

For the laughter that fills these walls.

Evan 14 1

For having this little boy come into my life 14 years ago.

Happy Birthday Evan!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownie Bites

Peanut Butter Brownie Bites 2

We were on vacation this week. We always take vacation at this time of year, because October is our favorite month (and the month in which we celebrate our anniversary), and because it's just so beautiful here in New England.

The foliage is peaking, the air is crisp and it's the perfect time for me to get in the kitchen and get baking.

I'm always looking for baked goods that the boys can easily pack in their lunches. They don't get them all the time, but once in a while I like to surprise them by sneaking in a little home made goodie.

These little Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownie Bites were perfect.

A chocolate brownie nestled around a creamy peanut butter center.

Peanut Butter Brownie Bites 1

Yes I'm using a boxed brownie mix and it doesn't bother

This time of year is also super busy for us. We're making homemade Christmas presents, I'm cooking and baking for my youngster's birthday, which we are celebrating tomorrow, and we are are in the process of remodeling the bathroom. Phew.

Luckily these were a snap to throw together.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownie Bites
recipe from
1 pkg (19 to 21oz) brownie mix
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Oven to 350. Prepare the brownie mix batter as directed on the package. Spoon into 20 paper-lined muffin cups. I used my small cookie scoop and it was the perfect amount.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg, peanut butter and vanilla in the mixer until blended. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon into the center of the batter, pressing it lightly into the batter. Bake 30 minutes or until the centers test done.

Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spaghetti Pizza Bake

Spaghetti Pizza Bake1

Sometimes I get in a creative mood.

It doesn't always involve food.

As most of you know, I love to craft and I'm lucky enough to have a husband who is my own little carpenter. He made me these rat's for Halloween. They have LED lights in their eyes. Cool huh?

Rat 1

Rat 2

He's been busy making all sorts of gorgeous wooden items for Christmas presents too. Now I just have to get my butt in gear and start painting and sanding and staining.

While he was out sawing and nailing away I felt the need to get a little creative in the kitchen. So I started experimenting with some recipes. I took a little from one and another little bit from another, then added in my own bits and pieces and came up with this Spaghetti Pizza Bake.

Since pizza and spaghetti are up there on the list of foods my kids love, I knew combining the two tastes would be a winner....and it was oh, and I got to use my new favorite food - mini pepperoni.

As usual, I had a few extra teenagers over and they all loved this.....oh and so did the grown-ups.

Spaghetti Pizza Bake
recipe from Lisa @ The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
1 lb lean ground beef
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 32oz jar sauce
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh basil (optional)
1 lb spaghetti pasta, broken into 2” pieces.
¾ cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 (5ounce) package of mini pepperoni
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (divided)

Oven to 350. Lightly grease a large casserole dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the ground beef mixture while the water boils.

Heat a large pan and add 1 –2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions just until tender (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook one minute more. Add in the ground beef, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain the beef mixture and return it to the pan. Add in the sauce, Italian seasoning and basil and let it simmer while you cook the spaghetti. Remember to break the spaghetti up into 2 inch pieces. Cook until it is very al dente. Don’t overcook. Remember, this will be baked, you don’t want mushy spaghetti.

Meanwhile combine the eggs and milk in a large bowl and mix until blended. Add in a 1 1/2 cups of each cheese (combine and reserve the 1/2 cusp of mozzarella & Monterrey Jack) and the mini pepperoni. Drain the spaghetti and run some cold water over it to stop the cooking process. Cooling it down will also stop it from melting the cheese when you add it to the mixture. Toss with the egg/milk/cheese mixture. Place half of the spaghetti mixture on the bottom of the pan top with 1/2 cup of the reserved cheese mixture, then top with half the meat mixture. Repeat layers.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes until hot and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes to set, then serve.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Love is the answer, and you know that for sure.

john lennon

I remember where I was when I heard John Lennon was murdered, in the kind of way people of my parents generation remember where they were when Kennedy was killed, and I suppose the way most of us now can answer the "where were you?" question when it comes to 911.

I remember seeing my Dad, almost in tears. They shared the same birthday.

Staring at the TV screen. Not believing what I was hearing.

Watching the fans gather at the Dakota, wishing I was there.

I cried and cried. I was inconsolable. I was 16.

I had just gotten my copy of Double Fantasy. The album, remember those?

I was so excited that he was finally releasing a new album. I listened to it over and over again, even the Yoko songs, lol.

His voice spoke to me, touched me. I always felt a connection with him. I still do today.

So these last 30 years he has been gone from this world, but he has always been a part of my life.

In the songs I sang to my kids when I rocked them to sleep. Jesse would lay in my arms and say "sing the Sean song to me" (Beautiful Boy) and at the end when John whispered "good night Sean, see you in the morning", I would replace the Sean with Jesse and he would giggle.

He is a part of the all Beatles lullaby's we sang in our big old water bed. One baby under each arm, singing Two of Us while I tapped out the beat on the side of the bed.

He's there every year when we play Happy Xmas, War is Over when we place the star on the top of the tree, or when we play Birthday when it's you're special day.

He sang at my wedding.

His voice always a part of all the special moments in my life.

30 years later and I still miss him so much it hurts.

I think about all the music that was still to come. Lost.

I light a candle every October 9th and on December 8th too.

On this day when you would have turned 70, I hope that somehow my little birthday message reaches you wherever you are. Thank you for being the soundtrack of my life.

This is one of my favorite songs.

Stop and rest for just 2:39 minutes and listen.

Happy Birthday John (and Dad too!).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gnocchi Mac & Cheese

Gnocchi Mac & Cheese 2

Ahhhh mac and cheese.

Those mere words stir up feelings of comfort...home....the food you loved as a kid.

If you asked a 100 people what their favorite comfort food was, I'm guessing close to half would say mac and cheese. I'm sure meatloaf and mashed potatoes are right up there too.

Why is that the combination of cheese and pasta can make our mouths water?

Gnocchi Mac & Cheese 1

I'm all about trying different kinds of mac and cheese recipes and this one was no exception. I love gnocchi. I love cheese. Done deal.

I saw this one on Noble Pig's site and knew it would be in my oven.

The gnocchi get's a little puffy in the oven and the cheese get's a little crunchy.

It's heavenly.

Gnocchi Mac n' Cheese
From Cuisine at Home
1 pound purchased or homemade gnocchi
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
Basil leaves for garnish, optional (I chopped fresh basil and added it in to my cheese sauce)

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and place gnocchi in a single-layer in a 1-1/2 quart shallow baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles, then whisk in milk and Dijon. Continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

Gnocchi Mac & Cheese

Combine Gruyere and fontina, then add by the handful to milk mixture, stirring until melted before adding the next handful. Once all cheese is melted, season sauce with salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano over top. Bake gnocchi until they puff and the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let gnocchi rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A song that followed me

Did you ever have a song follow you?

One that seems to creep up over and over again?

The first time I heard this song I was watching Definitely Maybe. Total chick flick.

I thought it was a catchy little tune and really didn't think much more about it.

A few months later I'm watching Love Happens, another chick flick which made me ball my eyes out, and I hear it again.

I said to myself "hmmm, I remember that song". I like it. I'll have to watch the credits at the end of the movie and find out who sings it.

Of course that never happened.

Fast forward to last week and Everybody's Fine comes in the mail (I cried watching this one too. What can I say, I'm a crier. Got it from my mother).

I hear the song again! Come on? Is this song taunting me?

This time I am determined to watch the credits and find out who is it.

So I do, I watch until the end and guess what?? They don't list it. Crap.

So I go back and I look up the soundtracks to all three movies and BAM. I find it.

Boys Drawn Badly - Time of Times.

I like you song that followed me.

I like you a lot.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pistachio Bites - or as I like to call them...Acorn Bites.

Pistachi bites 2

If you love shortbread, then you will love these cookies.

If you love pistachios, you will love these cookies.

If you love cookies, you will love these cookies. Ok maybe not, cause not everyone who loves cookies, loves shortbread type cookies, but if you are a cookie lover in general, you're in!

What I loved about making these? They are totally a "make ahead" cookie. You can make the dough a few days ahead of time and then just slice 'em up and bake them when you are ready.

You could even freeze the dough and let it thaw in the fridge for a few days and then bake them.

Easy Peasy.

What I also love about these....they look like acorns to me.

Kinda right?

It might just have been the way my dough firmed up, but when I was sprinkling them with chopped pistachios I thought..."these looks a bit like acorns".

Pistachi bites 1

I know some of you are already thinking about Christmas cookies. You could make a few batches of this dough in November and just thaw it out and bake for Christmas.

Pistachio Bites
recipe from Megan's Cooking
1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided
6 oz vanilla flavored candy coating *I used almond bark.
1 teaspoon shortening

Oven to 325

Combine the butter and sugar in bowl of stand mixer. Beat at medium speed until creamy, scraping the bowl often. (1 to 2 minutes). Reduce speed to low and add the flour, vanilla and almond extract. Beat until well mixed and dough forms.

Stir in ½ cup of the pistachios. Shape the dough into a log. Wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

Pistachi bites 3

Slice the log into ¼ inch slices. Placed on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edge are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute* (see note) then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Place the candy coating and the shortening in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir and continue to microwave every 15 seconds until coating is melted and smooth.

Place waxed paper on a flat surface and dip each cookie halfway into the warm coating. Shake off the excess. Place onto wax paper, immediately sprinkle with remaining pistachios.

*Note - You really need to let his cool for 2 - 3 minutes on the baking sheet before you remove them or they will crumble. 1 minute just wasn't enough for mine.

Oh yeah one last thing.....

(my favorite month)