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Monday, October 31, 2011

Crock Pot Chili

 During these cold winter days, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of chili!  With all the toppings, of course.

I snapped this photo of Gus on Saturday night.  Those little white spots are the remnants of the snow that covered him when he came inside (of course he shook it off as soon as he came in the door. I wish I could crack the canine code that prompts him to wait until he's in the door to shake all moisture off).

At least he has short fur.  It could be worse: 

Here's an archive photo of Gracie, with ice balls tangled in her fur after a romp in the snow.

We're lucky, we only got a few inches of snow this time.  Friends of mine in Connecticut got a foot of the white stuff, and are heading into their third day without electricity as I type this.

We only lost our electricity for 16 hours and 22 minutes (not that I was keeping track or anything), which is an unbearably long time when the temperature inside your house is dropping from lack of heat.  We were lucky that we at least had hot water (thanks to a water heater fueled by natural gas) and a stove to cook on (also fueled by gas).

I am also lucky that I decided to cook this chili before the storm hit.  Simmering a pot of chili in the slow cooker while the snow swirls outside makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but lack of electricity would have quickly put an end to that scenario.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apple-Filled French Toast

It snowed two nights ago.

More snow is forecast for tonight.  It's only October! 
Gus is happy to see snow, as long as I throw snowballs for him to catch.

Last week, I shipped this care package to Caitie.  Who knew the weather would change so quickly?  I'm wishing that I had included some mittens, a scarf and cocoa mix.

Today's recipe, Apple-Filled French Toast, is a perfect Sunday-morning kind of breakfast.  As in tomorrow Sunday. 

 A good breakfast to make when you wake up to snow in October.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crock Pot Boneless Country-Style Ribs

Well, it's about time I posted a crock pot recipe.

I haven't used my crock pot in months.  It takes up too much room in my kitchen, so I keep it on a shelf in the basement.  Out of sight, out of mind.

And then, when I finally get around to using it, I can't help but wonder:  why don't I use this more often? 

This is one of my favorite crock pot recipes.  I've tweaked it quite a bit over the years.  In its original incarnation, I just poured a bottle of BBQ sauce into the crock pot, dumped in the ribs and let it cook for 8 hours.  I've come a long way since then.

The playlist is very short today, as it will only take about 10 minutes to prep the ingredients!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Strawberry-Lemonade Cake

So much to do, so little time.

I've managed to do a little bit of everything over the last 24 hours.

A little bit of gardening. Trying to prune shrubs, plant bulbs and cut back all the summer flowers before the weather gets too cold.

I've already stored eighteen containers in my garage, flower pots that usually sit on my steps and boxes from my deck.  It was time for me to end the misery of the dying, straggly flowers that filled them.
Looks like these Gerbera daisies didn't get that memo.

I didn't have the heart to cut back the Cosmos yet.  Look at that bright, sunny face!

And I've finally found the fabric I've been searching for, I'll let you take a peak at what I'm currently working on.......

This is one of Caitie's doodles.  She created it last year on her tablet sketchpad when she was home on Christmas break.  I got it into my head that I had to find fabric to match, and I could use this design as the basis for a beach bag.

So I have been carrying this printout with me for the last ten months, hitting up more fabric stores than I can count. Spending endless hours surfing the web, trying to discern if the color I was seeing on my computer screen was true and wondering if the fabric content/weight was the dream fabric I had conjured up.

The closest I could find to the salmon dot was an oilcloth.  I was hoping for a nice cotton duckcloth.

I couldn't find anything close to the aqua stripe.

Until this week. 

Enter "Stripe Tease" and "Hotty Dotty," both from Maine Cottage fabrics.

The stripe is perfect.  I wasn't sure about the dot, but when I asked Caitie what she thought about it, she gave it her seal of approval.  (Actually she began a discourse about the "knockout" and the "negative space" until I realized she thought this was a positive thing.)

And the fabric!  A wonderful Belgian linen/cotton blend that far surpasses anything I could have hoped to find.  I washed it (to pre-shrink it) and the texture is just to die for.

I spent a good part of this afternoon finalizing the design that I had been playing with.  The fabric has been cut.  And as I'm typing this, I'm thinking about some trim that I might want to add to it, so I better start sewing and just finish it already, before I start tweaking so much that it will turn into a never-ending project.

Speaking of tweaking..........

I took today's recipe out of Cooking Light magazine.  It was featured in their "Lighten Up" section, where readers can send in their own recipes that need to be trimmed of fat and calories.

The recipe was for "Lemonade Layer Cake."  The original recipe called for almost 3 sticks of butter. Whole milk and 4 eggs.  By reducing the butter to 1 stick, and substituting fat-free buttermilk for the whole milk, reduced-fat cream cheese for full-fat cream cheese and egg whites for 2 of the eggs, calories were trimmed by thirty percent and fat was reduced by almost two-thirds........bringing the calorie count to 322 (from 468!) per serving (which would be 1/16 of the cake).

Even though I decided to add some strawberry jam to the recipe, I only used 2 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar in the frosting (instead of 3 1/2 cups), for a net savings of 5 calories per now we're down to 317 calories per serving. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Italian Egg Rolls

I dropped Caitie off at the airport this morning.  She has been home for her fall break for the last five days, days full of requests happily fulfilled (shopping all day?  Okay.........if you insist.......).

  "Patriots are playing at 4:15, are we going to have appetizers?"  Which wasn't really a request, more like a question.  We always have appetizers while we watch football on Sunday, so if anything, she asked her question just to reassure that we were, in fact, maintaining the tradition.

Then her request took place in the form of "veggies and dip, potato skins, mozzarella sticks, and Caprese Salad."

So there you have it.  

  Our game-day spread works best when the Pats are playing on Sunday afternoon, but even on the occasions where they have a night game or a Monday game, we still have our appetizers on Sunday afternoon, while watching another game.

I've already blogged about the potato skins and Caprese salad .  Today, I'll give you the Italian egg roll recipe.

Way back in 1987, Mr. Terrific and I dined at a local restaurant (that would soon become my favorite) and I tasted my first Italian Egg Roll. 

  Mr. Terrific had ordered them as an appetizer.  I was so not interested in them.  I don't really care for egg rolls, I really don't like sausage, they arrived with a small bowl of duck sauce--duck sauce? with Italian sausage?--I refused him when he offered the plate to me.

Mr. Terrific downed the first egg roll, interjecting a few "wows" and "mmm's"  (or something to that effect...) along the way.  As he reached for the second (and final) egg roll, he asked, "are you sure you don't want this?"  I was sure.  "Here...take half."  And he cut it in half and put it on my plate.

I know when I'm beat, so I cut a piece off of the egg roll and as I was about to take a bite, he protested, "no, no...use the sauce!"

I can't say that from the first bite I enthusiastically endorsed them as Mr. Terrific did, but strangely, I didn't hate them the way I thought that I would; in fact, I never failed to order Italian egg rolls at that restaurant from that time on.

The restaurant has been closed for many years, but that doesn't stop me from trying to replicate their menu items.  Despite my close examination of the egg roll filling, I've never quite figured out the exact ingredients, but I think this is close.  I'm pretty sure I got the duck sauce, correct, however, because we were able to get one of the waitresses to confess that all they did was add a bit of horseradish to the duck sauce!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Filling

'Tis the season for pumpkin-flavored everything.  Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin chocolates, pumpkin coffee.

I often wonder if the food items are really pumpkin-flavored or pumpkin spice flavored.

As in, cinnamon-ginger-and-nutmeg. 

Big difference---pumpkin is wet, mushy, kinda-sorta-sweet but needs a kick.  Add the spices and it's aaaahhhhhh........yum.
I decided to jump onto the pumpkin wagon and try out a recipe I cut out of People magazine last year.  People regularly features recipes from celebrities, or recipes from restaurants owned by celebrities, or recipes from restaurants where celebrities eat, or--in this case--recipes from relatives of celebrities.

This recipe is Broadway (and Glee! ) star Kristin Chenoweth's mother's recipe for Pumpkin Roll.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Creamy Pork Marsala With Mushrooms

The inspiration for today's recipe just sort of materialized out of thin air.

I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner.   As usual, I wanted to try something new.  As long as it had mushrooms in it.

I was wandering around the supermarket, in the meat department, and I happened upon some boneless pork sirloin chops.

I haven't made pork chops in at least ten years.  Or fifteen years.  Nah, probably closer to twenty.  My decision was made.  Pork chops it is!

But how to cook them?  All I could think of was pork Marsala.  So I grabbed a bottle of the lovely supermarket Marsala cooking wine.  It'll have to do.  And a package of baby bella mushrooms.

It's been awhile since I've made anything Marsala.  I'm having a flashback to the early years of my marriage, inviting my mother-in-law and father-in-law over for chicken Marsala. 

I remember my mother-in-law asking me where I got the recipe, and I replied that I didn't have a recipe, I "just cooked it."  She was perplexed that I didn't have any cookbooks, I was baffled that she thought it was weird that I made something without a recipe to follow.

For Christmas that year, she very thoughtfully gave me a lovely cookbook.  It was the biggest, grandest cookbook I had ever seen.  It was about four inches thick, and it must have weighed at least ten pounds.  She obviously bought me the nicest cookbook she could find.

And then one day I opened the cookbook, and the first recipe I saw was for tripe-something-or-other (the urge to gag is suddenly very strong).  I will not go into what tripe is, because I know that my college daughter reads this blog when she is looking for recipes and I don't want to gross her out.  And I know that she is going to google tripe, in which case I am warning you, Caitie, you are about to lose your appetite.  And if you can't help yourself and insist on googling it, do not google the images because you will totally gross yourself out.  Do me a favor and just take a picture of the look on your face, sweetie, because I could use a good laugh.

There were other recipes in the cookbook besides tripe.  There were pigs feet and tongue and brain recipes, too.  I kid you, NOT.

I kept the book for about ten years, and never cooked a single recipe in it.  I felt so bad that my mother-in-law had bought this book and I was going to throw it away.  I remember feeling like I had to justify throwing it away, so I started reading the recipes to Mr. Terrific until he said something like, "That's enough!  Just get rid of it!"

I guess the point of all this rambling is that here I am, 24 years later, still throwing ingredients together without a recipe.

As I was cooking, Sean and Erin both wandered through the kitchen.  Erin:  "What're those?" Me: "Pork chops."  Sean: "Have I ever had those before?" Me:  "I don't think so."

As we were eating, Mr. Terrific said the pork chops were good.   Sean said, "They're good.  You should make them again.  Just don't start cooking meat loaf!"

(For the record, I have never cooked a meat loaf.  He has never tasted meat loaf.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chocolate Bark for Halloween

Brrrrrr.  I'm sitting here with a blanket wrapped around me.  My heat is on.  I'm wearing a sweater.  *sigh.*  I can't deny it any longer, summer is over.

Today I am going to give you what is possibly the quickest, easiest recipe ever. 

 I've said it before, but is there anything better than a snack that is sweet and salty?  And it's so easy.......gather your ingredients, line a pan with parchment, and five minutes later the bark will be in your freezer to harden.

You can switch up the ingredients to suit your own preferences......use dark or milk chocolate instead of white, raisins instead of cranberries, add nuts.  Make it your own!