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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Salty/Crunchy/Chocolaty/Caramel Treat

Don't forget to leave a comment or become a follower if you want to enter to win the giveaway for the Williams Sonoma ornaments .

A set of three glass peppermint candy ornaments......

a snow chef and a ginger chef.

Three winners will be drawn on Friday.  Each winner will receive a set of all of the above ornaments.

{Just a reminder, this giveaway is sponsored by me.  I am not affiliated in any way with Williams Sonoma, I just like to shop there.  They do not know who I am.}

Mine are on my dining room tree...........

a good place to serve up tasty treats.

I also use them to embellish gifts or baked goods.  What will you do with yours?

Look who's all decked out in his holiday finery.  Gus is all gussied up!  I love the sound of the bells on his fancy collar, jingling all the way.

I have finished my five-day decorating frenzy.
Tree #1.  The real tree.  In the living room.

Traditional decorations.

Tree #2.  Not real.  In the family room.  Decorated with all of our favorite things.

Characters from our favorite Christmas movie.  Who doesn't love Ralphie, Randy and the Leg Lamp?

 Lots of hearts.  Because I love hearts.

Spongebob and Patrick Star.  Probably my kids' favorite cartoon when they were young.  Patrick was their favorite character.  Sometimes a certain family member will try to put Patrick on tree #1.

Uh....yeah.  If you don't know who this is, I'm not gonna be the one to tell you.  Let's just say that this guy makes Mr. Terrific laugh until he cries.

Tree # 3.  Fake.  In the dining room.

Sort of cooking-themed.

Lots of candy........

and cookie-themed ornaments.

The mantel.  Always a work in progress.  I'm never happy with it, and this year is no different.  This is the first year I didn't use fresh greenery.  I decorate so early, the greenery always dies.  And then I replace it.  And start cursing when all the little barbs on the holly leaves stab me.

I went and bought fake greenery this year.  Snow-frosted greenery, which totally announces that it's fake.  

Maybe next year I'll get it right.

The only thing about this picture that makes me smile is Gus' tail.  That's right, that little black swirl at the bottom of the photo is his waggin' tail.

And the little vintage-inspired papier-mache balls also make me smile.  This is their first appearance on the mantel, I think I'll let them stay.

I love snowmen.  Hangin' out on the china cabinet.

And on the sofa table.

Little Santa-fairies adorning the windows.

And snowmen, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin, And A Giveaway!!

It's been a while since I've posted.......I'm not going to make any excuses.  You've heard them all, anyway!

Thanksgiving was wonderful.  

On Saturday we took a drive to the tree farm.  It took all of three minutes for us to find the perfect tree.

Well, my kids found the perfect tree.  All I did was agree with their choice.

It's been a decorating frenzy since then.

The real tree is in the living room, and there are fake trees in the family room and dining room.
In my sewing room, a.k.a. The Land Of A Thousand Unfinished Projects, I had started making a fabric bunting from a charm pack of Mary Engelbreit prints from her "Isn't Christmas Jolly" line.

I finished it today so that I could decorate the final dining room tree, which sort of has a kitchen theme.

Which brings us to the giveaway!
 Aren't these glass peppermint ornaments cute?
How about the gingerchef and snowchef?

I bought these at the Williams-Sonoma Outlet last year, during the after-Christmas sale when all the holiday merchandise was ridiculously reduced.  I stocked up, with my dining room tree in mind, forgetting that it's only a five-foot-tall sort of pygmy tree.

I have three extra sets of these ornaments to give away.  You will receive five ornaments--the three peppermint ornaments, the snowchef and the gingerchef.

All you have to do to enter is 1. become a follower of  my blog.  (If you already follow the blog you are automatically entered.)  Or, 2. you could enter the giveaway by leaving a comment.......about anything from what type of ornaments are your favorites to whether or not you think the Red Sox will actually have a manager under contract before next season starts.  And 3. if  you are a follower and leave a comment, you will be entered twice, which means that you could possibly win two sets of ornaments.

Winners will be drawn by noon on Friday.

{This giveaway is sponsored by me.  I am in no way affiliated with Williams Sonoma, and I can say with certainty and conviction that they have no idea that I even exist.}  

Today's recipe was something I sort of stumbled upon in desperation.  Pork Tenderloins were on sale, I bought two, and then I didn't know what to do with them.  I couldn't just sit and stare at them!  I had to cook them!  What to do?!  Google to the rescue!

I scrolled through the recipes that popped up and settled on this one.  Which I just had to tweak, of course.  I read through a few of the comments that were left and made some adjustments.   

Recurring themes throughout all the comments--"Tasty!" "Flavorful!" "Tender!" "Easy!"-- I agree!  Mr. Terrific, Sean and Erin all agree--this recipe is a keeper.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Erin To The Rescue

In any given week, my cooking choices are a combination of old favorites (most of which I've already shared on this blog) and new experiments.

My experiments were pretty pathetic this week.

The first involved baby bok choy.

I'm pretty much a fan of baby anything.  When I spotted a cute little bundle of two bok choys at the supermarket last week, I eagerly tossed it into my cart.

I decided I would make a nice honey/lime/soy stir fry with shrimp.

 It looked okay..........but it didn't taste as good as I had hoped it would.  Too limey.  Blecccccch.  No way will I share that recipe with you, not if I hope to keep you as a follower of this blog.

I also picked up a bag of dried strawberries in the same aforementioned shopping trip.  I had never seen these before, and I was intrigued.  I thought that I would use them to make strawberry muffins, because fresh strawberries this time of year are so tasteless.  

These were not tasteless; they were so sweet, really yummy.

But the muffins were practically impossible to remove from the pan!  The strawberries were like glue.  They were quite stuck.  It was so frustrating, trying to remove the muffins without destroying them.

I could never give you this recipe, because my hope is to make your life easier by only giving you good recipes.  I don't want to make you angry by giving you frustrating, gee-I-wish-I-could-throw-these-muffins-and-the-pan-that-they-are-stuck-in at Fran recipes.

I'm going to keep experimenting, because what remained of the muffins was really delicious.  I'll keep at it and maybe someday I'll get it right and share it with you.

And this is where Erin rescues me, and gives me something worth blogging about.  She was craving rice krispie treats, and decided to get a little creative.

I was not home when she did this.  If I were home, I probably would have taken step-by step pictures for you, instead of just the finished rice krispie/candy corn turkeys.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turkey Tetrazzini

Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  I've already roasted one turkey, with another still in my fridge, defrosting to be roasted soon.  And then, of course, more turkey on the big day.

I can't help it, it's 58 cents a pound, we've been/are/will be overdosing on Turkey for awhile.

Yes, Gus gets his share of turkey tidbits.

He will sit at attention and not move a muscle. 

Well, no movement except for the drool dripping out of the corners of his mouth.

He will subtly turn his head, wondering why he has been holding this pose for so long with no reward.

And then he will give it one last sit-at-attention-and-look-at-her-with-my-most-pleading-puppy-dog-eyes-possible-and-if-you-don't-give-me-a-piece-of-turkey-I-will-probably-spontaneously-combust attempt.

Despite Gus' best efforts to entice me to give all the leftover turkey to him, we will still have plenty of leftovers to make lots of tasty turkey dishes.  
Like this recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini.  It's not traditional Turkey Tetrazzini because

I don't bake it casserole style
I use broccoli instead of peas
it's not drowning in sauce
there's no cheese in the sauce
but there's cheese in the topping
sometimes I add mushrooms
but this time I didn't
I like to use sherry
but you can use white wine if you like.

Got a little carried away there, but I'm back in control. 

I think the message I'm trying to get across is that you should use ingredients to suit your tastes and preferences.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lentil Soup

I had been opposed to lentil soup for most of my life.  As a child, the only lentil soup I had ever been exposed to was sludgy-looking and smelled really bad. 

As I got older, I heard so many different people singing the praises of lentil soup that I began to rethink my aversion to lentils.

Several years ago, I scoured the Internet for 5-star lentil soup recipes and after a little bit of experimenting decided which ingredients and seasonings would be the most appealing to my family. 

I'm happy to say that every member of my family likes this soup, unlike the lentil soup of my childhood (which only my mother and my youngest brother would eat.  My dad, my other brother and I would hold our noses while they ate it.  No, not really.  Okay, yes really.  And maybe with a few "ewwwwwwwwws" "yucks" and gagging noises thrown in).

I believe in sprouting the lentils overnight.  Once they begin to sprout, they are no longer a dormant seed, but a live plant.  Sprouting aids digestibility, by neutralizing the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors which are very irritating to your digestive system.  Remember this the next time you eat beans and it causes intestinal distress!  Sprouting allows the beans to produce enzymes which aid in their digestion.

Here is a picture I took of a few of the lentils before I sprouted them, while they were still dry.

And here they are about 24 hours later, after soaking.  Squint your eyes and look through my blurry photography, and you can see tiny white sprouts emerging.

I'll stop my lecture now.

If you don't want to sprout your lentils, you can omit the sprouting and just add the lentils into the soup while they are still dry; HOWEVER, you must increase the cooking time by about a half hour to allow the lentils to soften. 

The only downside to sprouting your lentils is that this soup is not a recipe that you can prepare on the spur of the moment.   I can never think to myself, "Maybe I'll whip up a pot of lentil soup!" Instead, I have to change my thought process to, "REMEMBER to sprout lentils so that I can whip up a pot of soup TOMORROW."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sweet Potato Bread

Poor Gus.  Turning back the clocks for Daylight Saving Time leaves him so disoriented.  He thinks it's dinnertime, so he's taking up post near his bowl.  And staring at me while I putter around the kitchen.  With those big, accusing eyes. 

I caved and fed him his dinner fifteen minutes early, I just couldn't stand his oh-woe-is-me pose any longer.

Remember when I blogged about the fabric that Caitie picked out for  the pillowcases I was going to sew?  I'm not surprised if you can't remember, it was so.......long..........ago.

I sewed them in a timely manner.  I just didn't get around to trimming them until this week.

Done.   Finally.  I had to go upstairs and switch out one of the pillowcases on Erin's bed.

Mix and match.

Emphasis on mix.  Not-so-matchy.

It's Erin's turn to pick out the fabric for the next batch.  As long as my girls like these pillowcases, I'm happy to make them for them. 

Today's recipe, Sweet Potato Bread, is perfect when you're looking for a way to use up any leftover mashed sweet potatoes after Thanksgiving.  Or, if you don't want to wait until after Thanksgiving, you can use canned sweet potatoes.

My daughter describes this bread as "a combination of coffee cake and banana bread.  Cinnamon taste like coffee cake, moist texture like banana bread."

In other words, it's really good!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

White Chocolate Mousse

I've been cooking a lot of comfort food lately, now that the weather is cooler.  Tonight, I made Chicken Pot Pie , which definitely falls into the comfort food category.  

Is a dessert considered a comfort food?  Or is it just main dishes that can be called comfort food?

I guess most people would agree that dessert is a comfort by definition.  You're more likely to hear about someone seeking comfort by wallowing in their favorite ice cream or chocolates or gooey cake.

This recipe for white chocolate mousse is absolutely a comfort food. 

So easy to make!  Only two ingredients!  So yummy!  If it weren't for the calories (heavy cream and white chocolate), it would be perfect.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beef Stew

I've officially shifted into chilly-weather cooking mode.

First came the soups, then the crock pot meals, and now--beef stew.

I don't cook my stew with traditional stew beef (beef chuck or shoulder), which is rather tough and dependent upon marinating--or cooking for an extended period of time--to tenderize the (grossness alert!) tough connective tissue.

Way back in the early years of my marriage, I did not feel like spending hours in the kitchen after I came home from a day at work.  I was looking for a short cut, and decided that I would use a tender cut of beef, sirloin tip steak, to cut down on the cooking time.

I've never measured the amounts of any of the ingredients, until today.  I usually just throw everything into the pot until it "looks right."  That's no help to you, eh?  So today, I measured and wrote everything down.  Feel free to add or subtract to suit your preferences!

The amounts of ingredients that I have listed will give you six (approximately 16-ounce) servings.