Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread

Homemade Banana Nut Bread

MMmmmmm...I hadn't realized it, but I wrote about this recipe before. It's definitely a keeper! The one thing I did differently in this batch, which totally gilded the lily, was to add Spiced Candied Walnuts into the mix instead of plain, roasted walnuts or pecans. You should hear the moaning here at the office!

Home made banana nut bread with candied walnuts

I used a different recipe to make the spiced candied walnuts, but this recipe from Simply Recipes will work just fine. To spice them up, add a teaspon of cinnamon to the sugar mixture while you're melting the sugar, or just simply dust the walnuts with cinnamon powder before the candy hardens.

Candied Walnuts
Recipe Source: Simply Recipes

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.

As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined either with a Silpat non-stick mat, or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bustin a Rhinestone

Happy Halloween, mama!

Well, today is Halloween, BOO to you! I dressed up like Elvis for work because we were doing this whole 50’s – 60’s theme for costumes at work….wouldn’t you know it that all the people who nagged about dressing up didn’t???!!! So here I am with my white jumpsuit with the rhinestones, wig, sun glasses, and red scarves and no one else is dressed up. Hey, didn’t I have a nightmare like that once? Except I was also late for a calculus exam and in my underwear. FAIL!


elvis lives!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Potato, Bacon, and Leek Soup with Horseradish

Potato, Bacon, and Leek Soup with Horseradish This is the view we had for an impromptu picnic at Linden Vineyards this past weekend, isn’t it gorgeous?


We spent the afternoon drinking mulled wine, nibbling on some cheese, and pinching ourselves for the fact that we are actually able to experience fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains in person. Every day is like Christmas up here.


The weather is finally cooling off and what better way to celebrate than with a hearty bowl of soup? I found the New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein a few months ago and have been drooling over the recipes. This recipe for Potato, Bacon, and Leek Soup with Horseradish is a modification from their original recipe in the book simply because I had some gorgeous leeks that needed a home.

The soup is like an over-the-top baked potato soup and isn't as heavy as it looks. The horseradish really makes is something special. It is definitely a keeper recipe and would be transcendent with a roast beef and cheddar sandwich.

Potato, Bacon, and Leek Soup with Horseradish
Recipe Source and modified from: New England Soup Factory Cookbook

2 tablespoons butter
4 whole cloves garlic, peeled and minced
*2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, then sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 cups chicken stock
2 tsps onion powder
2 tsps garlic powder
1 cup sour cream
2 cups light cream (I used whole milk)
4 tablespoons bottled minced horseradish
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes hot sauce
1 cup crumbled, cooked bacon
1 bunch fresh chives, minced or 2 green onions sliced small
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

*Note: Be sure to rinse sliced leeks well, as they tend to be very sandy

In a stockpot melt the butter over med-high heat. Add the garlic, leeks, and celery. Saute for 7 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to coat with the butter and vegetables. Add the chicken stock, onion and garlic powder and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are soft and tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the stove and puree the soup with a hand blender or working in batches with a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. Add the sour cream, light cream, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Puree once again until everything is incorporated. Return the pot to the stove and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in soup bowls and garnish with the chives/green onions and bacon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Sink Full of Apples

Apples for Canning Hey everyone, this is my 200th post! In honor of the occasion, I bring you apples!


The onslaught of fall apples has begun. This sink full of Jonagold and Honey Crisp apples (1 peck) were turned into the first 7 quarts of applesauce of the season. Mmmmmmm…

Applesauce, applebutter, apple pie jam, apple pie filling, apple conserve, here I come!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grilled Flatbread

Grilled Flatbread Oh my gosh you guys; fall is finally here! When I left my office building last night, it was cold and blustery outside and simply wonderful! I know there will probably be a few days of hot before we settle in for winter, but man does fall feel good!

Hubby and I had already planned to grill a London broil on the gas grill last night, so it was the perfect opportunity to try out this soft flatbread recipe that I found at Deanna's blog Marzipan last week. Let me tell you, it changed our lives.

fresh grilled flatbread
I had a ball of the dough sitting in the refrigerator from the day before. I had made it and had originally planned to dry fry it on the stove, but grilling it sounded SO much better. The dough mixed up so easy; in fact, I don’t even think I’ll need the Kitchenaid for next time. I pinched off 4 balls and they rolled out like a dream; no shrinking, and very pliable. We casually tossed them on the grill; I didn’t know what to expect since this was a new recipe.

They puffed up beautifully, with perfect grill marks, in less than five minutes without any sticking. One flip over, 2 more minutes, and they were AMAZING. We couldn’t help but tear into one straight off the grill, with puffs of steam coming out of our mouths from the combination of hot food and cold weather. It was one of those HOW HAVE WE EVER LIVED WITHOUT THESE moments.

They were so amazingly delicious; we rolled out the remaining dough and grilled up the rest for future lunches. I plan to have a ball of this dough ready in my refrigerator at all times from now on.

Make these today; I mean it!

Soft Flatbread
Recipe from: Marzipan

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup potato flour OR 1/2 cup potato buds or flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon instant yeast

1) Place 2 cups of the flour into a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the flour, and stir till smooth. Cover the bowl and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes.

2) In a separate bowl, using a fork, whisk together the potato flour (or flakes or buds) and the remaining 1 cup of flour with the salt, oil and yeast until a crumbly mixture forms.

3) Add this to the cooled flour/water mixture, stir, then knead for several minutes by hand to form a soft dough. The dough should form a ball, but will remain somewhat sticky. Add additional flour only if necessary and keep your hands and work surface lightly oiled to prevent sticking.

4) Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour.

5) Divide the dough into 8 pieces (each about the size of a handball, around 3 ounces), cover, and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes. The dough may be wrapped or placed in a baggie and then refrigerated or frozen after dividing if desired. Bring to room temperature before starting the next step.

6) Roll each piece into a 7"- to 8"-circle (a rolling pin helps here), and dry-fry them (fry without oil) over medium heat for about 1 minute per side, until they're puffed and flecked with brown spots. Adjust the heat if they seem to be cooking either too quickly, or too slowly; cooking too quickly means they may be raw in the center, while too slowly will dry them out.

7) Transfer the cooked breads to a rack, stacking them to keep them soft. Serve immediately (recommended), or cool completely before storing in a plastic bag.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

11 Months - The Power of Booze

Fruitcake Won't Die No bad fruitcake allowedEvery year I make my annual besotted fruitcakes and every year I have some left over. It's not that they're bad, they're DELICIOUS! As a matter of fact, each year I have to make more to accomodate the demand.

Anyway, I always over estimate and we have some left over. Usually, the things sit wrapped-up in our spare refrigerator for a couple of months until we are over the holiday bingefest, then we'll break them out and share again with friends. The longest they've sat was until June or July AND THEY WERE STILL GOOD!

Last nite, we realized we had last year's cakes still wrapped up in the refrigerator. You guys, these were made in October LAST YEAR, and yep, they were still good! The yellow one was a little dry, but nothing that a little basting with cherry brandy didn't fix right away.

I think I'm going to take them into work tomorrow....sshhhh, don't tell my coworkers.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Chili Paste

Homemade Chili Paste While I’m on a roll regarding the time limit for summer’s produce, I have yet another condiment to share that I cannot do without. You will think this too once you make this Chili Paste.

I love Asian food. I love spicy food. Even better, I love spicy Asian food! So much so that I go through a bottle of Sriracha sauce and its cousin, garlic chili sauce, every few months (sometimes weeks).


Neither one of them are expensive and they are fairly easy to find in the grocery, but as a rule, food tastes so much better when you make it yourself. When I first made this chili paste, I was like, “¡Ayi Chiuaua! ¡FUEGO! ¡FUEGO!”


It was hot! But after just 24 hours, it mellowed out into a wonderful sweet, garlicky chili paste with some nice heat. Plus, it literally took minutes to make.

Hubby and I have eaten it on stir fry, soups, stews, take-out-Chinese, burritos, chili, nachos, salsa, really anything where you want some extra heat. So, get your hands on some fresh chili peppers before they are no longer available at the farmer’s markets. This will definitely keep you warm over winter!


Chili Paste
Adapted from Andrea Nguyen

3 cups of chili peppers, any variety of your choice ( Jalapeno, Thai, Habanero, etc.) washed and stemmed
8-10 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tablespoon distilled vinegar (I used probably 3)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Note: This is a fresh chili paste that is meant to be stored in the refrigerator.

Roughly chop chillies if using large peppers. Add chillies, garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse until coarsely pureed. Adjust sugar, salt and vinegar to taste. Makes about 1, 12 oz. jar and will last several months in the refrigerator.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Tomato Basil Butter

Tomato Basil Butter The kids are back in school and that means the days of fresh, summer produce are getting shorter and shorter. August and September are an avalanche of tomatoes and basil, so if you can, take a few minutes to whip up a big batch of Tomato Basil Butter. You’ll be SO glad you did.


This amazing compound butter is fantastic on fish, grilled vegetables, garlic bread, and heck even as a base for non-sauced pizzas. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg….stir it in to mashed potatoes, soups, sauces, rice, put a dollop on a searing, grilled steak, smear it on grilled corn, mix it with spinach and use it as a filling for chicken breasts or thighs, OH MY!

Heck, I've even just spread it on warm bread and dug in...mmmmmmmmmmm.

This freezes amazingly well, so you can dip into this lovliness until next summer!

TOMATO BASIL BUTTER

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/ 2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (about 1 lb.)
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/ 2 cup sweet butter softened
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/ 2 tsp. salt
1/ 8 tsp. pepper
1/ 4 cup minced fresh basil

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Add the tomatoes and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes form a puree that will mound. Let cool.

Put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat in the tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated but best served at room temperature so that it will melt quickly. Freezes well, make a "log", wrap in waxed paper, then Ziploc bags.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wise Guys

See what my wise guy counterparts in California sent me?!! Hmph!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Anniversary


Although we’ve only been married 4 years and together for almost 10, I can’t imagine my life without him or what life was life before him.

Happy anniversary to my bread and my knife, my pigeon on the general’s head, my red-rover-send-Grover-right-over, my sweet guy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake!

Virginia Earthquake Whoa! That was scary! I'm in Dumfries, VA, which is an hour north of the epicenter and about 25 miles south of Washington D.C.


I work on the 3rd and top floor of an office building and I had just gotten back from lunch. I was typing away in my cubicle and I felt this rumbling...at first I thought that maybe it was a sonic boom (memories from Florida) or some sort of explosives training going on at the base at Quantico (they do that at times), but then it kept going and getting stronger.

I looked to the man who works across the cubicle isle from me and we looked at each other like, "WTF is THIS???!! Holy crap this is an EARTHQUAKE!" Things were falling off the wall, potted plants were crashing down, the building was moving, and the windows were cracking.

I never ran down flights of stairs in heels as fast as I did today! Our whole building evacuated and our company closed for the rest of the day.

At home, I live 2 miles away from work, pictures had crashed off the walls, the kitties were freaked out, but nothing was lost that was valuable and everyone is o.k....shaken (pun intended), but o.k.

I've never been through an earthquake before and it is not something I want to experience again. Hey, I moved up here to get AWAY from natural disasters!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

I know I promised you pie, but these little cuties are sweet enough for now. Don't 'cha just want to gobble them up?

I might ask Santa to get me Just Dance 2 for Christmas this year....that and a 52", flatscreen t.v., oh, and a Wii as well. :-)


Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer 2011: Season of The Itch

Poison Ivy Sucks! I know, I know. I’ve committed a blog owner’s carnal sin; I left without even telling you what’s going on. I know it will take time for you to trust me again, and I can promise you it won’t happen again. Please accept my humble groveling.

So much to say…I’m working a real-honest-to-god job now. No more cleaning up shite, well at least dog shite. I’ve promised myself that I would not get myself into the same job situation where I was before, which was basically working for a company that treated me like shite. I’ve been here for a little over 2 months and I’m still trying to feel my way around, but it sure is nice to have a paycheck again.

Secondly, I found out what real-honest-to-god poison ivy can do to a person. We have it growing in a few patches within the ground cover in our front and back yard. FUN TIMES! I wrestled with a rash for over 8 weeks this summer, including a point where I had A BLISTER ON MY EYEBALL! That was swell.

Demon weed
Thirdly, I am in real-honest-to-god canning and preserving country up here. A place where I can say, “I put up 8 quarts of tomato sauce this weekend,” and people won’t look at me like I grew a second head. Now, they look at me and say, "What?!! Only 8 quarts?!!" Almost every weeknight has been dedicated to putting up all the wonderful, local goodies I nabbed over the weekend. I’m in heaven!

And lastly, it’s real-honest-to-god HOT ! C’mon winter!

That’s all the proselytizing I have for today. Stay tuned for the most awesomest Peach Pie recipe EVAR!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Oh, The Hills! Enough With The Hills!

One of the beautiful things about living at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the hills. They are breathtaking in more ways than one.

To supplement some spending money and as a source to get out and explore, I’ve taken a part-time, mid-day dog walking position in my neighborhood. The job market is very good up here, except I’m adamant about not having to do the “D.C. Crawl” every day in a commute, so I’m being very picky about my job search options. Plus I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

Anyway, back to the hills. There is not a flat, level road in my entire neighborhood community. After 2 weeks of this dog-walking thing, every day for 2 hours, I’m SO OVER the hills! My knees are like, DUDE WTF? Advil, Osteo Bi-Flex, and Centrum are daily necessities and I feel old. This is nature’s Stairmaster at its best.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dutch Baby, Baby!

Dutch Baby When hubby and I lived in Florida, we had a sort of superstitious tradition of going to a certain Chinese restaurant for take-out whenever a hurricane was coming to the area. It started as a tradition of necessity when the 2004 hurricane season left us without power and the Chinese place around the corner had a kick-butt generator. There was a customer line out the door, and we gladly waited an hour to eat something hot and cooked by someone else.

Now that we’re in Virginia, we make a Dutch Baby (a.k.a “Snowday Pancake”) every time we’re faced with something like this:


I know, it’s nothing, but it’s a fun excuse to start a new tradition. This yummy breakfast treat is a mix between a pancake and a cooked custard. The outside puffs up light and cakey like a pancake, while the center is a rich and dense custard. It’s a bit like magic, really, and the final presentation is gorgeous.


All it takes is one bowl, a whisk, and a glass baking dish. Or, if you want, you could dispense the batter into individual ramekins for more pizazz.

Dutch Baby
(a.k.a “Snowday Pancake”)
Recipe Source: I don’t remember

4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg
6 tablespoons butter
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix eggs, flour, milk, vanilla, salt, and spices in a bowl with a whisk. The batter may be slightly lumpy, but that’s o.k. Also, the batter may be made the night before and kept in the refrigerator.

Cut butter into pieces and place in a 9” x 13” Pyrex or casserole dish. Place the casserole dish in the oven and allow the butter to melt until it is slightly browned. Be careful, as the butter can go from slightly browned to burnt very quickly. This extra step gives the pancake wonderful flavor!

Once the butter is melted, take the casserole dish out of the oven and pour the batter over the melted butter. Place the casserole dish back in the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown and very puffy. When finished baking, remove the casserole from the oven, cut the pancake into serving sizes, and dust each serving liberally with confectioner’s sugar. Serve with pancake syrup and jam.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day: What a Crock!

Crocking for V-Day So, Valentine’s Day came and went at our house. Hubs got me a gift card and I got him a neat tool-thingamajig, which turned out to be something he couldn’t use.

Romance, we haz it.

As I was returning and exchanging the tool, I spotted a kickass collection of brand new pickling crocks sitting on a dusty shelf in the back of the hardware store. I promptly whipped out my gift card and grabbed a 5 gallon crock right up. Well, more like lugged it right up…that thing is heavy!

Sauerkraut heaven, here I come!

See? Romance can be found where you least expect it. Love you sweetie!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kitty Bling: Save Your Furniture With Kitty Caps

Kitty Caps for Kitty Claws I have forgotten what it's like to have a rambunctious kitten running around the house. A kitten with needle-honed claws, waiting to pounce on a naked, passing ankle or brand-new pair of panty hose.

I'm opposed to declawing. After having it done to my sweet, late kitty Wayne, I swore I would never put another cat of mine through that kind of trauma again. But what do you do when the little darling decides your brand-new couch is much more tempting to claw than that designer scratching post you just lugged home?

Kitty Caps (aka Soft Claws) to the rescue!

I was hesitant to do this for obvious reasons. You see, I'm very attached to the skin on my forearms and my fingers. The thought of pinning down one of my cats and basically gluing a version of Lee Press-On Nails to its claws left me cold, so I asked one of the staff members at my vet's office if they would do it. Uh, yeah...for about $50!

Fortunately, there is a hold maneuver you can use on your cat that will make this easier (note I did not say EASY). The staff member showed me how to hold my kitty down, which by the way, does require 2 people to put on the caps: one to hold kitty down, and one to apply.

Our kitten, Lucy, didn't mind them at all and I'm tickled pink about the outcome! They are the most adorable things I've seen and actually WORK! She licked her paws for exactly 10 minutes and then was off to terrorize our other kitty Chaz.

Now, where are those panty hose?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

An-tici-pation!

Kitties Want a Squirrel The weather was nice enough to open a window or two last week. That lasted for about 6 hours before the icy weather showed up again like an unwelcomed houseguest.


I was surprised to find that if I put a little bit of bird food on the deck, the squirrels will come right up to the screen. They earned their keep, it's the only thing that will keep these little stinkers occupied for more than 5 minutes.


You could have carved the kitty tension with a knife. Lots of chitter-chattering, meowing, and tail-swishing. But the squirrel was Joe Cool and didn't seem phased at all. At one point, they were even sniffing each other through the screen!

Brave squirrel.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

New Digs

New House in Virginia I once figured the entire amount of counter-space I had in our old house measured out to the length of our coffee table. Really! It still amazes me that I managed to cook so much, can and preserve, make wine, and bake wedding cakes in that kitchen.

To say I love my new kitchen is an understatement. I have OODLES of counter-space, granite, AND TWO OVENS! It’s the kitchen that sold me on the place, although we are renting for now until we learn the area. The bathrooms are still stuck in the 1970’s, but hey…I spend more time in the kitchen anyway.

The parties we’re going to have here are gonna’ be fierce!

Friday, January 28, 2011

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby

Life and Snow Oh, hey guys. What’s going on? So, we moved to the semi-great-white north and things have been getting on fine. I’ve put my Florida feet away.

We’re loving it up here. I love that I can blow-dry my hair and not end up in a giant ball of sweat afterwards. If I get hot, I just open a window. What a concept!

We now have these two little fur-balls to keep me busy during the long, cold wintry days. They both came from the ASPCA and a rescue group. Meet Chaz and Lucy! Lucy is the kitten and I forgot what a handful kittens can be, but she’s sweet too, so that helps. I know...they look exactly alike...I'm anal that way.

I’m on a new job hunt. Basically, I’ve been out of work by choice for one year. My last job completely burned me out to where I woke up one day and said, “¡NO MAS!” That job literally made me sick and I had to make a choice between my sanity and a pay check.

Since the age of 14, I’ve never not had a job…or two…or even three at a time. This past year has been completely new and alien to me, but a well-needed recharging. Plus a good portion was used to help sell our house and relocate up here. I also did a bit of volunteer work and watched wayyyy too much of the Military History Channel. I slept a lot, and spent days where I didn’t even shower, and it was all deliciously wonderful. I couldn’t have done it without my hunny bunny husband, who is a doll and supported me every step of the way.

Happy New Year!
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