Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hello, Nice to Meet You

I have to apologize for my little absence, but you see, the holidays were a blur and there’s very little left of 2008. Christmas turned out to be deliciously lazy, as hubs and I stayed home instead of driving the 8-10 hours to visit the fandamily. We enjoyed every slothful moment!

Speaking of delicious, I made some Peppermint Candy ice cream courtesy of David Lebovitz and Williams and Sonoma. Every year, we pick up a jar or two of the Chocolate Filled Peppermint Snaps from W&S, as they are very addictive, perfectly minty without being too much so, and have a sinful chocolate center. Earlier this year, it dawned on me that these darlings would make an AWESOME ice cream. I was right.

Peppermint Candy Ice Cream
Recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp peppermint extract
½ cup crushed, hard peppermint candies (or more or less depending on your taste)

Warm the milk, sugar, and 1 cup of cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour other cup of cream into a large bowl with a mesh strainer on top. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and temper the egg mixture into the warm milk mixture. Stir warm milk and egg mixture until it thickens and coats the back of a spatula. Pour warm milk and egg custard through the mesh strainer and into the bowl of the remaining cream. Add vanilla and peppermint extract. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, add crushed peppermint candies.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Perfect Weekend

I think I quite possibly had the perfect weekend. On Friday night, I baked up a big-ol-batch of Cinnamon, Chocolate, and Egg Nog bread that was destined to be delivered to the staff and volunteers at the SPCA.

So Saturday, hubs and I got up, did exactly 1 hour of yard work (which is unheard of…we usually work until we drop of exhaustion, heat, or bugs), we cleaned up, delivered the bread, and then went to go have a ONE! HOUR! MASSAGE!

Le sigh!

Feeling all loosey-goosey, we then had a nice, late lunch, came home, and I proceeded to take a NAP! Later, we went to go look at Christmas lights.

Yesterday, we went for an hour long bike ride, drank coffee and read the newspaper, did more yard work, THE! DOLPHINS! WON!, and then we met some friends for a festive German dinner.

What’s wrong with this picture? Shouldn’t we be running around like chickens with our heads off right about now?

I’m gonna go have another cup of coffee.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things that Make Me Laugh

Every time I look at one of these Scared of Santa pictures, I think of that scene in "A Christmas Story" where the kid is plopped on Santa's lap and he immediately lets out an ear-piercing scream.

Call me evil, but I can't help but laugh every time!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Things that Make Me Feel Good

I know I’ve been a little MIA this week, but life has been a blur. The holidays are acoming and I’ve been busier than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest! Not to mention that I have a brand new camera that I need to figure out how to use before the return policy expires, and I’ve yet to take one picture!

But I have a lot to be grateful for, and no I don’t need any cheese to go with my whine!

Hubby and I completed the 5K run last month and I’m proud to say I wasn’t the last person over the finish line! Actually, he ran his in a little over 30 minutes, and I ran/walked mine at around 40 minutes. We’re very grateful that we are healthy enough to participate in such a thing and want to do more in the future!






I am also grateful that another loverly blogger, Sol, elected me for a blogger award. This makes me feel all sorts of tingly inside. Thank you Sol! And to spread the love, I am nominating the following bloggers for the same award:

FC over at Pure Florida: He’s a teacher, philosopher, critter wrangler, handyman, and an all around neato kind of guy. Ch-ch-check him out!

Gina at Lindsey’s Luscious: Another teacher over here. She lives precariously close to Canada in northern New York and is an exceptional pie maker, canner, and promoter of all things yummy.

Jojo at Goodness Gracious Acres (a.k.a Goings on at Jojos): Another Florida blogger who loves all critters and anything in the form of a dragonfly! She’s a marketing designer with a knack for bringing up controversial topics or in a jiffy, she’ll learn ‘ya about some goats!

Ohiomom at Cooking in Cleveland: Another yummy blogger who seems to have an endless supply of enthusiasm for good, old fashioned home cooking! A supporter of her community in Ohio, she promotes green living, healthy fare, and helping others. Don’t pass up on the Granny Cake!

Here are the rules for the recipients:

1. The award may be displayed on a winner’s blog.
2. Add a link to the person you received the award from.
3. Nominate up to seven other blogs.
4. Add their links to your blog.
5. Add a message to each person that you have passed the award on in the comments section of their blog.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Mouth to Feed - Chocolate Amish Bread

To make a segue from Pricey the Home Seeking Squirrel ~ We've temporarily started parking the car in the garage and have removed the tempting bird feeders from the back yard. We think his/her fuzzy little butt was sleeping in a warm bed at night and setting his/her little squirrel alarm to commute to the back yard every day.

We've placed Havahart traps to capture and release somplace else. I know, KNOW! I'm not going to kill these buggers even though I'm very tempted! Let them live out overfed lives in some park versus squirrel stew or swimming wit' da' fishies. Right now they're doing drive-bys in the Havahart and taunting my husband.

O.k., back on the ranch.

Someone gave me some Amish Bread Starter a few months ago and I've been feeding it and giving away it's offspring like unwanted kittens and puppies. "Take one home, pleeeeease!" I've exhausted my workplace like some sort of twisted (yet yummy) chain letter.

The original Cinnamon Amish Bread recipe is DEVINE; me gusta mucho! But, I've been playing around with the recipe and have been making Chocolate Amish Bread. Incidentally, this is the same starter for the infamous Amish Friendship Bread. I've not seen any recipes online for a chocolate version, so I'm hoping to start something new.

If anyone is interested in a cup of Amish Friendship Bread starter, let me know and I'll mail you some!

This chocolate version, BTW, is fabulous! Dark and chocolatey without being too sweet.

Chocolate Amish Bread

2 cups of Amish Bread Starter
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup light brown sugar
2 T of instant expresso powder (I use International Delights Swiss Mocha)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp of baking power
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 box Jello chocolate instant pudding
Cocoa powder sugar (explained below)

For cocoa powder sugar: mix 1/2 cup of regular white sugar with 2 rounded tablespoons of cocoa powder and set aside.

Mix all bread ingredients in a glass or plastic bowl using either a plastic, wooden, or rubber spatula. Do NOT use any metal utensils or bowls!! Mix well until there are no lumps in the batter. Preheat oven to 325 °.

Take 2 regular loaf baking pans and spray with Pam, add just enought cocoa sugar to coat the bottom and sides of pans. Pour bread batter equally into both pans and sprinkle the remaining cocoa sugar over the batter. Bake for 1 hour, or until butter knife inserted comes out clean.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Squirrel Ate My Car!

So, I drive a PT Cruiser. I love that car! It's small, but big when I need it, and it's cute with lot's of tailgating potential. I take good care of it, so when it started acting funny the past day or two, I told hubs to take it in to Chrysler for an oil change and to have it checked out.

He called me later and told me that a squirrel had gotten under the hood and decided it looked awful homey, so it built a nest using ohh, insulation and wiring it managed to gnaw from the ENGINE!

WTF? I drive my car everyday, so it's not idle. We don't have any trees around our house and we live in a subdivision, not the boonies. This is going to cost mayjah $$ to fix, but the worst part is the little *&%^$#er will come back and rebuild! This isn't New Orleans, you squirrely little bastard!

I've heard of this happening up north, but not in Florida! Does anyone know what I should do?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Santa Came Early

All right people, get your minds out of the gutter. Seriously!

The photography at Just the Right Size will be greatly improved over the coming months. You see, I've been going to the Central Florida Camera Society meetings on and off for the past few months, but it's kinda lame if you don't have a good camera. I've been using a Sony Mavica, which has its purpose, but it's not a Nikon D60!!!!

I was like Jesus Christ Acapella Reprisal when I got it! Now I gotta figure out how to use it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And Then There Was Ina

I was having a little pre-Thanksgiving meltdown last night about side dishes. First, let me mention that we are having TWO dinners this year, one at my sister-in-law's-sister-in-law's house (yes, that's correct), and one at our house on Saturday. See, hubs and I agree that one of the best things about Turkey Day, besides family and friends, are the leftovers.

Now going to someone else's house for Turkey Day is great, but no leftovers at home! So, we're having our own throw down with some friends on Saturday. So, back to the side dishes...

I always find myself in a rut about vegetables. There's always so many rich, gravied, smothered, and sugared things on the table for Turkey Day already, and I like to keep a few things simple. I panicked. I was already making roasted beets and butternut squash, and I was CERTAINLY not going to have a nasty, green bean casserole.

Then I remembered Ina. I have every one of her cookbooks, and every one of her recipes are pure, simple, let-the-food-shine-through gold.

Have a happy, safe, and wonderful Thanksgiving!

Green Beans with Shallots
Recipe sourse: Family Style by Ina Garten

1 lb. fresh green beans, cleaned
3 shallots, sliced thin
2-3 tablespoons of butter
Kosher salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Blanche the green beans in boiling water 2-3 minutes, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. In a sautee pan, melt the butter and sautee the shallots over medium/high heat until they start to caramelize, toss the green beans with the shallots just enough to reheat. Season with salt & pepper, serve hot.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meet Mr. or Mrs. Burns!

To save you from the constant onslaught of food porn that is pouring in from other foodies this week, I bring you Mr. or Mrs. Burns the Black Racer!

We've seen this little guy (girl?) zipping around our property for some time. Maybe a year or so. But lately we've seen a few babies here and there, so we've considered renaming him/her to Mrs. Burns (anyone a Simpson's fan?).

She's sweet and sleepy lately due to the cool weather, but she still manages to give me a good jump every now and again when I least expect it. She's about 4 foot long and a nice addition to our cache of critters.

Anyone know anything about snakes? Is this a black racer? (I hope!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BRRrrrrr!

Do you feel that? The temperatures got down into the 30's last night here in Central Florida! I was lucky though, it hovered just above freezing and I didn't have to do the Bedsheet Boogey for my more sensitive plants.

I LOVE it though! Even though hubs and I are Florida natives, we both have families that are only one or two generations off the boat from Europe. We both LOVE the cold, so we can blame it on our Norwegian ancestry.

Last night, we built a fire outside in our fire pit and had a big bowl of this chili to keep us warm. This is a really good "chili", although it's more of a soup. Either way, it'll warm you up!

Kathy’s White Bean, Chicken, & Corn Chili

2 poblano peppers, diced (or 2 green bell peppers)
1 habanero pepper, diced (or 1 jalapeno)
1 onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
4 cans navy beans
4 cups frozen whole kernel corn
1 7.5 oz can chipotle peppers w/adobo, chopped (I usually use only 1 chili from the can, but you can add more or less depending on the "heat" factor you like)
1 32 oz. Chicken broth (or 2 if you want a bigger pot of chili)
2 T chili seasoning mix
1 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped and cooked

Saute diced poblano, habanero and onion in olive oil until tender (2 minutes). Add navy beans and next 4 ingredients and bring to a boil over med-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce temp, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Add cooked chicken and cilantro, simmer 5 – 10 minutes more.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Brandied Cherries

If any ol' stranger would to stumble upon this blog and say, "Oh what's over here?" then they'd surely think I have a drinking problem.

I give you dear readers, yet ANOTHER recipe that contains alcohol! Yay me! Actually, don't let these sweet, innocent maraschino cherries fool you, they contain quite a punch. It's simple, batta-bing-batta-boom. Two step wonders over here! The best part is making these into chocolate covered cherries for the holidays!

Step 1: Buy a large, Big Box store jar of maraschino cherries and dump out half of the juice.


Step 2: Back fill with brandy. Put lid on, and stick in the refrigerator to marinate for several weeks. Enjoy at own risk!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meade Making 101 (Continued)

So after 7 weeks, your meade should have stopped fermenting and cleared up nicely. In this picture, you can see where the fruit is still floating on the top and the sediment (the lees) have settled to the bottom. Mine is still a bit dark, as I mentioned that I used unfiltered honey. If you used the typical, storebought filtered honey, your meade will be perfectly clear at this point.

When your ready, put a hose into the clear part of your meade and siphon off the golden nectar. You can put a small cloth at the end of your hose for a filter, but I've never had to do that. I'm just careful to not siphon up any of the sediment and stop when I'm close to the bottom. It helps to move your meade jug to the "siphoning spot" several days before you siphon. That way, any sediment stirred up during moving will have a chance to settle at the bottom.

Once you're done, cork your gallon jug and stick it in the refrigerator! As I said, this is a very sweet, complex dessert wine, so it's best to drink in very small amounts as if you would a cordial. It can be served chilled or warmed (for those frigid Floriday nights), and you will find that it has a wonderful honey/orange flavor with hints of spice.

Your meade should look like this (in the pictures above, mine still has a way to go before it's perfectly clear). What's up with my husband's pinky finger????

And that's it! A lot of people like meade for the fact that you don't have to add sulfites. Honey is an amazing preserving agent all on its own, which makes this experiment so darn easy and forgiving. We bottle ours in small bottles (since it is so sweet) and plan to give them as gifts this year for Christmas.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Meade Making 101

Recently, I've had a few people ask me how I am making my Orange Spiced Meade, and I've promised to give a demonstration. For those of you who aren't meade savvy, meade is wine made with honey. Sometimes it can be as dry and complex as a top-notch wine, and sometimes it is as sweet as a cordial.

In this case, I am making a very sweet dessert wine, which has flavorings of oranges and spice and everything nice. This was my very first meade, and from my experience, it is the easiest to make. From start to finish, this meade will take approximately 8 weeks.

For this example, I am using unfiltered, raw honey, but I recommend that a beginner use filtered honey. This is my second batch; the first batch I made with filtered honey, was much easier to clear and not as finicky. You can buy a gallon of filtered honey from any Big Box store like Sam's for around $20.

Orange Spiced Meade - 1 Gallon
Recipe from: Joe Mattioli

Ingredients:
3 1/2 lbs (56 oz) Clover or your choice honey or blend
1 Navel or other seedless orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove (or 2 if you like - these are potent critters)
3 allspice berries
1 teaspoon of Fleishmann’s bread yeast (Active dry)
Balance water to one gallon

Equipment:
- 1 gallon glass jug
- 1 wine airlock – you can either find these online at either wine or beer hobby sites for around $3, or see if there is a wine/beer hobby shop near you.
- An airlock rubber cork (this is basically a rubber cork with a hole in it where the airlock fits).

Process:
Use a clean 1 gallon carboy (a carboy is the same thing as a glass jug) . In these pictures, I am using a 3 gallon carboy...hey we do things big around here!

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights -- add orange, rinds and all to carboy.

Dissolve honey in some warm water and pour in carboy using a clean, food-use only funnel (please don't use the one from your dad/husband's garage).

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, and allspice berries. Fill carboy with water to 3 inches from the top with cold water. (leave room for some foam -- you can top off with more water after the first few day yeastie frenzy).

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen, put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. Don't use grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90's! You don't have to rehydrate it first. Give water mixture a gentle swirl.

Install water airlock. Put in dark place (in my case, the spare bathroom). It will start working in about an hour. After major foaming stops in a few days, add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don't shake it! Don't mess with them yeasties! Leave them alone except to remove the airlock to smell every once in a while.)

Racking --- Don't you dare
Additional feeding --- NO NO
More stirring or shaking -- You're not listening, don't touch!

Leave your meade alone for 7 weeks (do not leave longer on the fruit for more than 7 weeks or the meade will taste bitter)

STAY TUNED FOR WHAT HAPPENS NEXT....!!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thank You!

Thank you California!

Thank you Oregon!

Thank you Washington!

This is a good day indeed!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Everyone is Boo-ti-ful

In their own waaaaay.

Ahem.

Did you have a nice Halloween? We sure did. We had lots of kiddies come to the house and we had a blast. Hubs dresses up in the same costume every year and sits very still in a chair on the driveway. All the kids think he is a "dummy" and try to poke him or get the nerve to go up to him. When they get bored...MUWA-HA-HA-HA! He jumps up and scares the bejeezus out of them.

We never do that to the younger kids, but the older ones are totally free game. Especially the ones with facial hair.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fruitcake! - Part 2

Whew, what a week! Hubs and I have been busy getting ready for tomorrow, which is Halloween (in case you forgot!). :-)

Every year, we put on a big display in the yard for the neighborhood. So much that I have to take the day off work to help set it up, and we build most of what we display ourselves. We have animatronics, and sound, and lots of fun stuff. It's very Disney-esque. We also dress up and hand out candy on the driveway.

We've become that house!

Anywho, have you made your fruitcake? If so, it's time to baste babies! Be sure to baste every week, so they're nice and boozey (this also helps keep them moist)! Here's the second recipe and this one is my favorite. I love the other one just as well, but I have a soft spot for gingerbread, and basically all things gingery.

Gingerbread Forest "Rum Cake"

Ingredients:
½ to ¾ liter brandy or cherry brandy
1 large box (1 lb) of golden, seedless raisins
½ lb chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
2 ½ cups sifted, all purpose flour
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
½ cup molasses
5 eggs
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup orange juice
1 cup seedless, blackberry jam

24 hours before baking: Pour brandy, raisins, and nuts into a glass dish and let macerate for 24 hours.

When ready to bake: Strain fruit and nut mixture and reserve infused brandy for basting. Preheat oven at 275°. Beat butter and sugar till very light and fluffy, then add molasses. Beat in eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix in half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add orange juice and jam, then add the rest of the flour mixture.

Add strained fruit and nut mixture to batter and mix with a wooden spoon. Take two loaf pans and line them with parchment paper (this is important). If you do not use parchment paper, the cakes will stick, even with non-stick pans! Spray parchment paper with Pam and spoon batter into loaf pans. Bake for 3 ½ hours.

Cool in pans until they reach room temp. Poke holes in the top of the cakes with a toothpick and basted cakes liberally with reserved, infused brandy. Unwrap cakes, turn over, poke holes in the bottom of cakes, and baste. Wrap cakes in parchment, place in Rubbermaid containers in the refrigerator.

Baste cakes on top and bottom with reserved, infused brandy once a week until Christmas.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Status Check

The C25K (Couch to 5K) training is still on! I’m actually doing quite well and have only stopped ONCE during a training regimen where I just didn’t have the energy to run that last ½ mile. From here on though, it’s going to be tough. Now, I’m not running fast at ALL mind you, but I’m not stopping during my runs (knock-on-wood). By the end of this week, I’m supposed to be able to run 2 miles without stopping (gulp).

I’m trying to decide if listening to music is helping or harming me while I run. On one hand, I like the distraction. On the other hand, the beat of the music makes me run faster; therefore, making me lose my breath and not pace myself. I did learn that you have to run more on the balls of your feet versus your heels. After week 2, my back was hurting terribly and after talking to a friend who used to be an Army drill sergeant, he told me to lean more into the run and run on the balls of my feet. And you KNOW he knew something about running!

Well we gave one more pumpkin ale a try and it was a FAIL too. We saw a 4 pack of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale at the store and thought, “WTH”. Sadly, we’ve tried all 5 pumpkin ales that are available in our area, so next year we’ll have to special order.

I guess I could just LEARN how to make beer, huh?

BTW, I still owe you a Fruitcake #2 post, plus some of you have been asking how I make my meade (I was supposed to post that this weekend, but the weather was sooooooooo nice). Fear not faithful readers! I will not let you down…stand by!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fruit Cake! - Part 1

My house smells very yeasty right now. This past weekend, hubs and I bottled the Oaked Cherry wine I started back in June. It still needs a bit of aging, but I think it will be very nice. So, I started a batch of Harvest Fig Wine. So far, so good, but the yeasty beasties are having a party in my spare bathroom.

It's also time to make the Annual Besotted Fruitcakes. I know, I know, but these are unlike ANYTHING you've ever had and will develop a cult following. I call them "Holiday Rum Cakes" to avoid the stigma. It must be the booze.


Lemon Yellow "Holiday Rum Cake"

Ingredients:
- ½ to ¾ liter rum
- 1 lb. dried fruit mix (cherries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries) – Do not use the candied “fruit cake” fruit mix you see in the store with those nasty red and green maraschino cherries! Do not use dried pineapple or citrus peel. Just dried fruit. Sam’s and Target carry a brand called Stoneridge that I’ve used every year.
- ½ lb of chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
- 1 lb butter, softened
- 2 ¼ cups sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 4 cups white cake flour
- ¼ cup lemon extract (yes, ¼ cup)

24 hours before baking: Pour rum, dried fruit, and nuts into a glass dish and let macerate for 24 hours.

When ready to bake: Strain fruit and nut mixture, save infused rum for basting. Preheat oven to 300°. Beat butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Beat in half of the eggs, then half of the flour, then the rest of the eggs, then the rest of the flour. Beat in lemon extract, add strained fruit and nuts to batter, and mix with a wooden spoon.

Take two loaf pans and line them with parchment paper (this is important). Spray parchment paper with Pam, then spoon batter into loaf pans. If you do not use the parchment, the cakes will stick, even with non-stick pans!

Bake for 45 minutes, then cover the pans with tin foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Watch carefully near the end of the cooking time. As soon as the cakes start to pull away from the edges or resist when you poke them gently, they are ready. It’s better to under bake than over bake. Let them rest on a rack until they’ve cooled to room temp.

When they are cooled but still in the pans, poke holes in the top of the cakes with a toothpick. Take a basting brush and brush the tops of the cakes very liberally with the infused rum. Pull cakes out of pans, unwrap and turn over, and do the same with the bottom. When through, wrap cakes with parchment, and store in Rubbermaid containers in the refrigerator.

Refrigerate remaining infused rum and baste the cakes with the rum on both sides, once a week till Christmas.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"R" is for Rutebaga

You know, it has dawned on me that I have NEVER eaten a rutabaga. At least none that I’m aware of, but I thought it would be a good, eye-catching title for this post!

Hi there! How are you today? Did anyone catch the absolutely GORGEOUS harvest or hunter’s moon we’ve had for the past night or two? Stunning! And the sunrise these past few mornings (here in Florida) have been pretty breathtaking as well.

Happy Fall ya’ll! I love this time of year! Even here in Florida, we know that “fall” is here when the temps only get in the 80s versus the life draining 90s that we’re used to. And the humidity has been really low as well. During these breaks, I feel like I could work out in the yard all day. There’s no WAY you could keep me inside the house when the weather is nice.

Another thing I love about fall is the abundance of gourds, squash, and root veggies at the market or grocery. Last year, I discovered that I absolutely adore roasted beets, especially golden beets. And this is the only time of year where you can buy beets or butternut squash at a reasonable price, so we have the most of it when we can.

I love, love, love this recipe. The original recipe calls for beets, parsnips, and sweet potatoes, but feel free to experiment. My favorite trio is golden beets, carrots, and butternut squash. A little much in the yellow color, but it’s all going to the same place: in my tummy!

The vinaigrette is smashing all on it’s own and it wonderful over a salad too.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Horseradish Vinaigrette
Recipe Source: I don't remember, Bon Appetit? Southern Living?

2 large sweet potatoes
4 large parsnips
6 med beets
3 T EVOO
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Peel potatoes and cut into cubes, peel parsnips and cut into slices, peel beets and cut into wedges. Toss potatoes & parsnips with oil, and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes & parsnips on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and sprinkle w/ salt & pepper. Toss beets with oil in separate bowl and arrange on a separate cookie sheet/pan; sprinkle w/salt & pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 min or until tender. Cool before adding vinaigrette. Drizzle vinaigrette to taste over vegetables before serving.

Horseradish Vinaigrette

1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/c cup EVOO
2 T horseradish
1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 T tarragon (fresh or ½ T of dried)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp honey
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Serve immediately, or chill up to 4 days.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Can I Have 4 Beers?

I think most people start to become a little hedonistic around this time of year. I know my husband and I look forward to every tradition and special treat. We celebrate when we can get an ocassional Pumpkin Spice Latte from Fourbucks, or when our local diner, Applebaums, goes all out for Halloween decorations on the inside. Eating there is like eating at Vincent Price's house.

Another thing we look forward to is the pumpkin ale.

This year, we decided to do a little taste test. Now granted, we don't have access to some of the awesome micro-brewerys that are available up north, so beggars can't be choosy. Every year, we've gotten Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale, which we pick up at Wholefoods, so we wanted to see if there was something better out there.
Overall, our experiment was sadly disappointing. Michelob's Jack Pumpkin Spice Ale didn't taste like anything more than a strong amber beer. It "says" it is brewed with select spices, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and clove, but we didn't taste a damn thing. The same thing goes for Blue Moon's Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale. Overall it was meh. We'll be boiling ribs with these losers.

Next is Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale. I couldn't put my finger on what this beer tasted like. The label gives the usual spice suspects; however, it uses cardamom, and not in a good way. It must be my imagination (or too many beers), but this beer tasted like sausage to me. This beer would be awesome with sausage, but then again, I don't like cardamom. Hubs didn't like it either.

Last is our trusted favorite, Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale. This beer TASTES like a pumpkin ale should. It has a nice pumpkin spice flavor in the front without it being so stout that it overwhelms. Guess we'll be back for more of this beer before they stop carrying it for the season.

This was fun, but we now have WAY too much beer. Is that even possible?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Happy Blogiversary!

Two years ago (has it been THAT long?), I started this blog as an outlet for thoughts and recipes. Little did I know that I would meet so many neat, wonderful, and talented people through the magic of the internets!

At first, I didn’t start out as strong, and even had a long hiatus or two thrown in, but now I try to “keep things regular” with 2-3 posts a week. Two years ago, I didn’t know how to make wine or how to use chicken feet in chicken stock. I didn’t know squat about bathroom remodeling or running (except to the store). There’s been hurricanes, recipes, and wedding anniversaries. Holidays, head colds, and new jobs. And I’ve shared it all with you!

Thanks everyone! I wonder what the next 2 years will bring?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sfor-MAH-toa

Cookbooks are like old friends. I can flip through their pages and think, "Remember that party we threw?" or "My sister-in-law LOVED you!" or "What were you thinking?!"

When we had our garage sale, I got the chance to flip through a few old cookbooks that I had forgotten. At one point, I tried to collect the Christmas with Southern Living annual recipe cook books, but only made it three years, then skipped about eight years before buying another. When flipping through the 2001 issue, I found this yummy recipe.

The recipe says it's a souffle (here I go again with the eggs), but it really turned out to be more of a mashed potato pie. The recipe says it's known in Italy as a sformato,which is kind of a molded custard. Either way, it was a great change from mashed taters or rice and great with any kind of gravy.

Potato Souffle
Recipe Source: Christmas with Southern Living, 2001

2 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 T of butter or margarine
1/2 cup APP flour
2 cups milk
3 T butter or margarine
1 large onion, chopped
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (I used cheddar)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
Garnish: fresh or dried thyme

Cook pototoes in boiling, salted water till tender. Drain and mash with a potato masher; set aside. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly; gradually whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, and saute 10 minutes until tender and browned. Stir together mashed potato, onion, white sauce, beaten egg yolks, and next 4 ingredients.

Butter a 9" x 3 " springform pan. Add 1/2 cup breadcrumbs to pan, tilting to coat bottom and sides with the breadcrumbs. Freeze 1 minute to set crumbs. Spoon potato filling into pan; top with remaining 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.

Bake uncovered in a 400° oven for 50 minutes (mine took an hour) or until set. Cool 15 minutes before removing sides of pan. Garnish if desired; serve warm.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

From Couch to 5K

Well, hubs and I have decided that we want to run in the annual Turkey Trot 5K run this year. This gives us 9 weeks to train, and I am definitely not too far above the couch stage.

Actually, we're really not that bad off. Basically, I want to learn how to run without feeling like my chest is going to explode.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Garage Sale and Banana Bread

Yesterday, we had our badly needed garage sale. We got our butts up at 5 a.m. to set everything up and fried out in the sun till 2 p.m. (even though we had SPF 50 on). BUT the good news is we made just under $400 and still have a few items we can put up on Craigslist to see if we can sell them there.

Afterwards, we got a truck and hauled everything to Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity. I took about a gazillion books we were trying to sell to a used bookstore to resell and donate to the Iraqi Veterans Hospital. Plus, we were selling cold drinks, Lemon Pound Cake, and Banana Nut Bread at the sale, so I took the leftovers to the Central Fla. SPCA to give to the staff. I sometimes do that as an appreciation for what they do everyday. Afterwards, we were pooped!

Good karma, we haz it!

Now about those cakes. We sold quite a bit of it and got some wonderful comments. The banana nut bread is a recipe from Southern Living that took me FOREVER to find. It seems all other banana nut breads I tried were too dense and dry, so I went of a quest one year to find THE RECIPE. When I first made this, I knew it was going to be a hit just by the way the batter tasted. Now, normally I am not a batter licker, but it smelled so good I couldn't help myself!


Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread
Recipe source: Southern Living

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) packaged of cream cheese
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups All purp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (I use over ripe bananas)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Beat butter and cream cheese together until creamy. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until blended. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture until blended. Mix in bananas and vanilla until blended. Hand mix in pecans.

Preheat oven to 350. Spoon batter into two, greased & floured 8 x 4 inch loaf pans and bake for approximately 1 hour or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. When finished, cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and cool for 30 minutes before slicing (it's hard to do, I know!)

The Lemon Pound Cake is an Ina Garten recipe and I adore her. If she were so hopelessly devoted to Jeffrey, I'd marry her and have her babies. Every recipe I've ever made of hers has been a pure #1 hit. Again, the batter was a dead give away. I'll have to post that another time, cuz it's late and I'm still recovering.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Paradise Lost

Well, hubs and I made our hit-and-run to Key West this past weekend. We drove down on Friday, stayed Saturday, and drove back on Sunday. It's about an 8 hour drive from Orlando...or close to 6 if I drive.

When hubs tells people that he's from Key West, he inevitably gets some sort of response asking WHY in the WORLD would he ever move from such a wonderful place? Well, unless you have a major drinking problem or enjoy working three jobs to stay afloat, Key West isn't all that or a bag of chips. But, it's fun to visit every now and again.

Whenever we go down there, we HAVE to visit Sandy's and either drink a Buche or Colada Cuban coffee. Sandy's is both a laundry mat and a Cuban Deli, but they serve the best damn Cuban sandwiches and Cuban coffee on the island. Basically, Buches are served in the leetle, leetle 1 oz. cups because they are the equivalent of Cuban speed. Over the years, hubs and I have built up a tolerance for Coladas, which are about 4 or 5 Buches in one glass. After one Colada, we're flying for the rest of the day. Don't tell my cardiologist.

Saturday night, we went to dinner with his family for his mom's 85th birthday party. It was really interesting to listen to some of the old "Conchs" talk about what Key West was like back in the 70's and 80's. Waiters and waitresses used to get tipped in cocaine instead of money and the clubs had parties that were basically free-for-all orgies. Good times!

And of course, no visit to Key West would be complete without a picture of a chicken.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Off to Margaritaville

Well, we’re off this weekend to Key West for hubby’s family reunion, or as he likes to call it, “A Dysfunctional Odyssey”.

Hubby is from Key West and still has a good majority of his family living down there. They are a bunch of “conch-heads” and you would think living down there is da’ bomb, but alas, it is not. It fails.

It’s one thing to visit down there for a wild weekend or Fantasy Fest, but another if you live down there. Actually, it’s pretty boring and the locals avoid Duval Street like Mike Tyson taking a SAT.

BUT, we know of all the good local places for NOMs and good Cuban coffee. Mostly, it will be quasi relaxing and quiet. Oh wait, did I tell you that it’s ALSO Bike Week down there this weekend too? No? I did not?

Should be good for major LOLs. I’ll bring the camera.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meal in a What???

Wanna a great recipe that will not only use up leftovers, but is also an awesome meal/snack to serve during football season?

Make a Meal In a Loaf!

It's a meal!
It's a loaf!

It's delicious!

Yep, this is another keeper I snagged from my ever resourceful Cooking Forum. Thank you Katie for such an awesome idea!

I used the ham, swiss, and pickle mixture, which tasted amazingly like a Cuban sandwich sans the roast pork. But I could imagine it with:

- Steak/chopped, cooked roast, provolone, sautéed onions with a horseradish spread
- Pepperoni, mozzarella, and roasted veggies with pizza sauce
- Cooked, chopped turkey, swiss, chopped tomatoes with a Ranch dressing

The possibilities are endless!

And don't be afraid of the yeast people! I didn't use my Kitchenaide for this either. Just mix the dough in a bowl, then turn it out on a floured cutting board and knead.

Meal in a Loaf
Recipe By : Katie, from The Cooking Forum
Serving Size : 8

4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages yeast
1 cup water
1/4 cup dijon mustard (I used an extra 1/4 cup to spread on dough)
2 tablespoons butter
1 - 2 cups chopped cooked ham -- (8 oz.)
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese -- or cheddar
1/2 - 1 cup chopped dill pickle
1 egg - beaten

Set aside 1 cup flour. Melt butter in a 2 cup, microwave safe measuring cup. Add water (hot tap is fine) to butter then add yeast and sugar. Mix well and let sit to activate the yeast. Mix water mixture into 3 cups of flour then add mustard and salt. Mix in enough reserved flour to make a soft dough and knead 4 minutes. *OR* Throw everything in the bread machine.

On a greased baking sheet, roll dough to 14"x12". Spread extra mustard down the center of dough, sprinkle ham, cheese, and pickle down 1/3 of dough length. Make cuts from filling to edges of dough at 1" intervals. Bring strips from opposite sides of filling together, twist, and place at an angle across filling. Cover. Let rise until almost double (about 1 hour). Brush loaf with egg. Bake @ 375° for 25 minutes or until browned (mine took about 45 minutes). Serve warm.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oh, Snap!

I love food that fools you. Not in a bad way, mind you, but when your brain expects one thing and you’re delivered something else. It makes you think about expectations and perceptions. More importantly it lets the food you want to highlight really shine through.

These cookies are just the ticket. Oh yes, they’re gingersnaps alright, but just a little more “snappy” than what you’d expect. The kick comes from a touch of cayenne pepper, which really emphasizes the ginger’s finishing “snap”. Hence the extra snappy.

I make these every year for the holidays, but I’m careful of who I give these to. Some people are really sensitive to spicy food and don’t like them, but they really do rock. Or snap!

Extra Snappy Gingersnaps

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cool unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for rolling
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 eggs)

Combine the flour, baking soda, and spices in a mixing bowl and set aside. Cream the butter until smooth and fluffy in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer). Add the sugars and mix. Add the molasses and mix. Add the egg whites
in 2 batches, mixing to combine after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing to combine after each addition. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread a few tablespoons of granulated sugar on a small plate. Roll the dough into 3/4-inch balls, then roll each ball in the sugar until lightly coated. Transfer to parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving 1-inch of space between the cookies. Bake until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on wire racks and store in an airtight
container. Yield: 60 cookies.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Projectus Interruptus

“By this time next week, things will be back to normal”
“We’ll have this all done by next month”
“By next Friday, all of these boxes will be outta here!”
“By this time next month, we’ll have our house back”

I’ve been spouting crap like that for the past 3 months! From July until this very moment, our life has been a non-stop project. And I know we bring it on ourselves; life wouldn’t be the same for hubs and me if we weren't tackling something major at least ONCE a year. :-)

So we decided to take the money we saved from our “stimulization” check and buy some badly needed office furniture. It came in this weekend (of course), which meant we had to rent a truck to go pick up the furniture. Oh, and while we were at it, let’s use said truck to haul all the crap we don’t want any more out of the storage unit for a huge, huge HUGE garage sale on the 27th. As hubs quoted from CCR, “And when the tax man comes, lord don’t the house look like a rummage sale.” Our house looks like an inside-out yard sale and the garage is chock-a-block stuffed with furniture, books, and boxed things that have no description.

By this time next month, things will be back to normal.

And on top of that, we’re having the carpets cleaned either today or tomorrow. So, everything that’s on the carpet had to be moved onto the tile. Hey, did you know that an old computer (that’s not running) will condense water on the bottom metal panel and soak your carpet?

Yeah, we didn’t know either.

Sigh.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Hey, Nice Buns!

Whew! It's been catch-as-catch-can around here lately. Quite honestly, these past three or four weeks have been a mess...what with remodeling both bathrooms, getting the same cold/flu virus TWICE, an annoying amount of wind and rain, courtesy of Fay, and being transferred at my job.

There hasn't been much going on food-wise. In case you haven't noticed!

But, life is about to get back to normal (whatever that is!) and it's time to get back in the kitchen. Last nite, I made the most AMAZING dinner rolls/buns ever. And trust me, I've baked a lot of bread in my time.

These were so easy, I didn't even have to lug the trusty-ol' Kitchenmaid out and use the dough hook. I just mixed this all up in a big bowl, then used my hands to finish kneading in the same bowl. I ended up using just a touch more flour called for, as I found the dough to be very shaggy.

This recipe made 20 HUGE buns (we wanted to use them for sandwiches) or will make 36 nice-sided dinner rolls.

The Spicery Rolls
(Again, another keeper from the Cooking Forum!)

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup margarine (I use butter)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water (hot but not boiling)
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/4 cup yeast (yes, that is correct...Active Dry is fine)
9 1/8 cups flour

In a large bowl, pour boiling water over butter. Add salt and sugar and stir well. When butter is melted, mix in additional water. Stir in evaporated milk. Slowly add flour and yeast. Turn out onto floured board and knead for about 10 minutes. Next grease a large bowl thoroughly, put the dough in it and turn it over so the surface will be greased. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, punching down twice, about an hour. Form into dinner-size rolls. Let rise until doubled. Bake 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 36 large rolls.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, I married the love of my life. What can I say about the past year except it’s been sweet, full of laughter, love, a few snarls, and wonderfully comforting. That last bit may not sound like much, but it’s felt like home: summer afternoons with the Rainbird sprinkler chattering away, giggling children on Halloween night, delicious homemade meals shared together and with friends, sleepy Sunday mornings, and stolen kisses.

Although we’ve been together for over 5 years, this past year has been a giddy new adventure. I still get proud goosebumps at calling him “my husband”, tax forms are different for me now, as well as the mail that arrives to our house under my new name. Things are more permanent and we both share the comfort knowing we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

We will celebrate by trying to recreate some of the amazing experiences we shared from our wedding day to our 2 week honeymoon on Vancouver Island, B.C. and in Washington state. We’ll have dinner at the kitschy German restaurant where we had our wedding reception, to include swinging beir steins and an oompa-om-pah-pah German band. We’ll defrost the wedding cake I made; a gift for both of us on our wedding day. We’ll drink champagne and eat triple cream cheese with fresh fruit. We’ll even order cheesecake from the most out-of-this-world confectional at Pike’s Market in Seattle.


Ooof, then we’ll diet! :-)

But most of all, we’ll hold each other close, steal a few more kisses, and be grateful for each and everyday we have with each other.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Something Other Than Fay

So, over lunch today, hubs and I discussed the dramz over Michael Phelps and his appearing on the Frosted Flakes cereal box versus Wheaties.

“Well you know people have their panties all in a knot over this. Frosted Flakes has all that sugar and only 1/3 of the fiber.”

“Fiber gooooooooo-ooood.”

“I heard General Mills couldn’t or wouldn’t cough up the dough, so that’s why he’s not on Wheaties.”

“Maybe Wheaties is old-skool. You know, like who eats Wheaties anymore?”

“But that’s not the point. It’s just AMERICAN for an Olympian to be on the Wheaties box. It shouldn’t be about the benajmins. He won’t need the money.”

“Maybe he doesn’t like the color orange?

(LOLz photo from: Iasshole)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alright Fay, Go the Hell Away!

Day 3: Rains and wind gusts over 50 mph still continue to make life miserable.

Umbrella casualty = 1. Natives are getting restless (meaning me).

No moar!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Thinking of My Friends

This will be an interesting week for some people here in Florida. The "potential" hurricane Fay is set to bear down on my West Coast friends in the next 48 hours, and, well you know how that goes. Those of us that are more seasoned are planning for this to be a real rain-maker, which is good. We need the rain.

It's pretty bad when you wish for a Tropical Depression just to get the rain. Speaking of, why do they call it a Tropical "depression"? Shouldn't it be named something more appropriate like "Tropical Fury" or "Tropical Irritation", or even "Tropical PMS?" There doesn't seem to be anything depressing about it, except the long lines at Home Despot and the non-stop media frenzy.

Still, that doesn't take the edge off. We all know "it ain't over till the fat lady sings" and a "Tropical Pain-in-the-Ass" can turn into a nasty hurricane overnight. To all my friends out there on the West Coast: take care and be safe!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

If You Like Pina Coladas

You can thank me later for that juicy little ear-worm I just planted in your right ear. Wrath of Kahn people!

I bought these cute, little popsicle molds from Bad Breath and Beyond last month and I totally thought they would rock with those sippy straws for leakage, but they don’t. But that didn’t stop me from rocking the blender with some fresh fruit. Dole, eat your heart out!

Pina Colada Popsicles (makes 8)

½ can of pineapple chunks with ½ of the juice
½ can of coconut milk
2 very ripe bananas
½ cup to 1 cup Pina Colada drink mixer

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender till smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze for 8 hours. Slurp up!

**Note: If you don’t have popsicle molds, Dixie cups will work fine with a wooden popsicle stick inserted. Wait till the mixture is halfway frozen, but soft enough to insert the stick.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Power of Compost

When moved into this tiny little starter-home over 4 years ago, we had big dreams. The house was on a cul-de-sac, with a big yard and a conservation area behind the property. It was perfect.

Even though the house was only 2 years old at the time, the previous owners left a lot of work for us to do. From painting every interior surface, to French drains, to tiling the whole house & new carpet (we actually had contractors show up for that one!), to resodding the lawn with an irrigation system last year, we’ve pretty much have touched, scrubbed, tilled, and handled every inch of this house. We’ve made it into our little paradise.

When we were settled, the first thing I wanted to do was start a compost pile at the edge of the conservation area. Take a look at this pathetic amaryllis on the bottom left of this photo.

After 2 years of a continuous diet of leaves, cow chips, grass clippings and kitchen scraps, this thing is almost as tall as I am! I’m 5’6”! The compost pile is behind the amaryllis and has turned this thing into a monster. Luckily, I was able to repay my cow chip supplier friend in Deland with big, healthy clumps of amaryllis for her garden.

Grow baby, grow!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Viola!

Well, we finally finished the guest bath! Just as promised, here are some pics of before, after, and during. PhotobucketI'm also putting in a collage of the "during" pics. Now granted, this is the FIRST time I've ever done anything like this ever; however, I'm pretty durned proud of myself! Hubby did help quite a bit; he did the plumbing, demolition, and mitre saw. We have a good system; I do the detail and he does the technical stuff. It took us a week to strip the bathroom down to the floor, scrape the sub-flooring, fix the mildew/mold issue (the previous owners had a leak at one time...nasty!), cut the tiles, do a dry run, set the tiles, grout, baseboards, caulking, new toilet, new vanity, new granite countertop/sink combo, new mirror, and I re-tailored the old shower curtain to be longer and make the room look bigger. WHEW!
Photobucket
Although it wasn't a big area, it was a major PITA, mostly because we didn't know what to expect and what "we would do different". Fortunately, we get to do this all over again this week on the master bath; however, the tiled area is much smaller (toilet, shower, and vanity are in separate areas). We're ready!!

Photobucket

Friday, August 08, 2008

LWOP

I’ve been out sick this week. Only one day from work, but it still was enough to zap most of my energy for the week. What is it with that fine line you draw when calling in sick to work? You don’t want people to think you’re a slacker, but on the other hand, they need you to come into work, but don’t want you there at the same time!

Personally, I don’t want my coworkers even NEAR me if they’re sick. Go home! Don’t come to work with your germs and spread them around (like one of my coworkers did to me). You don’t have to prove how dedicated you are by dragging your wheezing, sneezing, coughing, snotty, mucous-laden arse into the workplace! I’m no martyr by any stretch and will stay home even if I have a bad headache (sinus migraine), because I know I’m not doing anyone any good by being miserable.

Those are what sick days are for! O.k., off soapbox for now…

In other news, the guest bathroom is done and looks wonderful! I will post pics after this weekend when we have all the extra pieces-parts put back together again. Next week, the master bath gets done, which should be easier since it is smaller (go figure).

In other, other news, I made German Potato salad this week and it was divine! The only thing I remember my father knowing how to cook was German Potato salad, and it was always a special treat.

German Potato Salad
(my way)

8 – 10 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into bite sized chunks (I used Yukon Gold)
5-7 strips of bacon, diced into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons sugar
Salt & Pepper

Cook potatoes in boiling/simmering water till fork tender, drain and return to pot. In a sautee pan, cook bacon over med-high heat till golden brown, add onions. Cook onions with bacon till both are nicely browned, set aside. Mix apple cider with sugar in a microwave safe container and heat, stirring regularly, till sugar is dissolved. Pour cider vinegar mixture, and onion mixture over potatoes, stir gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Just Peachy, or was it a Pear?

I actually got a little time to play in the kitchen this evening and I only had one thing on my mind: Vanilla Pear Cardamom

You see, ever since Ohiomom at Cooking in Cleveland mentioned her Cardamom Pear freezer jam, I've wanted to make it. It just sounded...so good! But life, jobs, and remodels all got into the way.

But being me, I wanted to tweek Ohiomom's recipe a little by adding a scraped vanilla bean into the mix. I was sure the results would be deeply vanilla, with a slight tang, then an exotic spiciness. But I was disappointed. The jam was just too vanilla-y and cardamom-y, and all over just too much "y". I think I've just discovered that I don't like cardamom. Oh, well...I'm sure I'll find somethind to do with 6 half pints!

Back to Wine

We bottled my Lemongrass Mint wine this weekend and it has turned out to be a wonderful surprise. It's a very light, refreshing summer sipper, not hot at all (not too much alcohol). I'm very impressed and think it would be devine with some sort of spicy Thai dish. Each batch of wine I make gets better and better.

Just in case you're wondering, we don't have 500 bottles of wine stacked up in the spare bedroom or anything. So far, the most wine I've gotten from a batch was about 12 to 15 bottles. We do give a lot away, and in fact have to be careful we save some for us!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Most Amazing Soup!

Have you ever eaten something that was EXACTLY what you’ve been craving? You know the dance; you’re hungry, don’t know what you want. You think of all your options at home or even from a restaurant or takeout. Two hours later, you still haven’t pin-pointed what it is you want. You end up eating something else, but it’s a bit depressing. You might even go through this same cycle for a few days afterwards.

And then, there’s the chance that you are in touch with yourself enough to know what you want, and you eat it. It’s more than just the physical or sensory satisfaction, there’s something else. There’s the spiritual or soulful satisfaction that you are listening to your body and you give it what it wants, or even needs.

Last night (a night of rest), I got back in the kitchen and made the most amazing soup ever! I had a craving for some sort of vegetable soup, and found this gem of course, on the Cooking Forum. I think what really threw this recipe over the edge was that I used 1 ½ pints of my homemade Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce instead of the canned tomato sauce called for in the recipe.
It was sublime.

This is also a really great option for using all those yummy summer veggies that are starting to ripen!

Jamie's Minestrone
Yields: 8 servings
NOTE: This original recipe would make a HUGE amount of soup, so I halved all the ingredients called for and had plenty

INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, sliced
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce (I used homemade pasta sauce)
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can green beans
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
3 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup seashell pasta
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping (I think Gruyere would be amazing!)
1 tablespoon olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add chicken broth, water and tomato sauce, bring to boil, stirring frequently. If desired add red wine at this point. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach leaves, zucchini, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.

3. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside.

4. Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

E-mail Conversation

Me: So, what do you think about buying a nail gun?

Hubs: I am not a fan of nail guns (I will caveat this prejudice may be a result of witnessing their poor use in home construction, see Hurricane Andrew).

Me: You're funny!

Hubs: Funny as in "ha-ha" or funny "strange"?

Me: Does it matter?

Sweetness, I was only joking

On top of laying tile in a bathroom remodel, I’m still able to throw a fabulous meal together, dust the furniture, bake cookies, iron underwear, and twirl around the house in my stylish shirtdress and conservative sling-back heels. Bling!

HAH!

We still have to eat around here, even if a good portion of the house is in chaos and life is all about waiting for things to dry. Actually, I believe that all major projects shouldn’t begin without a good meal. It helps if you’re not already cranky from hunger.

Believe it or not, hubs is becoming quite adept at using my pressure cooker. I sent him instructions on how to throw this pot-roast together and he did a spot-on job of it. See, we’re all learning new things around here!

3 Envelope Pot Roast

1 pkg. ranch dressing mix - the dry mix
1 pkg. Italian dressing mix - "
1 pkg. brown gravy mix - also dry

Mix them all together in a bowl.

With 2 tablespoons of olive oil, brown pot-roast on all sides on med-high heat. You can brown the meat in your pressure cooker pot and save on making another dirty dish. Take pot roast out of pressure cooker, place on plate, and sprinkle about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dried mix (you are supposed to use the entire amount, but most find that too salty) on both sides of the roast. Place pot roast back in pressure cooker, add 1 cup of water. Put lid on, wait for pressure to come up, and cook per time for your make of PC for a pot roast.

When finished cooking, remove pot-roast and add a slurry of cornstarch and water to the gravy and thicken.

**Note: If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply follow the same instructions except place pot-roast in a dutch oven with one cup of water. Cook in 300° oven for approximately 90 minutes, or until it reaches your desired tenderness.

This pot-roast was actually VERY good and had a very good flavor. We served it with some good-ole’ fashioned mashed taters, and beans. It came with high reviews from the Cooking Forum. Yum!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pray the Anger Away

Wanna know what we’re fighting about? The plastic, crapass miter box you can buy at either Home Despot or Lowes. We’re doing the baseboards now and hubs says, “I don’t know how the Amish do it, but my last name isn’t Yoder!” We sweated, cursed, and called it a night when things got ugly. “I wonder how the Amish deal with crap like baseboards?” Hubs replies, “They pray the anger away.”

We deal with it by drinking heavily. Seriously, a miter saw is in the works TODAY. Nothing fancy, schmancy, but mid-to-upper range. I don’t need something that will build a barn.
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