Monday, January 30, 2006


I'm still here...just a bit overwhelmed with LIFE lately. Lots going on here; lots to get taken care of before my life once again heads in another direction. Suffice it to say, I'm beyond stressed right now. I'll be back soon.

Come back soon for upcoming reviews on Mom's Cranberry Bread, Vermont Pear Bread, and Chocolate Chip Scones. I hope I remember to take pictures in the morning before I head off to school!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sometimes, simple is best!

Dinner Tonight.
The sharp cheddar was excellent.
The pear was delicious.
The bread was acceptable.
The wine? Well---check out the title. The play on words was quite appropriate. I don't think I'll even use the remainder for cooking. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Rachel Ray's Buffalo Chicken Chili w/ Blue Cheese Toppers

Wow! This was pretty good. I'd been eyeballing the recipe after someone posted it over at Cooking Light. The first review wasn't great, but I was intrigued enough to give it a shot. I was worried when tasting the chili part-my thoughts were that it didn't have much depth. Then I remembered it was supposed to taste like Buffalo Wings! So, I topped it with the toppers (which were pretty good on their own) and Wow! It really did taste like buffalo wings! It was warm--not so much that I broke out a sweat, but enough such that my lips were burning. That may be because I added extra hot sauce (can't follow a recipe...). This recipe really is a sum of its parts. Definitely do the blue cheese toppers if you make this.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Peanut Butter Coconut Kisses

So, I had a sweet tooth. I thumbed through Cookies by the Dozen. I'm on this meringue kick (better that than something with butter, eh?) I saw the recipe by the above name and decided it would work for me. I had all of the ingredients.
Well, those who know me well know I have a knack for not following the recipe. I sub a little bit of this, a little bit of that. You know the routine. I know better when it comes to baking. At least I used to. What were supposed to be light, puffy kisses turned out to be flat and heavy, though still tasty. It is humid out; that might also be a culprit instead of my substitutions. In flavor, these remind somewhat of the no-bake cookies made with oatmeal, though the texture is not the same.
Another thing--I used all natural peanut butter because that's all I buy. I've read that for baking recipes, you should use the other stuff. Oh well. At least my sweet tooth has been satisfied!
And J--if you're reading this--see, even experienced cooks screw things up. It's happened to me plenty of times. :)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Rain, Soup, and Bread

First of all, here was the site that greeted me when I got up today. North Texas finally got some much needed rain! We still need lots more, but at least this is a start.

Rainy, cool weather makes me CRAVE bread and soup. So, that's what was on the menu today. I didn't do the meringues I was hoping to, due to the humidity.

First up, I made Onion and Fontina Beer Batter Bread. This involves precooked onions, a stout ale, and fontina cheese. I used a smoked fontina that is divine--one of my favorites. Unfortunately, the cheese flavor was buried under the ale and onions. This was a pretty bread to look at, but it didn't do much for my taste buds. I like onions, but maybe this was too much. Oh well, live and learn!

For soup, I made a Southwestern Potato soup. Nothing fancy, as I just used ingredients I had on hand. I sauteed diced potatoes and garlic in a bit of olive oil until brown. I added chicken broth, S&P, and a can of (purists, beware. You won't like this.) Campbell's Cream of Chicken Verde soup. I had it, I didn't have green chilies, and I'm on a quest to use what's in my pantry. The chile flavors came through and were just what I was looking for. To finish the soup off, I added a little bit of sharp cheddar and garnished with fresh bacon bits.

My other weekend creation was a Thai Stir Fry with Beef and Coconut. This was another 'throw it all together' dish. It was pretty good, though I would have liked it more spicy. I ran out of the Thai Chili Sauce (another ingredient-gone) in the process, and the serrano pepper I added didn't spice it up enough. I had defrosted some ground round with a hamburger on my mind, but veggies were calling my name. So was the Lite Coconut Milk I've had a while. Here is the result. I'll repeat a variation of this.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Weekend Dog Blog

Here's my pups, doing what they do best: lounging. Harley has developed wrinkles and a bit of gray on his muzzle. His 6th birthday is approaching in about 6 weeks. According to this chart, that's 49 in people years, and that makes him a Senior dog. Now hurry on over to Sweetnick's site to see all the other adorable pups this weekend. They'll be posted by Sunday night.

Weekend Cooking

Thanks for the comments regarding the blog's new look. I am not done with it; I just ran out of time to deal with it. I checked out the colors on my work browser and did not like them. Next up, I'll change them around.

This week, I tried 1 new main course recipe. Crock pot Cranberry Chicken was sweet and slightly spicy from the addition of one ice cube size chunk of chipotle in adobo sauce. This was well received by my coworkers. I served it with couscous. I'm not sure I'll make this one again. It was fine, but nothing that wowed me. I'm not a fan of ketchup unless it's with french fries, and that was the bulk of the sauce. It was a little too sweet for me.

Today, I made some Coconut Meringues from the book Cookies by the Dozen. (Note: They are now being sold for over $25. I got mine for about $7 including S&H.) This was my first recipe to try from this book, but there are many more I'm looking forward to. These cookies were very light and airy. I used toasted flaked coconut. I think shredded coconut would be a better option, as the large flakes tended to clump together. I love meringues--there's something about their melt-in-your-mouth texture. I may experiement and make some cinnamon-cocoa ones tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2006


I think I'm on a roll, as far as cooking goes. Maybe it's because I had a three day weekend. I don't foresee any great efforts in the kitchen the next few nights due to a work dinner out, a haircut another night, and working late the others.
Anyhow, I've been on a quest lately to use more food that I've put by--specifically, those things that I buy (or make), freeze, and forget about it. I have the same problem, to a lesser extent, with my pantry.
So, dinner tonight is pizza made from pizza dough that's been in the freezer longer than the 3 months prescribed by Peter Reinhart.
To top this pizza, I grated a zucchini earlier today and lightly salted it. It spent the rest of the day in a colander and was squeezed dry before being tossed on the pizza. I used a few diced red onions, and some baby bellas that I pre-cooked to remove any moisture--I hate soggy pizza. I used smoked fontina cheese--a true treasure. Try it if you haven't already; you won't regret it. Instead of a red sauce, I fried slivers of garlic in olive oil and let them set for the rest of the day. I used the garlic and a light brushing of the olive oil as a base. Oh, and I prefer my pizza with a shaking of crushed red pepper. Spicy-yum!

This is a favorite dough of mine. I've tried many recipes over the years, but this is the one I will stick with when I want a firm, crispy crust--similar to what I experienced when I visited Italy 5 years ago. It was easier to work with when I first made it, but the ease of having dough in the freezer it worth the slight loss of quality.

OK, so the shape is a little wacky. That's what I get for talking on the phone will preparing it. That's pretty good considering I mostly used just one hand!
Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Dough

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wow! French Onion Soup

How many times have you tried to make a favorite dish, and just not get it quite right? It'll be edible, but there's something slightly off. Then when you finally get it right--it's like "WOW!"
I had one of those moments today. The recipe? French Onion Soup. I've used recipes, weaned it, laboriously analyzed restaurant dishes. Once, I got close, but was never able to recreate it.
I used this recipe from Linda at Kayaksoup as a guide.
Oh, and something I don't normally do--I broke from traditional french onion soup just barely as I added some baby bellas at the end of cooking. I had them on hand, don't want them to go to waste.
So, here's the recipe.

French Onion Soup

The only French Onion Soup worthy soup mug I have is this Campbell's one I got from my mom years ago. It suits me just fine!


OK, so I finally took time to mess around w/ my blog. I was sick of the look of it. I like this much better, but am having some problems.

1. I figured this one out. My links and archives are way DOWN at the very bottom. They weren't initially and while I was messing with fonts, they got put there.

2. I figured this one out as well, though I had to unlink the commenters name to do so. Under the "What Others Are Saying" heading, there should be a ":". I took it out because it wasn't next to the person's name. It was tabbed over to the end of the row. How can I get it to be place immediately after the name of the person who commented? That's how it was on my OLD template.

3. I also want to add a picture to my header. I've checked the source codes of other blogs and haven't quite figured this out yet. I guess I need to decide on a picture as well. That would help.

There's a few other things I want to change, but it's things I can figure out once I get the above straightened out.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Saturday in the Kitchen & WDB #17

Today I felt like baking. Over at Cookie Madness, there are a plethora of tried and true cookie recipes, complete with pictures. I chose the Travis House Cookies. These are made with an egg-white base, brown sugar, and pecans. I am trying to 'clean out' my pantry and freezer, so I also added 1/4 cup of mini-chocolate chips.

These were very sweet--I think next time I'd omit to chocolate chips because they are plenty sweet as is. They are chewy in the middle and crispy on the outside. This cookie is definitely a repeater.

Dinner was a salad. Mixed greens, toasted pecans, red bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, avocado slices, bosc pear, and a piece of crumbled bacon all topped by a Gorgonzola vinaigrette that I whipped together loosely based on this recipe from Bobby Flay. It was very tasty and I am stuffed.
For the vinaigrette, I only used about 1/4 t. of bacon drippings, heated the white wine vinegar in the pan I cooked the bacon in, added olive oil, garlic, oregano, S&P, and heated. I then whisked in Gorgonzola cheese. This was very good--the Gorgonzola didn't overpower but complimented the flavors of the vegetables nicely.

For this weekend's Dog Blog, here's a flashback to my pups' younger days. Check out Sweetnicks Sunday night for all of the other cute pups out in blog land.

This is Harley at about 10 weeks. Look at those feet! We knew he was destined to be a big boy, but we had no idea...

And here's Peanut at about 8 weeks. She was still tiny, but had grown some from the 7 lbs. she was when I brought her home.

Togetherness. Actually, Peanut was lucky in her younger days that Harley didn't bite her head off. He could've on many occasions--I even have a picture where they are playing and her head is in his mouth!
Found it!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday Night Dinner

TGIF! I am exhausted--it's been 'one of those weeks'. It doesn't feel like I'm just off of Christmas break. It feels like I haven't had a break in WEEKS. So goes my world. At least I have a 3 day weekend ahead. I brought a big basketful of work to ponder. I have a ton of documentation things to get done.
I went to Sprouts tonight on my way home from work. I stocked up on veggies, so hopefully will eat more healthfully at least for the next week! They also had chicken thighs for .79/lb. (I guess that's cheap--I've never purchased them before!)

I generally don't like the dark meat (unless it's part of good fried chicken). B,ut, in an effort to be more budget conscious, I decided I'd try them.
I made Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs and mashed potatoes topped by sauteed garlic mushrooms. I looked at a recipe of Robin Miller's (Food Network) and made a few minor changes to the spices used (and I didn't measure). Not bad, a recipe I may want to play with later. I definately think I'd like this better with boneless skinless chicken breasts.

OK, so the picture is ugly because my plating and photography are pretty bad (and this picture is a bit blurry. Oops). Add to that is the fact that there is nothing but BLAH colors on my plate. I guess I shouldn't apply for any food stylist positions anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pepperoni Pie

ETA: Lunch was a huge hit. I had requests for the Pepperoni Pie recipe. It's all gone now. This isn't light (I did use low fat milk :) ), it will be a repeater for those times it's not just me eating. It comes together quickly and is delicious! That's Sweetnicks!

Tonight I made Pepperoni Pie, from Sweetnicks site. It's to take to school tomorrow for our lunch bunch. I forgot to go to the grocery store (worked late, ate out) so i had to scramble to get a side dish together. I'm almost embarassed to say what it was. Fresh garlic, onion, and baby bellas sauteed and then I added frozen corn, a little bit of half and half, butter, S&P. There you have it. My very ungourmet side dish.
I pulled some banana bread out of the freezer for dessert.
This is what I do when I get home at 9:30. Ungourmet, quick, thrown together.

I'll have to review the Pepporoni Pie tomorrow. Until then..

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Is it Friday yet?

So, I think the food part of my blog will have to be put on hold once again. Right now, work is so crazy and I'm usually so exhausted that cooking (or eating) is not much of a priority.
I got to work at 7:30 and left at 7:15. I had to run some errands (one for work) and it was almost 9 when I got home.
Now, I need to go take a shower, wash my hair of the baby food that got in it from a flying spoon today (at least it wasn't the spinach), and crash.

One recipe I did try earlier this week was Cranberry Bog Gorp. This is a simple, quick snack mix that has satisfied my sweet tooth the last few nights. Butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and a bit of curry to make it a bit different are melted together, than mixed with dried cranberries, walnuts, and pretzels.
Next time, I may add a dash of cayenne to give it a little kick. The curry gave it a different flavor, but it wasn't strong nor did it give any heat.

Cranberry Bog Gorp

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts and/or slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups pretzel nuggets, lightly salted

1. Preheat oven to 300F. Melt butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup in large pot over medium heat. Stir in cinnamon and curry powder. Add cranberries, nuts, and pretzels, and stir to combine.
2. Spread mixture on greased jelly-roll pan. Bake 15 minutes or until mixture is crunchy and lightly browned.

Makes 20 servings.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

WDB #16

Check out Sweetnicks site for this weekend's edition of Weekend Dog Blog. I'm joining in you can just see mine here. :) I brought Miss Tilly home for the weekend. They are all getting more used to each other, though this was only the second time I got her out this weekend. She such a social butterfly, and the dogs just want to sniff her all over.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Well, after too much time and who knows what, my laptop is back online. I honestly don't know what I did, but it worked. Blind luck.

Anyhow, here is a picture from my parents' house last week. One of my favorite things there are the sunsets. I think I've said that before. I missed the most part of it, and this looking a bit north west. The colors were much more vivid in person.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Beef and Barley Soup

OK, so I've had computer troubles so my hope of going to bed early were shot once again. TGIF tomorrow.

I worked late (again) and was craving soup. I had ground beef, mushrooms, celery (not sure when I bought THAT, but it wasn't completely limp yet), corn, onion, Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes, mushroom broth, and barley. Season w/ S&P, a bay leaf, and cayenne and that was dinner. Not bad for throwing a bunch of stuff together.
I took a picture, but I've been on the phone w/ tech support (actually my BF's husband) for 2 hours, plus 1/2 hour prior to that was Verizon. We finally called it a night are are going to revisit tomorrow. My desktop is finally connected (obviously) but my laptop is screwed up.

So, until later...Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

How about a patty melt?

I worked late, was tired, came home and went for one of the easiest things next to takeout. This is sort of a modified patty melt as I've never had one with feta cheese before, but that's what I had on hand. My original plan was a hamburger, but I am out of buns, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. But I do have mushrooms, bacon, onions, and wheat bread.
I was going to do a side of either corn or green beans (gotta get a veggie in) but was talking on the phone to my parents and forgot. No biggie--I couldn't eat all of this anyway.

OK, so the colors don't make for the most pleasing picture. Oh well. It was still good.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dinner: Creamy Pea Soup

I went out on a limb and tried something new to me tonight. I ate peas as a child, but as an adult have come to associate them with cafeteria style buffet lines. Don't know where I get that from, but I do. So, when I saw this recipe on The Savory Notebook, I decided to give it a shot. I had to make a few subs--the grocery store did not have shallots or Boston Lettuce. I used sweet onion and bought a pre-mixed salad bag and picked out the Boston Lettuce. I also added the juice of half a lemon.

While this was OK, it was not a flavor combination I was crazy about. It was too sweet (duh! It's made with sweet peas!). However, it was a good easy weeknight fix. I didn't want anything that left me feeling miserable. I have leftovers, so will repeat this tomorrow.

This does remind me of a creamy asparagus soup I haven't made in a few years. Hmmm..need to pull that recipe out. It was a winner, except for that funny thing asparagus does to your . . . well, you know.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The First Low of 2006

OK, so in the scheme of life, this is not really a low. Much worse could happen and happen every day to other people. I just want to whine a bit.

Turns out my garage door opened has gotten finicky. Sometimes it'll open 75% of the way and stop. I haven't figured out why (dad told me to oil the chain--that's on the agenda for tomorrow). So, today I leave. I hit the garage door to open it (can you tell where this is going?). I go around to my side, get in, glance in the mirror--I was checking to see if the trash pickup happened today, and hit reverse. I slowly back out. Wait! What's that noise. Well Sh!t. The door only opened 75% and was scratching the top of my SUV. Do I sit there or pull back in? I was afraid the door wouldn't budge, so I pulled back in. The only damage seems to be to my radio antenna. The top is scuffed some, but it looks like stuff that should buff out. The door is OK. I guess it's good it opened as far as it did, or else I would have went through it. However, if that were the case, I would have noticed as I did check my mirror.

I turned the radio off and the antenna did go back down, though it is broken in the middle. When I got home, I turned the radio on and it came back out--part of it. Now it won't go back in. I guess to drive it I need to wrap/tape a towel around the wire part coming out so it doesn't scratch my car to pieces. I drive a foreign car, so I imagine this is not a cheap fix at the dealership. I'll try another place tomorrow. Geez.

OK, vent over. That's all for now.

ETA: My little mishap cost me $140 at the dealership. I wrapped saran wrap around the external piece so it wouldn't scratch my car. Imagine my surprise and embarassment when the guy laughed and just pulled it out and threw it away.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2005 Highs and Lows

2006. Wow. Seems like it was just yesterday that I was in Atlanta, ringing in 2000 with friends. I graduated with my MS degree 8 years ago. My undergrad was 10 years ago! Where does the time go? I blinked and all of a sudden, the calendar says it is 2006. I'll turn 33 this year. I graduated from HS 15 years ago. My oldest nephew is 15. Time does fly faster the older I get. Why is that?

Some highlights and lowlights from the past year. Fortunately, the highs outnumber the lows!

*After ending a relationship at the end of 2004, I dated more this year than I have in a while. Increased number=increased chances of finding that special someone, right?
*I completed my first year of teaching.
*I was chosen as "Beginning Teacher of the Year" for my campus, selected by my colleagues.
*I graduated with my M. Ed. in Special Education in August with a 4.0.
*I was able to travel to visit friends a few times over the course of the year.
*My dad will recover from the injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident in September.
*My 15 year old nephew moved in with my parents--I've gotten to know him a little better lately.
*Once again, I was able to spend a week at a very special camp with some pretty remarkable children and teens.

*Two campers from the above mentioned camp passed away within about a week of each other. One had been in my cabin her last 2 years at camp. The other was younger, but I was paired with her for the big Holiday Parade in 2002.
*My parents were involved in a serious motorcycle accident in which they lost 2 close friends.
*Most of my spring was spent recovering from pneumonia-I didn't miss much work, but my time away from work was spent sleeping!

As for 2006, I know there will be some big changes that are just around the corner. I've made an important decision and am now focused on following through on this decision. I'll elaborate more later. It's still to soon. 2006 looks to be a great year with lots of positive changes in my life!
Another thing I want to do in 2006 is update my blog format. I'm sick of pink, and I'd like to personalize it a little more, but I haven't had time to really put anything into that.

I know I said I'd post pictures/recipe of my dip from last night, but I forgot to take pictures. It's a yummy dip with artichoke hearts, spinach, olives, Rotel tomatoes (1 can w/ habaneros), cream cheese, shredded monterey jack/cheddar blend, green chiles, and half and half. Not light at all, but it does have veggies and calcium! :) I'll post the exact recipe for anyone that wants it.

For breakfast, I wanted pancakes. One of my favorite reference-like cookbooks is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. I use this when I am looking for just a basic recipe for something--I've made scones, biscuits, hush puppies, and cornbread...just to name a few. It's a great resource for a good no-frills basic recipe for many things that I don't make often.
I made Light and Fluffy Blueberry pancakes. I realized I had no milk (well, I have some, but it's severely out of date. Gross). So, I subbed powdered milk. I halved the recipe as well. I used my cast-iron to cook it in, as it is very well seasoned and I don't have a proper griddle. Here are the results:

Slightly crispy, light, and fluffy, this was a recipe I'll repeat. The lightness comes from the egg whites that are gently folded into the batter. Of course, I had to have bacon with my pancakes. I like it crispy!

Finally, weekend dog blogging #15 hosted by Sweetnicks. Here are my pups at a New Years Eve get together last night, along w/ their friend Abbi. Have I mentioned that Harley is a lap dog in a 140 lb. body?

OK, so I'm a bad dog-mom. Harley had just a little bit of my bubbly. He liked it. Peanut did not give in to peer pressure and turned her nose up at the cup.