December 30, 2010

One for the record books....

Whew, looking back on 2010, it was an amazing whirlwind of a year.

There were vacations.... 
Burlington, VT
Captiva Island, FL
And other adventures....

Learning to Scuba!
Red River Gorge
We settled into our house....

Then friends came to visit... 
Derby 2010
I had one day of wild fame...

Thanks Pillsbury!
Then there was a proposal.....

Finally, a honeymoon....

And to top it all off, a nephew....
Cutest baby on the planet.
And throughout it all, Beau managed to get impossibly large and Stud and I had some good eats.  For the first time, I started to make recipes that my mom had not tested and perfected.  I gambled.  And I learned this year that the best way to rid myself of kitchen fear is to experiment.  At worst it's going in the trash, and at best, we have Asian Noodles.



December 29, 2010


I love little tastes of goes along with my obsession with the country and their food.  Madeleines are little cakes that are meant to be eaten like a cookie, and they should be light and fluffy with a hump on the back.  Who knows why, but a madeleine always has a little bump and apparently it can be very difficult to replicate.  They are baked in special pans with scalloped edges so they look like little sea shells, and few years ago, I gave my mom madeleine pans so she could make me some little tastes of France.  By the way - the aluminum pans result in the best madeleines.  Brush the molds with melted butter and flour and they pop out no problem.  Since everyone claims to have the best, fluffiest madeleine recipe, my mom and I browsed a few cookbooks and settled on the recipe from Cooks Illustrated, who tested several recipe combinations to settle on the best.  Once I saw how ridiculously easy these little cakes/cookies were, I stole her pans and made them for myself!

1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. cake flour
Pinch of kosher salt
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
4 T. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 and brush the molds with 2t. of melted butter mixed with 1t. of flour.  Sift together the flours and salt and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the yolks with the egg for about five minutes, until they are light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until a ribbon drops from the paddle, about another five minutes.  Gently fold in the flour mixture, then the melted butter.  Spoon the batter into the molds until it is just flush with the rim of the mold.  Bake for 10 minutes until the tops are golden and the cakes spring back when pressed.  To avoid getting lines from a cooling rack on the madeleines, dump onto a kitchen towel to cool.

I told you.  Crazy easy.  I barely had time to get everything cleaned up before they were finished baking.  And with this recipe, they all had the little humps!  In the past, I have added 1 t. of very finely minced fresh rosemary for rosemary madeleines and you can also add 1/4 mini chocolate chips to the madeleines.  I just went for the classic this time.  They are the best right out of the oven, so chow down while they are cooling.  Then you can eat them with coffee, tea, as a midday snack.....

December 28, 2010



This year for Christmas, Stud and I gifted friends and family presents of the homemade variety and everyone received a jar of BBQ Sauce and BACON JAM.  Which might be my new favorite thing.  And amazingly, Stud made everything himself.  All I did was add the tissue paper to the gift bags.  He even canned the BBQ sauce so it doesn't need to be refrigerated until it's opened.  I would give you the BBQ sauce recipe, but Stud has yet to reach the phase where he begins to write down what he adds to the sauce.  So maybe one day.  The bam bam bacon jam on the other hand came from Everyday Food Magazine so that one I can share with you here.  It's basically the best slice of breakfast bacon covered in syrup in a spread.  And we ended up making a second batch so we could keep plenty for ourselves.

Bacon Jam
1 1/2 lb. sliced bacon, cut into 1" pieces
2 medium yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
3/4 c. brewed coffee

In a large skillet, add the bacon and cook until bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes.  Remove the bacon and let drain on a paper towel.  Remove all but 1 T. of the bacon fat and add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes.  Add the vinegar, brown sugar, syrup and coffee and bring to a boil while scraping all the good brown bits off the bottom of the skillet (did you know those little brown bits are called the fond?  I bet that will be useful in Jeopardy at some point).  They are like little flavor bits, so make sure you get them.  After about two minutes of boiling, add back the bacon and stir to combine.  Add the entire mixture to a crock pot and cook uncovered on high for 3.5-4 hrs until it's syrupy.  When it's finished, transfer it to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Let it cool and keep refrigerated.

Sometimes, when I think about what to do with my bam bam bacon jam, I become overwhelmed with possibilities.  I have already experienced it's success on toast with a fried egg.  And by the spoonful....Had to make sure it tasted good.  And on crackers.  Oh it's also really good cooked in a skillet with brussel sprouts. But that is not all it can do.  What about on a grilled cheese...or a BLT....or a turkey sandwich...or a burger???  Basically any sandwich-esque food.  Or with french fries, hash browns, or on a baked potato.  With any egg product.  Imagine a bacon jam omelet.  Or mixed into some scrambled eggs?  Or on a BBQ chicken pizza!  A BBQ sandwich!  Overwhelmed I tell you.  And so amazing.

December 27, 2010

Daily Fluff

I hope everyone had an excellent holiday!  Beau was a great helper when it came to the wrapping.  I had to resort to newspaper and painters tape by the end...

December 23, 2010

I'm Dreaming....

I am off for the weekend - I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas weekend!!!  We are predicted to get 2-5" of snow so we'll see...

December 22, 2010

Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Biscotti continued!  The two batches I make combine for a very smooth process.  When the hazelnut come out after their first bake, these go in at 350.  Then when they come out, the hazelnut go back in at a the lowered temp, and these go in to finish it off!  Oh, and if you accidentally put the white chocolate chips called for in this recipe in the hazelnut batch, no worries, everything is still delicious.  This recipe comes from Bon Appetit, and they are so so good dipped in coffee.

Triple Chocolate Biscotti
1 3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sugar
6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
8 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease cookie sheets.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.  Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well combined and then beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture until just combined and then stir in the chocolate chips.  Drop the dough by spoon fulls onto the greased cookie sheet in two logs.  Wet your fingers and use them to shape the dough into logs that are 11" long and about 2.5" wide.  Bake for 25 minutes until the top is cracked and dry.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Lower the oven temp to 300.  Slice the biscotti into slices on the diagonal and arrange cut side down on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes, then flip the biscotti over and bake for an additional 8 minutes until they are dry.  Let cool and then enjoy!

I really like how these two biscotti go well together.  And one of each makes a perfect breakfast on a weekend morning.  You could even dip the ends of either in chocolate and roll them in holiday sprinkles!  But it was late and I was not motivated enough to do that.  Maybe next year....

December 21, 2010

Daily Fluff

This is what little Beau Bear looked like last Chrismas...sweet angelic puppy.

Covered in debris of what was once a toy.

December 20, 2010

Christmas Treats!

Christmas kitchen activity has been in full swing around here.  The first up were biscotti for my coworkers, they are all huge coffee drinkers and I thought they might appreciate a morning treat to go with their coffee.  I made two versions, and I have tried to find ones I like more than these two and have yet to find them.  The first is a Hazelnut Almond Biscotti (on the left below), the original recipe can be found on the Food Network website.

Hazelnut Almond Biscotti
2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. blanched whole almonds, toasted
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. whole hazelnuts, roughly chopped
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. pure almond extract
2 T. Amaretto
Up to 4 T. water

Preheat the oven to 375.  If you don't have a silplat or parchment paper, grease a cookie sheet.  Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar together.  In a food processor, combine the almonds with 1/2 c. of the dry mixture and grind until a fine powder.  Add to the dry ingredients along with the chocolate chips and hazelnuts.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts and Amaretto and add to the dry ingredients.  If the dough does not come together as you work with it, add the 4 T. of water as needed, 1 T. at a time.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each into a flattened log, about 10 in. long, 3 in. wide, and 1 in. high.  Place on cookie sheet, leaving at least 3 in. between the logs, and bake for about 25-30 minutes until they are golden brown.

Once they are finished, reduce the oven temperature to 300 and let the biscotti log cool for 30 minutes.  Re-grease the cookie sheet.  Cut the logs into 1/2 in. slices on the diagonal and arrange the cookies cut side up on the cookie sheet.  The logs should make about 15 cookies each.  Bake until toasted and dry, about 20-25 minutes.  Let cool completely! 

I think my favorite part about biscotti is that they make it acceptable to have cookies for breakfast!  Stud and I had plenty leftover after I set aside ones for my coworkers and now we can snack on them through the holidays.  And I can never decide which I like more...the nutty ones or the chocolate....

December 17, 2010

Streusel Muffuns

When Stud and I were freshmen at Wake Forest, my parents were amazing when it came to care packages.  I think I got one a week and most of the time, they involved baked goods for that little taste of home.  And like all college freshmen, I had a white board on my door for people to leave message while I was out.  So hip.  Well one school night, rather late I might add, my peaceful slumber is interrupted by intense knocking and barely suppressed giggles.  I attempt to ignore it.  But it persists.  So I drag myself down from the top bunk and crack the door just enough so glare at the rather intoxicated Stud that was at my door.  Now at this time, Stud and I were merely fellow freshmen, I had no idea we would one day be married, so I had no obligation to be nice to him.  He has come begging for some home baked goodies from my latest care package, a batch of blueberry muffins.  I - being freshly awoken and very stingy with my baked goods - said no and sent him on his way.  Right after I close the door, I hear fresh giggles and the distinct tapping of someone writing a message on my board.  So I wait until I hear him stumbling back down the hall, open my door and read the lovely message he had left me: "Alex is mean and won't share her muffuns."  Of course I left his message on my board for days and he has never lived it down.  So, over the weekend, I made a delicious batch of Streusel Muffuns - an Ina Garten recipe.  Hers calls for blueberries, but I didn't have any, so mine were plain....and delicious!

Streusel Muffins
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. kosher salt
2 c. buttermilk, shaken
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 t. lemon zest
2 eggs
(if you want to add blueberries - 2 c. fresh blueberries)
For the topping:
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. kosher salt
4 T. cold unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375.  If you want, line a muffin tin with papers - I prefer muffins without papers since I like the bottom part to get a nice crust.  But it makes the cleanup much easier to use papers.  Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, lemon zest, and eggs.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and combine just until blended.  If you are using blueberries, fold them in at this time.  Fill each muffin cup until it is almost full.

For the topping, place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it's in small pieces.  Spoon about 1 T on the top of each muffin.  Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, makes 20 muffins.  And then eat fresh out of the oven.  Not many things are better than a fresh muffin.

Note - if you do not have buttermilk (as I did not), you can substitute by using 1 T. of white vinegar and 1 c. of milk.  Combine and let sit for a few minutes and then use as the buttermilk.  I halved this recipe so I only needed one cup, double if you are making the full recipe.  And I could not tell a difference in the final product!  These muffins are pretty easy and a nice warm breakfast on a cold weekend morning.  And a good snack later that day.

December 15, 2010

Gippers Chicken Meaux Moutard

I don't know who Gipper is, and I don't know if s/he was the one who was brilliant enough to see the possibilities of combining mustard and heavy cream, but I do know that I like Gipper.  The combination is something I would never expect to result in the amazing dish that it is.  There is a lot of mustard, but when you're eating it, it's hard to identify the mustard as what's making it so tasty and calling you back for seconds.  I first had this amazing concoction at Stud's parents house, his mom had whipped it up for a family dinner and I was in love at the first bite.  And when I asked for the recipe, she had to copy a hand written version - a sure sign of an amazing recipe.

Gipper's Chicken Meaux Moutarde
1 lb. spaghetti
2 T. olive oil
2 t. chopped garlic
1 t. Lawry's Seasoning Salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. dried tarragon
1 lb. chicken breasts
1 quart heavy whipping cream
4 T. Dijon mustard
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the chicken breasts into 1" strips and saute with olive oil, garlic, seasoning salt, pepper, and tarragon.  Cook until almost done and add the whipping cream.  Bring to a boil and stir constantly until reduced by a quarter.  Add the mustard and Parmesan cheese.  Once the cheese melts, add in the cooked pasta and cook until the sauce has been absorbed by the pasta and everything is hot.  If you have it on hand and are super fancy, garnish with parsley.

Stud and I had this over the weekend, inhaled the leftovers for lunch on Sunday, and I am still craving it.  I want to make it again.  I promise, as weird as the ingredient list sounds, trust Gipper.  Trust the recipe.  Since I have now made this recipe a few times, I have gotten the timing down pretty well (start the pasta water and the chicken at the same time), so it's getting easier and easier to make.  This meal is so decadent and delicious, you'll hit that I'm-so-full-but-I-can't-stop-eating phase and could find yourself hovering over the skillet, having fork battles to get the next bite.

December 14, 2010

Daily Fluff

This dog is obsessed with the fire place and fires.  He will be glued to your side as soon as you move the screen to build a fire.  At one point, his nose was actually pressed against the screen, as close as he could get.

December 13, 2010

The Great Minestrone Pasta Debate!

Anyone else out there obsessed with Top Chef like we are??  Did you see the episode where Amanda made a Minestrone without pasta and judge Eric Ripert sassed her in his amazing accent??  Well my take on minestrone is to add tortellini! 

This recipe came from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook and has been used by my mom for years.  The first time Stud had this minestrone, he was whiney because he haaaaates minestrone and he was convinced it's gross.  I was trying to be nice and bring him dinner at his apartment, so I just laughed at him, he was clearly confused.  He finally admitted the only minestrone he'd had was from a cafeteria and I forced this on him.  He is now a convert.  And there is a three way soup tie between Lentil, Gumbo, and the below recipe.  Good thing all three are in the freezer!!!!!  I made a huge batch of this soup yesterday, and it was the perfect dinner for the very winter-y night last night.

Minestrone with Italian Sausage and Tortellini
1/3 c. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 fennel bulb, chopped
3 medium zucchini, sliced
1 1/2 c. green beans, cut in half
1 medium green cabbage, shredded
5 c. beef stock
5 c. water
1 can (35 oz) tomatoes (I used crushed and diced)
2 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried basil
2 cans cannellini beans
1 1/2 lb Italian sausage (I used half mild, half hot) - sliced and cooked
Parmesan rind
Cheese Tortellini

In a large pot (I used a 9.5 quart and it was as full as it could get), add the olive oil and onions and saute for ten minutes until the onions are translucent.  What I like about this recipe is you can go one veggie at a time, so chop one, add it in.  Let it cook while you chop the next one, and then add that one, all the way until you add the cabbage at the end.  I also like to add a pinch of salt and pepper with each addition.  Once the onions are translucent, add the carrots.  Then add the fennel, then the zucchini, and then the green beans, allowing each addition to cook for a few minutes before you add the next one.  Add in the cabbage and let cook for five minutes more.  Add the tomatoes, beef stock, water, oregano, basil, and sausage and bring to a boil.  Bury the Parmesan rind in the middle of the soup.  Once it comes to a boil, cover and let it simmer for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.  Once it's finished, add the beans.  Since this recipe feeds 10-12, most of it goes in the freezer, so I cook just enough tortellini for how much I have thawed and freeze the soup without the tortellini.  If you are planning on serving all of it in one night, it calls for a pound of tortellini.

I would actually say this soup is healthy (gasp!), and so delicious.  It has a ridiculous amount of veggies and not tooooo much sausage or pasta.  It's really thick, so it's more of a stew and the tortellini add just enough richness to make this a very satisfactory meal.  Especially when it's snowing outside, temps are in the low 20s, a fire is burning in the fire place and White Christmas is on AMC.  And a glass of wine, duh.  Last night was a goooood night. 

Oh and I actually bought pretty much all the ingredients yesterday for the soup, Stud and I calculated that the cost per serving on this is a whopping $4 (with gourmet sausage and pasta).  And it's so good!  And cheaper than most fast foods!

(This recipe also calls for one green pepper and 2 large potatoes that I omitted.  My mom never added the green pepper and now, I love this way and am too scared to add the pepper.  The potatoes are left out because I am freezing it and potatoes are not very freezer-friendly.  I would definitely add the potatoes if I was serving all of this in one night.)

December 10, 2010

Daily Fluff

I think Beau looks like a Russian Czar (Tsar?) in this one with his large moustache....Я настолько симпатичен, Вы не можете не любить меня!

December 9, 2010

Ooooh Christmas Tree

(Stud and) I put up most of the Christmas decoations over the weekend and I love Christmas trees...the smell of the tree is probably one of my favorite Christmas things.  This year we went downtown and picked our tree out, a little one that sits on the table behind out couch.  Now when I watch TV, I feel like I am laying under the tree and it's amazing!  Maybe I'll even do some Christmas baking this weekend...

December 8, 2010

Easy Curry

Finally!  Another ethnic dish that is super easy and delicious so we can start mixing things up with Asian Noodles every once in a while!  This curry was so simple and delicious, it has already been added to the make-regularly pile of recipes around here. 

Easy Chicken Curry
2 chicken breasts
2 T. butter
1 finely diced apple (about 1 1/2 c.)
1/2 chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 c.)
1 clove garlic
2 T. flour
2-3 T. curry powder
1 t. salt
1 t. chili powder
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. coconut milk
1 c. chicken broth

Cut the chicken into thin strips and cook in a skillet until done.  Remove from the skillet, drain off the fat and add the butter.  Once the butter has melted, add the apples, onions, and garlic and cook over medium heat until the onions become translucent.  Add the flour, curry powder, and salt and cook for a couple of minutes.  Then add in the milk, coconut milk, and broth and cook until thickened.  Add back the chicken and cook until the chicken has been heated through.  We served this over rice pilaf with peanuts, peach chutney, green onions, and raisins.  Next time, I might add the raisins to the curry while it's cooking and I'll skip out on the peanuts.  The chutney was essential though. 

I have a new obsession.  Coconut milk.  It is so so delicious and creamy and rich.  And it makes this recipe taste like it took way more than 20 minutes to make.  I actually thought this recipe would take forever and we ended up waiting on the rice to be done, which only takes 25 minutes.  The apples in this with the curry and then the chutney and chicken broth....I love salty and sweet combinations and this recipe has it all over the place. Yum.

This recipe has been adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

December 7, 2010

Turkey Gumbo

After the turkey stock experience, I was not about to just let the stock sit in the freezer looking pretty.  I worked way too hard for that!  Enter turkey gumbo.  The delicious post-Thanksgiving meal that has become a tradition at my parents house.  It not only uses the stock, but you can also use leftover turkey.  Since I did not have any leftover turkey, I just used a small boneless turkey roast.  Which is by far the most difficult part of this recipe.  This gumbo was the least work intensive soup yet.  It involves a roux that if you want, you can stand over the stove stirring forever.   Or you can stick it in the oven and walk away.  I chose the latter.  And the darker the roux, the better.

Turkey Gumbo
1 c. vegetable oil
1 c. all purpose flour
2 yellow onions
3-4 celery stalks
1 red pepper
3 cloves of garlic
6-8 c. turkey stock
1 lb. Andouille sausage
1.5 lb. turkey meat
2 T. Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning (any Cajun seasoning will work)
2 t. cayenne pepper
1 T. ground thyme
3 bay leaves
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine the flour and vegetable oil in a large (mine is 6.5 qt) pot until there are no more lumps.  Put it in the oven uncovered and bake for an hour, checking and stirring it every twenty minutes.  At the end of the hour, it should be the color of milk chocolate, make a little darker.  Delicious roux - complete!  It adds such a rich nutty flavor to the gumbo, and it's jut cooked oil and flour.  Amazing.  Not only does making the roux in the oven making it a thousand times easier, it also lessens the likelihood that the roux will burn.  All around, great plan.  I also sliced the sausage and spread it out on a cookie sheet and baked it at the same time as the roux for about thirty minutes.

Give the onions, celery, and red pepper a rough chop and add to the bowl of a food processor with the garlic.  Puree until there are no large chunks.  You can leave chunks in your gumbo if you want, but I like it to have a pretty smooth "gravy".  Once the roux is out of the oven, move it to the stove top over medium heat.  Add the vegetables (they will cause the roux to simmer up) and cook in the roux for about ten minutes.  Add the Cajun seasonings, cayenne pepper, and thyme.  Cook for a few more minutes.  Add the turkey stock, bay leaves, and sausage.  Bring to a simmer and taste.  Since I used homemade stock from a turkey that was brined, I did not need to add too much salt, just a pinch.  But add as much to your taste.  Let simmer uncovered for about two hours.  Add turkey right before you serve since it's already cooked and simmer just long enough to heat the turkey through.  Serve with white rice (I used Cajun popcorn rice) and green onions.

I could not keep Stud away from this one while it simmered.  He kept snacking on spoonfuls of the roux and sausage.  And baking the roux makes this one so simple.  Bake, then add some stuff, and then walk away and let it simmer. And the result is so delicious.  I can't think of the words to describe the way the dark roux smells and's just so hearty and warming.  I would fail if I was on Next Food Network Star right now.  The gumbo was perfect for the freezing temperatures and snow we had over the weekend.

December 6, 2010

Daily Fluff

Guess what Beau and I did over the weekend???  We played in the SNOW!!  Kentucky had it's first accumulating snow over the weekend and Beau is obsessed with snow.  He loves it.  So we went on a walk, he barked at some snowmen, and generally had a great time.  Then we came inside and tried to thaw out by building a huge fire.  Good winter day.

December 3, 2010

What to do with a 24lb turkey carcass...

Make turkey stock of course!  This was my first attempt at making homemade stock and if I ever want to be like Ina Garten, then I knew I had to try. I feel like she knows I use store bought stock when I am watching Barefoot Contessa and she's eyeing me. Thinking things like don't use that canned stock when you're making my lentil soup. In my mind, Ina is very sassy. So when Stud's mom offered me her turkey carcass from Thanksgiving, I decided now or never. Little did I know how National Geographic things were going to get. I was not prepared. I had my onions, carrots, and celery...that was easy. Chop chop toss toss in the huge pot....I am soooo Ina Garten. Then I called my mom asking what next. "Hey mom, so I have all the veggies ready and now the turkey is too big...what's next?" Kitchen crisis #1: I HAD TO BREAK DOWN THE CARCASS. OK I can do this. While poking at the breast bones: "Oh, so there is this thing in the breast, maybe veggies? Oh wait, it's shaped like a U...what is that??" Response from my mom (cue kitchen crisis #2): "Oh! Great, you have the neck, throw that in your pot too! I bet you have the gizzards and the heart as well. Just throw it all in there." ARE YOU KIDDING?? THERE WILL NOT BE A NECK/HEART/GIZZARD IN MY STOCK. I mean, picking a chicken does me in and now, I had to deal with the scary turkey parts and break bones. And Stud, the future guts loving bone breaker medical professional would not come and help me! He just listened and laughed at the gagging noises coming from the kitchen...claiming he had to "study." Needless to say, the turkey scaries did not make it in, I felt I had enough turkey parts without the "leftover" parts. Ughhhhhhh.

But now it's done and I have some big plans for this stock.

There is really no set recipe for stock, as I gathered from my mom, and this can be copied for a chicken carcass.  Take celery, carrots and onion, give them a rough chop and add to a pot with the carcass.  Add a few bay leaves if you have some.  Fill the pot with water until the carcass is covered (or close) and set to simmer.  For what was a 24lb turkey, I used 5 stalks of celery, 5 carrots, and two onions.  I let it simmer (covered) for almost 12 hours and my house smelled deliciously of Thanksgiving.  Then I strained the stock (once through a large strainer to get the big chunks and then through a really fine strainer to get all the little nasty bits) and stuck it in the fridge.  I would have photo documented that process, but it was 6am and that wasn't happening.  Once it cooled, I pulled it back out, scraped all the fat off the top and simmered it for another couple hours just to reduce it.  I really don't need three gallons of stock.  Then into ziplock bags (I ended up with exactly 24c. of stock!  So three bags of 8c, well marked so I don't forget) and into the deep freeze for future use!  First stock experience....complete.  And maybe next time, I will be a little more mentally prepared.  Whew.


December 2, 2010

Christmas CHEER

I have an obsession with Christmas cards. I have always raced to open them all and I love seeing pictures of friends and family. I have been sending them out to my friends since college just so they know I am thinking of them and who doesn’t love some good ole fashioned snail mail! And, this year, since Beau is my child, I should send out pictures of him...right?? Here's my favorite:

PS that is Beau after 9 miles trying to escape my grasp. Totally not normal. He should be exhausted.

My mom has been using Shutterfly for the past few years to order the family Christmas cards and they make everything so easy. No more sticking photos in store bought cards (which I appreciate – that was always my job), now they arrive ready to go! Now my job is stamping the envelopes with the return address stamp which is way more entertaining.

Along with great Christmas Cards, they also have awesome personalized items you can get for that family member that has you stumped this Christmas. I’m thinking Stud might really like a photo mug of me...or Beau (he does love coffee). I might also look at the thank you notes since my stationary has been depleted post wedding. Or some gift tags for all the tasty goodies I plan on handing out this season!

If you have a blog and are interested in participating in the give-away, please go to this link to sign up:

Daily Fluff

Stud usually heads upstairs for bed before me since he gets up insanely early to get to the hospital.  Sometimes Beau joins him, sometimes not.  The other day, I came upstairs to find them sharing a pillow, snuggled up together.  We have issues, I know.  And Beau looks huge in this's the angle, I promise.

December 1, 2010

Chicken Parm

Chicken Parmesan is actually one of the few "real" meals I made for myself in college, and I basically made the chicken to go along with the pasta I had every night.  Made much easier by the fact that the red sauce I used comes homemade from my mom (reminder to self - I need to steal more) and is so good.  All I have to do is thaw it out!  It's just a roasted tomato sauce with garlic, nothing too fancy.  Summer in a sauce.  Someday she will probably force me to make it on my own, but until then, I will be stealing it from her freezer.  I used to refuse to eat pasta sauce, it's actually listed as my pet peeve in my high school senior yearbook.  I was insane.

Chicken Parmesan
4-6 chicken breasts
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Panko Bread crumbs
2 eggs
Olive oil

First, flatten the chicken breasts using a mallet until they are about 1/2-3/4" thick.  I think it's easiest to do this with wax paper or saran wrap layers to make the clean-up a little easier.  Prepare three bowls for the dredging process.  Fill the first with flour mixed with salt and pepper, the second with the eggs whisked with a splash of water, and in the third, put the panko bread crumbs.  They make the best crispy fried goodness on the chicken breasts.  Dredge each breast through the three bowls and cook in a skillet with olive oil until the outside is nice and brown and the inside is cooked.  And here is my weird cooking method - place the chicken breasts on a cooling rack placed in a cookie sheet.  And to make cleanup MUCH easier, I would recommend lining the cookie sheet with foil and spray the cooling rack with cooking spray.  Cover each chicken breasts with slices of cheese and stick under the broiler until the cheese has melted and begun to brown.  Serve with spaghetti and your favorite red sauce.

I used to bake the chicken breasts in the sauce after frying them, but you loose all the crispiness!  So that's where the cooling rack/cookie sheet combo comes into play.  And making this dinner uses a lot of dishes, but they are all in stages.  As long as you clean as you go (or have a sous chef named Stud clean for you), then it's not nearly as daunting.  And it's delicious leftover!

November 29, 2010


Please meet my nephew, Baby Chuckles.  I mean, fattest most amazing cheeks ever.

Thanksgiving Recap!

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  And my favorite part (besides all the good family time)???  It continues for days until the leftovers are gone.  A sandwich with a little mayo, cranberry jelly (from a can - the best kind), gravy, turkey, and stuffing with a side of mashed potatoes.  And for breakfast - try it open face with a fried egg... an amazing creation by Stud the morning after Thanksgiving.  We are down to a little pie, some mashed potatoes and a few slivers of turkey.  Good thing my mom is already planning another round for December for my lame brother who didn't come home this year.

November 24, 2010

Daily Fluff - Thanksgiving!

Things for which Beau is thankful this Thanksgiving:

- Our trust since he now spends his days outside of the crate
- Long morning naps
- His bed, including the queen bed upstairs
- His dinosaurs (a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus in case you were wondering)
- The dog park and all his dog BFF's
- Long walks
- Digging huge holes in the backyard while no one is looking
- His cougar lovers Molly and Sadie
- His love/hate relationship with Lilly the Cat
- His new cousin Chuckles who he can't wait to smother with dog kisses

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!!

November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Replacement

Stud and I volunteered to bring dessert to his family's Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I always make the mashed potatoes at my parents, so I thought I would try dessert for his family.  Last year we brought a CPB Pie - but I really wanted to take a nap so just told Stud to put in a handful of chocolate chips.  Bad idea.  His hands are much larger than mine and it was a little slash wayyyy to chocolaty.  This year we have the measurements!  But instead of bringing two pies (and Fine Cooking happened to do an article on Create your own Cheesecake), I thought Stud and I could bring a cheesecake!  And to keep it in the spirit of things, a pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
For the Crust:
8 oz gingersnaps
3 T. sugar
7 T. unsalted butter
For the Filling:
1 c. canned pumpkin
3 blocks cream cheese
2 T. all purpose flour
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 T. vanilla extract
4 large eggs

For the crust, preheat the oven to 375 and crust the gingersnaps into crumbs.  Combine the crumbs with the sugar and butter until everything clumps together slightly.  Put in the bottom of a 9" spring form pan and using your fingers, spread out evenly and about two inches up the side of the pan.  Bake until it darkens, about 10 minutes.

For the filling, lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.  With the cream cheese at room temperature, beat along with the canned pumpkin, flour and a pinch of table salt until very smooth and fluffy, about five minutes.  Add in the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, nutmeg, and vanilla and beat until well combined.  Add the eggs one at a time just until combined.  Apparently over beating the eggs will lead the top to crack as it cools.  Poor the filling into the crust and bake for 55-65 minutes, until the center wiggles like Jell-O when you shake it - the edges will be puffed but the center will still look moist.  I think mine took about 60 minutes.  Cover and refrigerate until well cooled - at least eight hours.  Remove from the spring form pan and you're ready to serve!

I learned some valuable cheesecake lessons with this one.  First - cheesecakes are super easy.  Also, when baking, put the cheesecake on a cookie sheet since the butter in the crust can ooze out the bottom.  Then your oven smokes like crazy and you have to run the self cleaner.  And my crust slumped down so it doesn't go all the way up the sides.  I think this is because I used a nonstick spring form pan.  Tomorrow I'm going to test using a stick one, so I'll let you know if it slumps.  Finally, during the cooling process, do not leave a cheesecake in the fridge unattended.  You could end up with finger swipes.

November 22, 2010


YOU GUYS.  I am officially an aunt!  Stud's sister (still working on a good blog name - I would go with what Stud called her as a child, but I have no idea how to spell it - Awney? Aunney?) and her husband, Numero Dos welcomed their son, the first grandson, and the first nephew, Baby Chuckles last Thursday and everyone is doing so well!  Since I was sick all last week, I awkwardly hovered until Stud cleared me, and yesterday I spent a good hour harassing Chuckles, and giving him a comb over.  He is just so cute I can't help it.  And since I'm not sure if the new parents want Chuckles forever in cyber space, here is a picture of the new proud cousin:

Beau is very comfortable with internet stardom.

November 18, 2010

Sick Kid Dinner

Still suffering from the dregs of this head cold.  And last night Stud was on call so I made of my favorite foods that could easily be made for just one without leaving a huge mess to clean up.  I love hot sandwiches, so I made a pesto and mozzarella panini on my Griddler.  Probably the best kitchen appliance ever - especially in college.  Then warmed up some of my favorite creamy tomato soup and you can even get it at Costco!  And it was the perfect warm me up dinner that I needed and it will probably be lunch and dinner today as well.

November 16, 2010

Head Colds and Bourbon

So I have been feeling a little under the weather, suffering from the first head cold I've had in years.  My freshly minted Husband-Stud has been taking care of me, and I am not a pleasant patient.  I don't get sick all that often and I don't like it one bit.  Last night, I think Stud had enough and made me a Hot Toddy to send me off to bed so he could watch My Cousin Vinny in peace.  It was the perfect send off to an early night to bed and I might start drinking them whenever it's chilly outside.

Hot Toddy
1/2 - 1 shot of bourbon
1 T. honey
1 T. lemon juice

Combine ingredients and microwave for 10-15 seconds until warm.  And then go to bed at 8:30.  It's amazing.

Disclaimer: Stud MD does not recommend Hot Toddy's as an effective treatment of a head cold. It only leads to dehydration and can make things worse. But Husband-Stud was desperate.

November 15, 2010

Daily Fluff

Beau thinks it's really funny that he has decided that he no longer obeys leash rules while walking.  We had to stop every few minutes and have him sit and calm himself down.  He's laughing at me because he knows it's not going to work and he will attack once again!

November 12, 2010

"Lo Mein"

The other night, I was having a huge craving for lo mein, and I thought I could try and make it instead of heading to our local Chinese take out.  So I did some research and combined a few different recipes I thought looked good and attempted homemade chicken lo mein.

Chicken Lo Mein
2 chicken breasts, cut into small strips
2 1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. ginger
1/3 t. rice vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. water
1 T. sesame oil
1/2 t. black pepper
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. minced garlic
2 eggs
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 c. snow peas, cut in half
1 lb. spaghetti
Green Onions

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, chicken stock, water, sesame oil, and black pepper.  Mix some with the cornstarch and then combine the cornstarch mixture with the sauce.  In a separate pot, cook the spaghetti.  In a large sauce pan (I used a wok because I actually have one and it's really fun to use), add some vegetable oil and cook the eggs.  Remove from the pan.  Add more vegetable oil and add the chicken strips to the pan.  Cook just until you can't see anymore pink and add the mushrooms, garlic, and snow peas.  Cook until the mushrooms and snow peas are soft and the chicken is done.  Add the pasta to the saucepan along with the eggs, chopped green onions, and sauce.  Cook on low heat until the pasta has absorbed all the sauce and serve.

This was pretty easy, but unfortunately, did not quench my lo mein craving.  It just wasn't the same.  It was good, just not Chinese take out lo mein.  And I bet it would have been cheaper to get it from Chinese take out.  Humph.  To satisfy my cravings, I strongly suggested that Stud make some Asian noodles for dinner the other night while I was in class - they are easier and tastier than the lo mein.  He did, and they are just so so so good.  And he has decided that he is better at making them than me.  SCORE!  I told him from here on out, Asian noodles are his dinner.  And he can make it for me whenever he wants because they are so delicious.  I have already polished off the leftovers.  Maybe dinner next week too?

November 11, 2010


Another video for you!  The more I watch Glee, the more I absolutely love it and the episode on Tuesday might be one of my favorites ever.  I just finished watching it over my lunch break today.  It is probably the only show on TV where I might cry if I missed an episode.  And I have a Glee Pandora station that I listen to at work - highly recommend it.

Oh yeah, and I wish I could sing.


I want a baby Panda.

November 9, 2010

Lentil Soup

One of the most exciting things about fall and winter for me is SOUP.  I love it, and you really can't eat it in the summer.  Unless you like sweating while eating.  So come fall weather, I set aside some of my weekend to make a batch of soup, any soup really.  And I stick most of it in the freezer so on some cold night where Stud and I are way too lazy to cook or leave the house, we have some delicious soup in the freezer.  I think I might actually take it too far....I refuse to let Stud eat more than the allotted amount for dinner.  The rest is for the freezer!  It must go in the freezer!  He thinks I'm crazy but I love having a well stocked freezer.  And it's why a stand alone freezer was one of the first things I bought when we moved in. 

So Freezer Stock 2010 began last weekend with a big batch of lentil soup made from Ina Garten's recipe found in her Barefoot in Paris cookbook!  And this is probably one of my favorite soups out there and is really very simple to make for the flavors that result.  Shocker - when I was younger, I didn't think I liked soup.  I didn't think I liked anything.  Reality is, I love soup and the heartier, the better.  So lentil soup with it's sausages and beans warms your belly over the cold winter and the recipe says you should serve it with red wine, so there you go.  No wonder it's my favorite. 

Lentil Soup
1 lb Italian sausage (I use 1/2 mild and 1/2 hot)
1 lb french green lentils
1/4 c. olive oil
4 c. diced yellow onions (about 3 large onions)
4 c. chopped leeks, white and light green parts (about 2 leeks)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. kosher salt
1 1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 T. minced fresh thyme leaves
1 t. ground cumin
3 c. diced celery (about 8 stalks)
3 c. diced carrots (about 4-6 carrots)
3 quarts chicken stock
1/4 c. tomato paste
Parmesan rind, if you have one (they are free at Lotsa Pasta!)

Put the lentils in a medium sized bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for 15 minutes and drain.  In a large stockpot (I used my 9 1/2 quart, it makes a lot!), heat the olive oil and saute  the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for about 20 minutes.  The veggies need to be translucent.  Add the celery and carrots and cook for another 10 minutes.  Then add the chicken stock, tomato paste, lentils, and Parmesan rind.  I like to add the sausage at this point as well because I like everything to cook together and to get the sausage flavor throughout the soup.  I cook them in the oven first, and then slice them into rounds and add to the soup.  Once you've added everything, cover and bring to a boil.  Once the soup boils, lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook uncovered for an hour.  The soup will reduce and darken quite a bit.  After an hour, fish out the Parmesan rind and serve with a splash of red wine and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  The splash of red wine is essential.  It adds so much flavor, and then have a glass as well!  I told you I loved this recipe.

This soup is so simple.  Once all the chopping is finished, it just sits there for an hour with the occasional stir and then you're finished and you have a delicious dinner.  And if you have a sous chef that loves to chop and stir, it makes it even easier.  And now, I have three quarts of lentil soup in my freezer and some for dinner as well.  Freezer Stock 2010 is off to a good start!


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