Sunday, September 28, 2008

She Should Be Shot for This

The last Saturday of every other month, a group of friends and I get together and watch old movies (nothing after 1965). Last night we watched Paradise Lost with Ronald Coleman and Jane Wyatt and Here Comes the Groom with Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman.

We were down one, but we sure had plenty to eat. We had sub-sandwiches, chicken wings, hamburger quiche, past e fagioli, queso spinach dip and chips, Mexican Stuffed Shells, chocolate bundt cake, no-bake cookies, and my little cheese cookies.

And I decided to make The Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings and I've got to tell you, this recipe is dangerous. Really. I didn't take any pictures because Ree is such an amazing photographer that I'm embarrassed to show mine.

Good Golly! One taste of these sweet treats and you will want to "slap your mama" for never providing anything this wonderful. I think I've found my dessert for Thanksgiving. Or anytime I feel like escaping my problems into a diabetic coma.

Check this one out, you'll love it!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Christmas Cookie Bake-Along

I am a member of a cooking discussion board and we have begun testing recipes for the upcoming holidays. Becky at Random Musings of a Deco Lady chose our first recipe, which was for a savory cookie. The flavor of these little tidbits is powerful but certainly reminiscent of that Southern sideboard staple, cheese straws. Or in this case, cheese pennies.

Peppery Cheese, Nut & Cornmeal Cookies
The recipe comes from The Jimtown Store Cookbook, Recipes from Sonoma County's Favourite Country Market.

"This savoury icebox cookie...will earn you a reputation as a stellar hostess. ... The yield is large, but since both the raw dough and the baked cookies freeze well, there's no reason not to stock up." Makes about 100 cookies. Serve as an appetiser, snack, or along side soups or salad."

2 1/2 cups (approximately 9 oz) pecans
8 oz Asiago* cheese, finely grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Toast pecans on a baking sheet, stirring a couple of times, for 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from pan and cool to room temperature. Chop finely and measure 2 cups. Save any extras for another use.


Combine Asiago, butter, cheddar, flour, cornmeal, black pepper, salt and cayenne in food processor bowl and pulse to mix. (Can mix by hand or in mixer if processor not available.) Turn dough out into large bowl and scatter the pecans over the dough. Knead to mix in the nuts until the dough is smooth. Give the dough several whacks to remove any air pockets.


Divide dough into four equal pieces and roll each into a 12" log, 1" in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.


(At this point the dough can be frozen for up to two months. Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before baking.)

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line sheet pans with parchment.

Slice chilled dough into 1/8" thick rounds and arrange on prepared pans, spacing about 1 1/2" apart. Reshape to round if they flatten during slicing. Put two pans in the oven at the same time and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Change positions of the pans on the racks from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking time. Transfer to cooling racks and let sit till they cool to room temperature.


Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for at least a week and develop more flavour if they sit for a day or two after baking. Alternately the cookies can be frozen in an airtight container for up to a month.


*If you can't find Asiago cheese, aged Parmesan or Pecorino Romano can be used instead.

I am a lover of all things cheese and when you throw in the toasted pecans, well now your talkin'.I didn't use the full amount of black pepper because I am just not a huge fan and besides, I didn't have any pre-ground and my wrists could only take so much grinding my own.

I only baked half the batch to take to movie night tonight and I froze the other two. They may wind up in my package next week for Operation Baking Gals.

I've been imagining all of the wonderful things I could do with these. I love the idea of just being able to keep the dough in the freezer so you can make it up far in advance of needing it. Any hostess would be thrilled with a decorative tin filled with these and tied in a pretty ribbon. Our how about adding them to you football watching menu. How great would all of that cheesy heat be with a cold beer?

At the moment, I'm having trouble keeping out of these. I'm hanging on to this recipe.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Happy Consumer


This morning as I was getting ready for work, I had to touch up the top I wanted to wear. It got me to thinking about products that are out right now that make my life easy or better in some way. So all day today I've been compiling a list of products for which I am grateful. Here they are, in no particular order:

Downy Wrinkle Release
Parchment paper
Pumpkin Spice Wallflower refills
my KitchenAid mixer
Aveeno All Day Moisturizer
fast drying nail polish
Big Sexy Hair products

So what makes your list?

The Changing Season and Official Office Party Planner

I just can't seem to get enough sleep these days. I came home from work yesterday and had to have a nap. Then I went to bed around 8:45. I was so tired that I was stumbling. I have to believe this is what I like to call Seasonal Sleep Disorder. The nights are cooler. The days are shorter. You know, it's Autumn. Time to start preparing the cave for the winter hybernation!

A co-worker and I decided we needed something to energize our office. Something to build commaraderie and lighten the mood. So, as always seems to happen, I planned our Taco Salad Lunch today. Give me an Excel spread sheet and an group of email addresses and I will plan a party.

Now, here is the fun part. This is the list of items I sent around that we needed:
lettuce (requesting 2-3 people bring)
chopped tomatoes
black olives
green peppers
chopped green onions
seasoned beef (requested 2 people bring)
seasoned chicken
grated cheese (requesting 2)
sour cream
tortilla chips
salad dressing
flour tortillas (in case anyone didn't want salad)
desserts (requesting 3-4)
cups, flatware

This is what came back to me:

chopped tomatoes--Kathy
chopped peppers--Kathy
chopped green onions--Mary Ann
black olives--Kathy
seasoned beef--Robert & Walena
seasoned chicken--moi
grated cheese--Kai & me
sour cream --Kim
rice & avacados--Lynne
black beans--Jim
tortilla chips--Pam
salad dressing--Donna & John
flour tortillas--Jan
Dessert--Sheila, Walena, Kathy, Gary, Tina
sodas--Angel & Greg
Plates and napkins--Kim
cups & flatware--Theresa

I really hope Larry brings A LOT of lettuce. If not, we can always eat dessert!

I roasted 6 huge chicken breasts last night after rubbing them in olive oil and seasoning. AFter they cooled, I removed the skin and shredded the meat into a bowl. I will put the meat into my crockpot this morning with a couple of cans of diced tomatoes with green chiles and onions. That should season the meat well and keep it moist.

Next month, I think we'll have a chili cook-off!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Barefoot Blooging..Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

This week's recipe for Barefoot Bloggers was chosen by Chelle at Brown Eyed Baker and she made a wise choice for the beginning of fall. Just a brief case you didn't know. Barefoot Bloggers is the brain child of Tara at Smells Like Home and twice a month a group of foodie bloggers with a common love of all things Ina Garten make the same recipe. We then report on our experience and review the recipe.

So Chelle chose Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup. Like all of Ina's recipes, this one is a very elegant recipe that looks far more complicated than it is. I saw Ina make this on her show and serve it to Mel Brooks (if you are interested) and it looks amazing. So I was excited to try it. I loves me some 'shrooms so I was on board from the beginning.


Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
by Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa At Home

5 oz fresh shitake mushrooms
5 oz fresh portabella mushrooms
5 oz fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms
1 T good olive oil
1/4 lb + 1 T unsalted butter
1 c chopped yellow onion
1 chopped carrot
1 sprig fresh thyme + 1 tsp chopped minced thyme leaves, divided
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 c chopped leeks (white and light green parts)(2 leeks)
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 c dry white wine
1 c half-and-half
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping the with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems from the caps, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice caps 1/4" thick and, if they are big, cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 T butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, chopped onion, carrot, sprig of thyme, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook over medium low heat about 10 - 15 minutes, until veggies are soft. Add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock, if not add some water.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 lb butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 - 20 minutes, until the leeks start to turn brown. Add the mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and bring to a boil Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.


Now, for my adaptations.
#1 you will notice there is no parsley in my soup. That is because parsley was over $2 a bunch and Kroger this week. Sorry, Ina, I'm just too cheap.
#2 As if this recipe isn't rich enough, I took the advice of one of the members of th CK board and used chicken stock from my freezer to make the mushroom stock. I used 4 cups of chicken stock and 2 cups of water.
#3 Kroger, again, failed me by not having any fresh thyme, so I used dried.

Believe me, I'm not complaining about the results. I served the soup with crusty french bread and a salad of mixed greens and dried cherries with a bleu cheese vinaigrette. And it was even better for lunch the next day!


To see what the rest of the Barefoot Bloggers think, check here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week-end Wrap Up

Well, first, there has been a panic situation and everyone ran out to buy gas because they heard that the area would be out by Saturday. So guess what happened? As CNN called's a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I won't lie to you...I had half a tank on Friday but stopped to fill up.

Saturday and SEC football! Yeah! Tennessee lost to Florida, but Alabama "rolled" over Arkansas. Can I get a whoop whoop?

And today was Sunday, which meant I did some heavy cooking. I love cooking on Sundays. I spend the afternoon up to my elbows in knives and cutting boards and pots and pans and mixing bowls and measuring cups. Today was no exception.

One thing I made today was The Pioneer Woman's Lemon Yogurt Cake and you can check the recipe here.


Last fall I had an abundance of lemons after my parent's anniversary party and I made lemon marmalade. It didn't really set up, but I've used it a few times as a sauce and it was lovely...very tart. So I used it today in lieu of orange marmalade and it was perfect! I love the texture of this cake and the powerful punch of lemon that comes with it. I can't even imagine adding anything to sauce, no ice cream, no fruit, no whipped cream. It's perfect as it is.

So this recipe gets to thumbs up from me! I hope you give it a try.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Barefoot Blogging--Grown Up Mac & Cheese and a Bonus!

I'm back! And what great recipes for a come back! Oh! My! Goodness! Grown Up Mac and Cheese, chosen by Heather at Randomosity and the Girl totally rocks! My tummy thanks you, Heather, but my hips and thighs do not! Like all of Ina's recipes, this one is deceptively easy and incredibly edible.


Grown Up Mac and Cheese
by Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa Show

4 oz thick-sliced bacon
vegetable oil
kosher salt
2 c elbow macaroni
1 1/2 c milk
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all-purpose flour
4 oz grated Gruyere cheese
3 oz grate extra sharp cheddar
2 oz crumbled bleu cheese
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread w/o crust
2 T freshly chopped basil

Preheat oven to 400.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange bacon in a single layer. Roast 15-20 minutes until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan from the oven and place the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. When cool, crumble.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook 6-8 minutes. Drain well.

While pasta is cooking, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flower. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes while whisking. Continue to whisk while adding the hot milk, cooking for another minute or two until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses, 1 tsp salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour into two individual gratin dishes.

Pulse bread in food processor until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the pasta and bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.

My changes...

My local supermarket did not have Gruyere cheese so I used manchego. I used whole wheat bread, and I made a single container in my souffle dish.

The taste was excellent, but let's take a count of dirty dishes, shall we?
1 baking sheet
1 baking rack
1 1 qt saucepan
1 2 qt saucepan
1 4 qt saucepan
1 strainer
1 measuring cup
1 food processor bowl, lid and blade
1 cutting board
1 knife
1 spoon
1 whisk
1 souffle dish

This before I ever took the first bite. Hmmm...note to self: Make this when nieces come for visit so they can clean up.

The bonus recipe this month was chosen by Anne at Anne Strawberry for driving the most visitors to the BB site, and I have to say...SHE DONE GOOD!

Apple Turn-overs
By Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa TV show

1 tsp grated orange zest
3 T fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 lbs tart apples
3 T dried cherries
3 T sugar plus extra to sprinkle on top
1 T all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch kosher salt
1 pkg frozen puff pastry defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 T water for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine the orange zest and orange juice in a bowl. Peel, quarter, and core the apples and then cut them in a 3/4" dice. Immediately place in bowl with juice and toss to prevent from browning. Add the cherries, sugar, flour, Cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Flour a board lightly and roll each piece of puff pastry into a 12 x 12 square. Cut each sheet into 4 equal squares and keep chilled until needed.

Brush the edges of each small square with egg wash and neatly place 1/3 cup apple mixture in the middle. Fold the pastry diagonally and seal by pressing edges together with a fork. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and and brush top with egg wash, then sprinkle with sugar. Make 2 small slits and bake for 20 minutes, until browned and puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Okay, I'll be honest. I was very tired when I made this and got a little off track. I left out the salt, didn't cube the apples and used far too much juice and zest. And I forgot to cut slits in the pastry. I used raw sugar on the top. However the taste was lovely and my house smelled divine!

I'm embarrassed to show the photo...they ain't pretty.


To see what the other Barefoot Bloggers have to say about these two recipes, check here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Party Wrap-up

The party was, in my opinion, a great success. Good food, good friends, family. Lots and lots of laughter. One minor CD player chose yesterday to die. Luckily, the oldies station is decent around here.

I count myself as quite lucky to have good friends willing to make the hour drive for a visit. Some I don't see very often and forget how funny and sweet they are.

I was so busy enjoying myself, I did not take a single picture! My sister took some, so I hope she will email them to me soon. The rumaki was the biggest success of the evening, disappearing from the table first. Meatballs went over well, too. I'm left with a ton of veggies, grapes, nuts, and wine...but I can think of worse problems.

And my Dad brought me a basket of scuppernongs from the arbor and the last of the seasons tomatoes.

I am left with a clean house and a mountain of laundry which I should have tackled today but instead spent the entire day sleeping. Even now, I could lie down and sleep through the night. I will force myself to stay awake long enough to watch a movie. Ciao!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Party Prep

So, it's 11 a.m. and I have the following done:

Made brownies
Made Kahlua chocolate sauce
Rumaki marinating
meatballs prepared, ready for crock pot and sauce
veggies washed, chopped, and sliced
kitchen cleaned
floors mopped
wine is chilling
cheese is grated

Left to do:

Vacuum and dust living room
Vacuum and dust bedroom
change sheets
iron dining room chair covers
clean bathroom
move stereo
make dips
wash wine glasses
prep tables
make fondue
cut brownies

Clean litter box!!!!
refill wallflower

Party at seven!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Have An Agenda!

I have truly fallen behind with my Barefoot Blogging...I actually did make the butterflied chicken but never posted about it...but I'm a little busy right now. To see what the other BBs have to say about Grown Up Mac & Cheese, check here.

Today is my birthday and I've been planning a party for weeks. I'm going to be brutally honest with you...I turned fifty today and I feel this is worth celebrating. (I'll tell my age, but don't you dare ask my weight!) So all of my concentration is on the big blow-out tomorrow night.

I decided to serve foods that reminded me of each decade of my life. For some reason, I associate each of these with a time...

Party Fare

Rumaki--the hot appetizer of the 50s, the original recipe involved water chestnuts, bacon and chicken livers. Uhhh. I don't do chicken liver. So my version will be piece of chicken breast with a slice of water chestnut wrapped in bacon and marinated in a soy sauce before broiling.

California Onion Dip and chips--I love this stuff and can remember Mom serving it using a chip and dip set. It was an amber cut glass bowl with a little metal piece that hooked over the edge of the bowl and held a smaller bowl suspended over the chips. It may have come before the 60s, but that is when my memories of this delicacy begin. I once had someone ask me for the recipe. Seriously. I blinked a few times before telling them. Now don't get me wrong, I love Ina's panfried onion dip, but give me a tub of sour cream and a package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix and I can be quite happy.

Cheese Fondue--Nothing says the 70s like free love and fondue! My friend Ruth even gave me a fondue pot for my birthday. I'm going to use DecoLady's Cheddar Beer fondue recipe. Yummy!

Quiche--Has there ever been a food that defined a decade as well as quiche defined the 80s? I cheated here and bought mini quiches at Sam's.

Crudites--The more health conscious 90s are represented by an assortment of fresh veggies and a ranch dip.

Espresso Brownies--coffee and chocolate, what's not to love? I think of this as the Starbucks decade and decadent coffee brownies seem right.

Also present will be sweet and sour meatballs, an assortment of nuts, birthday cake, wine, sodas, wine, and coffee.

I've picked my tunes and am currently jamming to sounds of my youth.

I'll post pictures Saturday.

A Moment

I was five years old when John F Kennedy was assassinated, yet I can still remember my parents' reaction and I can remember watching the funeral on television. Ask anyone alive at that time and they can tell you where they were, what they were doing.

Even more tragically, I remember driving to work on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was making a left onto Donelson Pike off of I-40 when the usual morning nonsense on Bob and Tom was interrupted with the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center...details to follow. As I turned into the parking lot of my office building, they announced the second crash and all nonsense ended.

My office was on the perimeter of the airport and we watched as planes began to land and park. The silence that afternoon was deafening.

Do you remember where you where? What you you were doing? Did you take a moment today to reflect on those who lost their lives on that horrible day? And did you take a moment to thank God that you still live, safely, in this great nation?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Comfort Food

I'm feeling well enough to be quite last meal was a bagel yesterday morning...and decided to see what I had to eat. It's times like these that I really wish I kept things like cereal and milk, frozen pizza, or bread around the house. What I did find was lots of salad greens, lots of condiments, and a freezer full of meats and veggies.

A co-worker had given me a jar of home-made sauerkraut and I had a pound of kielbasa in the freezer. I knew this would make a fast, easy, comforting meal so I "kicked it old school" (and I'm blushing just typing that).

This is comfort food to me. This is what I grew up on, but I have done a little to improve on Mom's after work pound of sausage and can of kraut. Here it is.


Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion
1 lb turkey kielbasa sliced approximately 1" thick
1 qt sauerkraut drained
1 Tbs raw sugar
1/4 tsp celery seed

In a non-stick pan fry chopped bacon until crispy and remove, leaving fat in pan. Add onions and cook on medium heat until they begin to caramelize. Add kielbasa and cook until it too begins to caramelize. Add kielbasa. Sprinkle with sugar and celery seed and stir. Stir in cooked bacon. Cook on low approximately 10 - 15 minutes.

Tonight I had this with a green salad but it is wonderful with potato salad. And I feel comforted.

Why Am I So Sick

When I have so much to do?

I worked yesterday morning and began feeling bad while at the office. I came home and took a couple of Tylenol and went to bed. I woke up later with a raging fever and a horrendous head-ache. Seriously...the pillow hurt my head.

I'm feeling somewhat better, but not fully up to snuff. I slept most of the day today. Unfortunately, I need to be doing party prep for Friday night. I have meatballs to make, rooms to clean, things to do. But all I can seem to do is sit and stare.

It will be late nights for me this week I guess. Right now I'm going back to the couch...can you hear it calling my name?

Monday, September 1, 2008