Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending the Year with Cake




What better way to end the blogging year than with cake??

  We're going to a small New Year's gathering with a handful of friends, Chinese food and fun.  We're FINALLY getting to try one of my new Cake Doctor recipes.  This one is called "Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Chocolate Toffee Frosting."

Ever notice just how good a cake baking makes your house smell?  That's one of the best smells in the world right there.  And the Cake Doctor, Ann Bryn, is right:  it's ok to make cake from a mix, but the frosting is best made from scratch.  This cake has a chocolate ganache frosting, with toffee candy bits.  I always thought that ganache was this big fancy-pants thing.....really it's heavy whipping cream and chocolate chips.  Simplicity is a beautiful thing!  Know what makes you feel instantly like a kid again?  Licking the beaters after making the frosting.  Brian offered one of the beaters to Will and he asked for something else to eat.  Gee...first the kid doesn't like ice cream, and now won't lick mix off a beater??  Whose kid is he?  :)

I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy 2010, filled with new recipes and new experiences!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Multitask....

Last night's dinner:  Honey-Cumin Pork Roast.  Pork roasts are a good weeknight dinner because they don't take much time in the oven and are a snap to prepare. I put the pork in a pan, and followed the directions, cutting a diamond pattern in the top of the roast.  I mixed the ingredients for the glaze as directed, using honey, cumin, lemon juice and red pepper.  I cut onion wedges and dredged them in the glaze, then put the entire pan in the oven with a thermometer probe so that I would know when it reached 155 degrees.  I then got preoccupied with making dinner for my three year old, folding laundry and generally doing house stuff.   Brian finished what he was doing at the computer, realized that I was busy and put the potatoes on to fry on the stovetop.  The pork finished cooking just as the potatoes went on....so we wrapped it in foil.

After eating, Brian said that the recipe wasn't great because all it tasted like was pork with a little honey and cumin.  I agreed, it was a tad disappointing, given how delicious it had smelled while cooking.  As I was putting the cookbook away, I had the famous CLUEPHONE moment.....there were instructions after the roasting for adding chicken broth to the pan drippings and onions to make a sauce.  Gah!!  So now we know why it was a culinary disappointment...and to read the recipe through.  Makes for a good case of no multitasking, just cook!!!  That's a hard habit to break, though. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Casserole Week

You'd think I never got anything new in my life......we picked three new recipes out of my new cookbook for dinner this week.  Spotlight:  9x13:  The Pan that Can!  All casseroles, since that seems like a simple, winter-night kind of meal.

Last night for dinner we tried Turkey and Stuffing Bake.  The description was that it was like Thanksgiving dinner.  This is pretty much true, minus the cranberry sauce.  Basically, it was stuffing, rice, turkey, red pepper, onion and a creamy sauce.  We had to make some adjustments, as our box of stuffing was only 6oz instead of the called-for 8oz.  The end result was filling, but needs some spice.  That's something we can adjust for ourselves, though.  And I definitely think that if I was to make it again, I'd wait till I had some leftover turkey or chicken that I could slice up.  Brian had gotten turkey cutlets at the grocery store and cooking the turkey before assembling the casserole for the oven just took that much longer.

I did put some in the freezer, and froze the leftover sauce separately from the turkey and stuffing mixture.  Hopefully it freezes well and makes for a good weeknight dinner after Baby is here!

On Friday, during the Winter Classic, we'll try our hands at Nacho Chicken Casserole, and for Sunday dinner, a Ham, Shredded Potato and Spinach Casserole.  Looking forward to it.  :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eats

Christmas is a magical time.....and that's true for food too.  :)

Christmas Eve was a little low key, with a simple pasta supper.  But we had our tradtional late Christmas Breakfast...a dutch baby!  A dutch baby is essentially an oven pancake, topped with jam, powdered sugar, maply syrup or whatever you like.  I had received a gift of different butters from a friend of mine, so we went with Peach Butter.  Delicious.  :)

Then there were appetizers.....spicy shrimp cocktail and cheese and crackers.  Always good choices. 

Then dinner....oh dinner.  I didn't do too much of the dinner prep this year, Brian really outshone himself in the kitchen!  I prepared the buttered stuffed apples, and he did the rest.  Oh.....and our company helped too.....my cousin and my dad peeled potatoes, my mom put stuff together and so did my aunt.  My mom made a homemade vegetable soup as a starter.  I really like starting Christmas dinner with soup, it just makes it that much more special.  The roast beef came out perfect, with a slightly pink center.  All of the sides were fantastic.  And they all cleaned up after dinner so Preggo Ginny didn't have to do anything except continue to sip her coffee and chat with Auntie Kim!

Then there were lots of unwrapping gifts, followed by dessert.  Chocolate was the main theme, with Kim's brownies and homemade chocolate truffles, my aunt's trifle and a white chocolate and cranberry cheesecake that Mom brought.  By the end of the night if you were hungry it was your own fault.

I'm happy to say that I survived Christmas with gestational diabetes.  I did not feel at all deprived of treats, and my blood sugar numbers, though slightly high, weren't bad at all.  However, now my day of debauchery is over and it's time to start behaving again. 

Now for food-themed Christmas gifts:  I got a new 11 inch frying pan to replace the one that's losing it's nonstick coating.  Brian received Alton Brown's "Good Eats:  Reminiscing the First Six Seasons" book.  It turns out that the jacket cover opens up to a huge movie poster of Alton.....and he wants to frame it and hang it in our kitchen!  We shall see.....Brian also surprised me with a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook called "9x13: The Pan that Can!"  Every single recipe in the book is made in a 9x13 pan, from breakfast to roasts to casseroles and cakes.  That's a pretty neat concept.  I've always liked casseroles but don't have a lot of recipes for them.  So I know what we'll be putting on the menu over the next couple of weeks.  Plus, it wouldn't hurt to have some casseroles for when the baby arrives!

It was a very Merry Christmas in our house, not to mention delicious.  Hope yours was Merry and Delicious, too!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dinner Plans

We've finally done it, sat down and made the menu for Christmas Dinner.  We're sort of toning it down this year by making things that we really liked for past Christmas dinners.  No real new recipes for Christmas dinner this year.  Dinner will be Alton Brown's Beef Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Wild Rice Pilaf, Gala Stuffed Apples, Roasted Carrots and Sauteed Green Beans.  The best thing is that three or four of these things can be made the day before, and reheated.  And Brian and I are both off tomorrow so that's totally doable.  :)    I can already TASTE everything! 

Speaking of Alton Brown, I was at knitting the other night and somehow a conversation started about our good friend A.B.  (Brian wishes he was a good friend, anyway!)  Turns out one of my knitty friends is also a devoted AB and "Good Eats" fan.  And she's made his brined Thanksgiving Turkey!  Brian's always wanted to try this....but so far we haven't.  We chatted about his 10th anniversary celebration show and both agree that what A.B. describes his show as is as perfect a description as they come:  "my show is like a mix of Julia Child, Mr. Wizard and Monty Python."  Yes!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do You Moo Shu?

We actually had this last week, I just forgot to comment on it.  And it was definitely worth a blog post. 

In the interest of trying something "different," we found a recipe for Chicken Moo Shu in yet another older Cooking Light cookbook.  I adore Chinese food, but it's seriously on the "No Way can you Have that!" list for now.  This is a version of takeout that you can make at home.  I love recipes that duplicate something that you could experience at a restaurant at home.  (like my lettuce wraps) 

Essentially, this was just a stir-fry, with cabbage, carrots and zucchini, chicken, ginger, garlic, hoisin.....It didn't include a recipe for the Chinese pancakes, so we substituted flour tortillas.  I have a Chinese cookbook and we looked to see if there was a recipe for the pancakes, and there is!  So next time...  It also made excellent leftovers that were healthy, delicious and better for you than the ones at our local Chinese restaurant.  :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Carrot Muffins....Good-for-you treat!

I have a cookie cookbook that some dear friends, the Schules, gave us for Christmas a few years ago.  Not only are the cookie recipes fantastic in here, our friends lovingly picked their favorite recipes and marked them with post-its and silly comments.  One of the coolest gifts I've ever received!

So.....it's a cookie cookbook.  But for some reason, there are also scone recipes, cracker recipes and muffin recipes.  I had been flipping through some of the bonus stuff and came across a carrot muffin recipe.  Now, I was a little timid to make muffins from a cookie cookbook.  After all, you don't order an Italian pasta dish at a famous steakhouse and expect it to be authentic, right?  But what the heck...I've got some extra carrots and am always looking to get some veggies into Will.  (Though when I told him I was baking carrot muffins he yelled "Yaaayyyyy!  Those are my favorite!"  Har-Har.)

The recipe called for two cups of shredded carrots, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, an egg, brown sugar, and a tablespoon of water.  (I may be forgetting something, but I'm too lazy to go into the kitchen and get the book.)  Oh, and I substitued brown sugar Splenda baking blend for the brown sugar. The thing that struck me as odd was that there wasn't a whole lot of moisturous ingredients...the water and the egg, that's it.  But let's keep going.  They baked for 35 minutes and came out looking a little small.  Nothing amiss though....Will had one for breakfast and begged for another!  I even tried one and they were surprisingly moist.  The only thing:  I really missed either raisins or walnuts.  So if I was to make these again, I'd add one of those things. 

Next time--pumpkin muffins.  I've got a HUGE can of pumpkin puree to use up!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Today I'm 30-something.  Ok.....33.  With a sick husband and being preggo, it hasn't been exactly the bday that I thought it would be, but decent nonetheless.  Instead of heading out to a fancy-pants dinner with my husband sans kids, I cooked frozen stuffed chicken breasts with brown sugar sweet potatoes.  These were a little different, stuffed with brie and apple.  For frozen, they were delish!  And I used brown-sugar-Splenda blend on the potatoes and didn't even notice the difference.   My parents came to help out a bit during the day, Mom came to the grocery store with me because I can't handle going alone with the sciatica.   Dad stayed behind to play with Will and give Brian a break.   Plus they brought me a birthday cake.  :)  I opened some lovely presents this morning, including a Wii game and a brand new Droid cellphone.  And TA DA!!!!!  The Cake Doctor's newest cookbook!

I'm totally drooling over the recipes.  I'm like Pavlov's dog, salivating in excitement!  I'm actually having a difficult time choosing which one to make first.   Perhaps tomorrow, while being snowed in, I'll try my hand at one of them.  Can't wait!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Eggnog Cookies

I'm headed to a Cookie Swap tomorrow night, and I've baked Eggnog Cookies.  I LOVE cookie swaps....maybe next year I'll host one.

I had an Ornament Swap party at my house last week for my knitting group.   Everyone brought either a dessert or an appetizer to share, and one lady brought these delectable Eggnog Cookies.  They were so good, and I thought that they were something different instead of the usual stuff you see at a Cookie Swap.  I baked them last night, and I just ran out of steam before I could frost them.  So tonight it's frosting, and then I'll drizzle them with a little melted chocolate.  I'm craving them already!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookie Time is Here Again!!!

It's that time again.......Christmas Cookies!  I came home from work on Friday and thought it would be a fun activity for Will and I to make some cookies together.  I'll be the first to say that this wasn't one of my "better" ideas!

Let's start with the traditional Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies!  Why those first?  Because the dough has to chill out in the fridge for a while and you can make something else while that occurs.  Though just reading that last sentence, I have to laugh.  Making more cookies while the dough is chilling.....HA HA HA HA HA!!!  What a chore when a toddler is helping!  Will added extra salt, and poured an entire cup of flour onto the kitchen floor.  Luckily, I was able to remove most of the additional salt with the help of a spoon.   By the time we mixed up the dough in the Kitchenaid and put it in the fridge, two hours of chilling put it way past bedtime.  I made the executive decision  to let the dough chill overnight and I would bake the cookies on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning....no go.  Instead, I had a hair appointment and knocked out most of the rest of my Christmas shopping.  (Made record time in Target with getting ALL my gifts and getting checked out in less than an hour, thankyouverymuch!)  I finally got around to cutting out the cookies and baking them Saturday evening in time for Bubby to go to bed.  On to Sunday....

Sunday we had a birthday party to go to about forty miles away.  We had intentions of going out to dinner, but Will fell asleep in the car and there was NO way I was waking him up and taking his grumpy alter-ego into an eating establishment.  It just wouldn't be fair to the other patrons, not to mention terrible for us.  :)  So here we are.....mixing up frosting and decorating cookies at 7pm on Sunday.  And then....cookie-decorating lost out in the toddler popularity contest to the Dora the Explorer Holiday Special!  Ahhh.......I managed to stretch out ONE batch of cookie-making into three days!  Well, I did say that we were cutting back on the baking this year, and it's more enjoyable to stretch it out, right?

Tomorrow....Brian's favorite:  Coconut Macaroons!

(cross-posted at Life in the Carpool Lane.)

"Julie and Julia": a Review

Last night my mom came over for dinner (rosemary-orange pork chops) and we watched "Julie and Julia" on DVD.  I had seen the previews over the summer and it had seemed intriguing.

It was so much more than that!  I thought it was a lovely story, with two "movies" in one.  The first "movie" was Julia Child's story, with her getting her start in France in 1949 and the things that she went through to get that cookbook published.  Meryl Streep really had Julia Child down....sounding and looking just like her!  The second "movie" was about a down-on-her-luck writer, trying to make some magic for herself and have something to work on and motivate her while working at a customer-service government job.  With the help of her husband, she decides to cook her way through Julia Child's "The Art of Mastering French Cooking."  This is based on a true story and the results are warm and satisfying. 

Now....as an aside, I have never eaten much French cuisine.  But dare I say....I came out of the movie craving mushroom cream sauce, boeuf borginon and duck pastry.  I saw pounds of butter as sinfully delicious and actually wondered if hollandaise is actually that difficult to make.  Julia Child......you've made me WANT French food!! 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cider Vinegar Chicken

It appears that after putting this on our menu for two straight weeks and not making it, that we are ready to try some new recipes again.

This one is out of Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats cookbook.  I came home from massage therapy (damn pregnancy-induced sciatica!)  and smelled this at the door.  Immediately my mind was confused....it smelled very strongly of vinegar, and I originally thought it was meatloaf.  Realizing it was chicken when I walked into the kitchen, my heart sank.  With that much vinegar (which I like) the flavor was bound to be too strong.

Wrong!!  This chicken was perfect.  Very moist, light vinegar taste, and had the BEST onions smothered in with it.   They were sauteed with honey.  I'd never put those two ingredients together on my own but man, were they good. 

This one is definitely a keeper.  :)  Looking forward to leftovers tomorrow!

Monday, December 7, 2009

In Preparation of Holiday Dinner...

...Brian informed me the other day that our lazy susan is just that:  lazy.  Our cabinets are SOOOO full that the damn thing won't turn anymore.  Our snack cabinet by the fridgeis bursting at the seams.  So, in honor of Christmas dinner (which is how he put it) we need to do some weeding out.

I found a cranberry-orange bread mix on the lazy susan due to expire on 12/28.  Baked that quick last night, and Will's having it for breakfast with the last of the  banana cheerios, so I could get rid of the bulky box.  I'm making Salsa Bean Dip for the Knitting Party I'm having on Wednesday night here at the house.  (Hey----no jokes about knitting, we DO know how to have a good time) The dip will take care of a can each of black beans, black-eyed peas and corn.  I made soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for Brian for lunch yesterday, so we're finally out of soup.  And Will has enough Easy-Mac to get him through the Apocalypse.  A few things I don't know what do to with:  three cans of beef broth, a can of pineapple chunks and more cake mixes than I can name.  I tend to go a little crazy when cake mix is on sale because of the Cake Mix Doctor.  I've asked for her new book for Christmas though, and plan on living a little after the baby is born and diabetes is a thing of the past. 

What do you do when your kitchen is about to explode with overabundance and you can't fit any more?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December: Snowy and....Balmy?

Last Thursday (Dec 3rd) was a record-breaking 66 degrees!!  We had company for dinner, and decided to abandon our pork chop recipe in favor of barbecue pork chops and potato packets on the grill.  Grilling in December.....ah delicious!  :)  Today, just a couple of days later, it's snowing and we're all about the Greek-Style Shrimp Scampi!  There's nothing like a big plate of pasta on a night like this. (and the lower carb one that I bought, "Dreamfields," actually tastes pretty good and doesn't make me miss regular spaghetti too much)

In the spirit of the season, Will and I are going to a friend's house tomorrow for a cookie-baking playdate.  I can't wait!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Quick Weekend Sandwich

This past weekend was full of hustle and bustle that only the Holiday Season can bring!  Sunday afternoon I knew that I needed to eat something before trekking to Walmart with Will.  (Especially if I didn't want a repeat of the low blood sugar episode from the day before...but I did get to have a glass of juice because of it)  Open the fridge.  Stick my tongue out at everything in there.  Open it again, hoping something new has materialized inside, just to be disappointed that nothing has.  That trick never works!! 

Time to get creative.  So I sliced up a Golden Delicious apple and some leftover onion from the beef stew cooking on the counter.  Sauteed them together on medium heat with a little cooking spray.  I added a sprinkle of cinnamon, dash of rosemary and a spoonful of minced garlic.  Lastly, I sliced up the remainder of the Thanksgiving white meat turkey and added it to the pan at the end, since it just needed to be warmed a little.  Threw the whole mix onto a flour tortilla and topped with Monterey Jack cheese.  Oh my God!!!!  Not only did it come together quickly, it was sooooooo good!  I was wishing that there was more when the sandwich was finished.  If only all spontaneous kitchen creations were this good.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chilly Sundays call for Beef Stew

Late November=crockpot beef stew!! 

After all the Thanksgiving leftovers the past couple of days, I'm ready to cook again.  I only make this once or twice a year.  Although it is a slow cooker recipe, it involves a lot of prepwork.  Chopping vegetables, boiling and peeling pearl onions, sauteeing stew beef, sweating chopped onion and garlic in butter  (which is one of the best smells in the world, by the way.)  My sink is always filled with dirty dishes once the crockpot is full.  But the savory aroma of beef stew slowly simmering all day brings its own reward at dinnertime.  Add some biscuits, corn muffins or garlic toast and it's DONE!  Plus, beef stew is one of those things that are even better the next day, and the day after.  I'm hungry already, just thinking about it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pie: A Family Affair!

After work today, Brian and I set out to bake three pies and a cheesecake.  Of course, Will was happy to offer some assistance!  After a frozen Newman's Own pizza for dinner (which isn't a bad idea since you have to start up the oven anyway) we moved on to the desserts.

First the coconut custard pie and the cheesecake.  This coconut custard pie is Brian's absolute favorite and a simple Bisquick recipe.  You've got to appreciate a pie recipe that starts in a blender!  (no-fuss cleanup)  We always put waaayyyy more coconut in it than it actually calls for, and the rest Brian eats right out of the bag.  If they had a coconut addiction program, I would recommend my husband for its Twelve Steps.  The cheesecake is a recipe out of Kraft Foods this month, but their version called for a 13x9 pan.  Since we're bringing three other pies to my parents, we altered another cheesecake recipe at the Philadelphia Cream Cheese site.  Later on we'll top it with caramel sauce and cocktail peanuts.  Mmmm.......




Will begged to help with the pumpkin pie, so I let him mix up the sugar and spices, and then help stir the milk into the pumpkin mix.  As you can see, he loved helping us out in the kitchen.  Now that he's three, he's VERY interested in kitchen stuff!




Happy Thanksgiving from our Family to yours!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nesting, already?

I'm only 31 weeks in, and I already feel like filling my freezer.  I seem to remember LAST TIME when my nesting tendencies leaned towards restocking the linen closet so we wouldn't run out of a single thing while I was on maternity leave.  I was super-organized and obsessed over it, making lists of things that we each use, and making a special trip to Target to purchase enough soap, shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant to last til Doomsday.  If this is indeed "nesting tendencies" (which I still think is too early) then I'd say that filling the freezer with goodies is far more productive.  That's not to say that the first few week's of this child's life won't be filled with plenty of takeout!  :) 

I made Turkey Eggplant Casserole last week.  This casserole, by the way, is one of the few throwbacks from when I did Weight Watchers several years ago that I still like.  However, I'm the only person in the house that likes it, so when you bake a 13 x 9 pan of it, you have to freeze some.  I pulled a bag out for lunch this week, and cooked some rice to go with it.  I had also made Chocolate Zucchini Muffins for Will a couple of weeks ago and froze a few.  So now there's one defrosting for him in the fridge for tomorrow's breakfast.  I still love how he thinks he's getting this big treat, while Daddy and I know that he's also getting some green veggie! 

I'm thinking of finding some more casserole recipes, or stirfries.  Anybody got any suggestions for stuff that tastes good AND freezes well?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pie Time!

It's Friday night before Thanksgiving, folks.  And I'm making our grocery list and weekly menu.  Time to think about pie!!  Mmm....pie.  :)

Thanksgiving is traditionally at my parents house, and we bring pies.  We're a small family, but that doesn't stop us from bringing like four pies.  I absolutely, thoroughly hatehatehate the grocery store the day or so before Thanksgiving.  It is so much worse than right before a New England snowstorm, with people hoarding bread and milk, running around like this storm is going to be the end-all of humanity as we know it! 

As I've mentioned before, I am not a fan of rolling out piecrust.  I just don't have the patience for it.  Brian enjoys it, it's something he remembers doing with his Dad and brothers when he was a kid.  Brian comes from a large extended family, so making pies for the Thanksgiving dinner (which consists of 50+ people!)  was serious business.  However, in recent years we've agreed to switch to the Pillsbury roll-up stuff in the interest of saving time.  Typically we bring an apple pie, pumpkin pie and Brian's favorite, coconut custard.  Actually, two coconut custard pies are usually baked, and Brian cuts into the first one for breakfast.  :) 

Gestational diabetes aside....I have to have some pie.  It's just not Thanksgiving without pie, sorry.  I've dodged sweets for the last month and didn't eat any pie at the Thanksgiving event that my job put on this week.  I'm breathlessly, anxiously anticipating that sweet, spicy pumpkin as it hits my lips.  Mmmmmm........I'll savor it so much more this year!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A "Real" Hot Dog.

Yesterday, it was nap time after a trip to BJ's and Will was fighting me.  He cried and said he was hungry (though we had just had lunch at Moe's) and was begging for a hot dog.  I got him settled in bed with a lullaby and the boy who said he didn't need a nap ended up snoozing for three hours.  However, when he got up, he was still asking for a hot dog.

Will's been eating hot dogs for some time now.  I usually broil one in the toaster oven, cut it into pieces to make him less likely to choke on it, serve with a little mac and cheese and a dollop of ketchup.  He didn't want that.  He wanted a whole hot dog on an actual bun, and made it crystal clear that only THAT would suffice. 

So I caved, and made him a hot dog, complete with bun.  ("I want MUSTARD, Mommy!  NOT Ketchup!")  I nervously put it on the table and sat right next to him while he ate it.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  Apparently, in Will's world, a "real hot dog" is just the bun.  Every speck of roll was eaten, leaving a whole hot dog on the plate at the end!  I said "Don't you want some of the meat???"  "No, I like the bun!" 

Next time I'll be sure to just squirt some yellow mustard on a hot dog bun and let him have at it!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lazy Weekend Banana Cake

Since I find myself with a weekend with no set plans (unheard of!!) I decided I would do what I felt like doing.  I was flipping through my recipe notebook and found a recipe for Banana Chocolate Brunch Cake.  I believe it's a Cooking Light recipe, though I could not tell you from which issue.  (It was years ago, I'm sure.)  I discovered four bananas on their way out, so it seems like a good time to use them up, no?  (We never can get through a whole bunch of bananas!)  I did modify the recipe a little bit this time, instead of regular brown sugar I decided to give Brown Sugar Baking Blends from Splenda a whirl.  I also used semi-sweet chocolate chips in the recipe.  Enjoy!


Chocolate Banana Brunch Cake


2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 c. mashed banana (3 large bananas)
1/4 c. milk
1 lg egg
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped/divided OR 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Stir with wire whisk.
3.  Combine banana, milk and egg until well-blended.  Add banana mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.  Fold in chocolate.  Bake @ 350 for 35 minutes.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Diabetes Review

I love cookbooks, and I have an extensive collection.  Some of my favorites I've talked about before, like the Joy of Cooking.  (or "The Bible" as we refer to it.) 

Since being diagnosed with gestational diabetes again, I've done some homework.  I requested three diabetes cookbooks from the local library.  And well....I've pretty much been disappointed in most of what they had to offer.  One of them I've already returned and I don't remember its name. 

Anyway, that first one....totally filled with crap food.  I'm not a picky eater by any means, ask anyone who knows me!  But this stuff just didn't sound like things I would find myself making.  The second one I nicknamed "Diabetes for the Pretentious Palate."  Total junk!  One recipe was for "tomato water" which they said was a slimming soup.  They further added that "presentation is everything in this recipe."  Yeah....that's because presentation is all you have!  It was chopped tomato, basil chiffonate and evian water.  Yes, you read that correctly.  EVIAN WATER.  I stink at being pretentious. 

The third book was the most promising.  I've already made a Szechuan Pork Stirfry that was delicious.  I've never though of using pork tenderloin in a stirfry, but it's perfect.  I substituted a bag of frozen stirfry veggies instead of all that chopping on a weeknight.  This Saturday we're going to try another new recipe...duck breast with orange sauce.  Sounds enticing. 

One thing I've noted is that on a lower-carb diet, breakfast ideas are hard to come by.  And I'm getting kind of tired of eggs and egg sandwiches.  I'd love some suggestions if anyone has any!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sharing is Caring :)

I was cutting up an apple to have with some chunky peanut butter last night before I headed to an appointment, dinner would be quite late.  Will saw me and begged for some apple.  I am of course ALWAYS happy to oblige when he's asking for fruit!  We each took our respective bowls and headed into the family room. 

A few minutes later, I'm spreading peanut butter on my apple...Will comes up to me with his empty bowl and eyes my apple.  He spins his bowl onto the computer desk and looks longingly at my apple... "More apple, please?"  It's the same with milk, if I'm drinking a glass of milk, even if he has milk of his own, he wants mine! 

If I was looking to diet (not at this time) this might be a decent way to do it.  :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pantry Staples

Years ago, Cooking Light ran an article about "The Well-Stocked Pantry."  I still remember this article well, and learned a lot about keeping certain foods on hand.  Most nights, your dinner is only as good as your stocked pantry.  Because, who wants to start EVERY meal with a trip to the grocery store?


Here are a few staples in our house: 


Canned Tomatoes.  I try to have several cans of tomatoes, all different kinds.  Stewed, crushed, diced....and sometimes I get them with the spices mixed in.  A can of diced tomato with green chiles added to sliced kielbasa, onion and peppers made a speedy dinner over rice tonight.  And there's leftovers for tomorrow!  Canned tomatoes also make a quick pasta sauce or chili base too.

Chicken Broth.  LOTS of recipes need chicken broth, sometimes even just a couple of spoonfuls to moisten something.  It makes for a quick soup base too, though I don't cook soup a whole lot.

Dried Pasta and frozen meatballs.  Need I say more?  This is a go-to dinner whenever we have NO idea what to cook!

Soy sauce and jarred minced ginger.  When the mood for Asian inspired cuisine hits.  I absolutely abhor peeling fresh ginger, plus I never seem to use up what I buy.  This helps me waste a lot less. 

What are some go-to ingredients that you always have on hand?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Leftover City!

Apparently, as far as leftovers are concerned around here, it's feast or famine.

Last week was really meager, nothing much to take for lunch at work.  I'm not a sandwich fan, so it's usually whatever we had the night before.  I ate out twice last week, which I try hard not to do.  This week?  It's Sunday night, and here's what's in the fridge:

Chicken Cacciatore (from the crockpot)
Steak Fajitas
a pan of lasagna
a couple of slices of pizza from Thursday Night Dinner with our friends
a big tub of white rice
a big bag of rolls

The chicken cacciatore and lasagna are from Will's family birthday party yesterday.  (p.s.  he didn't have any of either, preferring to eat a cereal bar and then birthday cake instead)  When making the lasagna for my guests, I realized that I had waaay more meat mixture and ricotta mixture than could possibly fit in the 9x13 pan!  On a whim I quickly grabbed a second smaller pan and made a mini version.  I tried to send some home with people but my parents forgot it in the fridge, along with a little bag of rolls I had packed for them.  Oops.  Now I'm wondering...can you freeze lasagna?  (Not that I'm really good at eating frozen stuff from the freezer like that.  I recently found blueberries from February in there!)

So it's good eating in our house this week.  Hope I don't have to throw away too much of it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frying Chicken

Fried chicken.......love it!  It's one of those things that I don't make very often AT ALL because it's so bad for you.  Apparently though, I need a refresher class.   I don't own a deep fryer because honestly, I'd get such little use out of it that it's not worth it.  So we pan-fry.   Last time, the chicken was reallllly dark on the outside, and raw on the inside so it was an IPN.  (Instant Pizza Night)  Tonight, the outside was done but Brian put it back into the oil because it had a big pink spot in the middle.   That, and it just lacked flavor.  A big case of the Blahs..... Perhaps someone has some tips or a source to share for fried chicken help?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Surprise Party

Last night was my Dad's surprise 60th birthday party.  Our family got there early to help out.  Guess what......Dad was already there!!  He had come home early from a trip and found Mom making lasagna.  "Oh!  Is that for me??"  Then, looking around the room, "Wow, there's a lot of food in here.  What's going on?"  He was truly surprised.  :)

The lasagna was excellent as always, and my brother and his wife brought fresh Porutguese rolls...they were incredible!  Mom also made a Rachael Ray pasta dish that she called "Chicken Riggies."  It was peppers, onions, tomato, spice, chicken, and of course, rigatoni.  I had a big ol' plate of those and was sure to bring home leftovers!  There was also an awesome dessert buffet with carrot cake whoopie pies, apple crisp, brownies and much more.  We contributed by making a Warm Pumpkin Pudding Cake, and a layered taco dip.  The dip, as always, went really fast!  The dessert was a really easy cake to make, and it makes your house smell so incredible, the cake almost didn't make it to the party!

One of the surprises of the evening was how much Will pigged out!  Cheese, crackers, banana, Portuguese roll, three mini-cupcakes, a little vanilla ice cream and.....black olives.  Yes....very surprising!  Kim and I made up the salad and I put the black olives in a little dish on the side.  My mother, who adores black olives, asked why they weren't in the salad.  I told her it was because not everyone likes them, and this way people can add them if they like them.  Black olives are on the short list of things I'm not crazy about.  Actually, I'm not a fan of olives, period.  If they're sliced over a pizza, I'll just perservere instead of taking them off.  Anyway, Will grabbed a couple out of the bowl and stuffed them into his mouth.  He made a bitter face and I stuck out my napkin and told him that it was ok to spit them out.  His answer??  "NO, Mommy, I love them!"  Case closed.  I find that he's very adventurous at parties, and luckily, we have a lot of celebrations to attend!

All in all, it was a very successful party.  Happy 60th, Dad!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Weeknight Stir-fry

I don't know why we don't eat more stir-fry.  They're quick and easy to make and they're pretty versatile.  Last night's Chicken and Spinach Stir-fry was out of this world!  Chicken breast, spinach, sliced onion, fresh garlic, ginger, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds....all of it came together nicely over a bed of white rice.  I'm only sad that there's no leftovers for lunch today!

You don't really need a recipe for a stir-fry per se, but this recipe came from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."  This is a great cookbook if you like simple, delicious food.  I don't use it too much because I tend to forget that we have it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend Eats

I planned a lot of cooking this weekend, but I didn't get to all of it.  The best laid plans....right?

Saturday was "National Pancake Day," so we celebrated with a dutch baby.  What's that, you say?  It's a puffy pancake that you cook in the oven in a cast-iron skillet.  They're awesome, especially with strawberry jelly!  Happy Pancake Day from our family to yours.  :)

I made the two loaves of Apple Bread, as well as the apple pie and chili on Friday night.  Then I just petered out....and put off anything else that I felt like making.  The apple bread was the best-smelling apple bread ever!  Such a heavy mix though....you couldn't even pour it from the mixing bowl to the loaf pan.  The apple pie was out of this world!!!  I've made many apple pies, and I still think the one from "The Joy of Cooking" is the best.  It was so good, Brian and I had it with coffee for breakfast this morning.    And the chili was of course great, with plenty of leftovers for Saturday and Sunday lunch.  (I just love a meal with lots of leftovers!) 

So...no chicken soup just yet.  But there's chicken and apple tacos for dinner!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ambitious Weekend (to be)

It's Friday!!!! 

All of the applesauce and apple crisp ios gone, so I need to make some more stuff.  Not that that gigantic bowl of apples doesn't look pretty as a centerpiece on my dining room table! 

I asked my friends on Facebook what we should make next and I got some great answers.  One person suggested apple fritters.  Now, I had no idea what an apple fritter was so I went to look it up.  Awesome!  Anything generally fried in butter is good in my book!  My old friend Kathy sent me an apple bread recipe that she swears is out of this world.  It makes two loaves so I'm going to give it a shot tonight and freeze one.  Maybe some more applesauce. (though I'll definitely be peeling the apples this time!)  And we're celebrating both my mom and my dad's birthdays tomorrow, and my dad's absolute favorite dessert is apple pie.  I bought some refrigerated piecrust to make that as well.

Add that to the homemade chili we're going to have tonight (thank goodness the weather is nice and cool for that, FINALLY!) and the soup that I want to make on Sunday, it's going to be an adventurous culinary weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Banana Muffins

With all of the apple-ing going on, I forgot to mention the banana pecan muffins from over the weekend. 

Brian has taken on the grocery shopping until the baby's born because with sciatica, it's just too much for me to go.  Those hard floors really take it out of me and render me useless for the rest of the day, so Thanks Brian!  :)  Anyway, every week, Brian buys bananas at the grocery store.  And every week, there are two bananas left from the week before.  Now, I hate to waste food.  But a lot of weeks go by and I end up throwing out these hangers-on because I simply lack the energy to bake something with 'em.  I was already moving around the kitchen this weekend like a house afire, so hence the banana muffins.  They're really mild-tasting, not like the banana bread that I usually make.  One thing though--the recipe said that it yields 12 standard size muffins.  Not so...I filled the large muffin pan, and then followed up with 18 mini muffins!  Will was in his glory...he loves mini-muffins!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Apple Crisp

When picking the apples this weekend, this dessert is what I had in mind.  Now, I had made a peach cobbler over the summer and I just wasn't happy with the biscuit topping.  Too bland!  Here is what I was looking for....sugary, sweet and delicious.



There really is no recipe to post, because I combined two separate recipes.  I will tell you that it contains Cortland apples, flour, brown sugar, lemon juice, pecans and maple syrup.  I also never realized that Cortland apples are so HARD!!  Getting our apple cutter through them was no easy task.  And I really hate peeling apples.  I know it's worth it and all, but it stinks.  It made me lust after one of those "unitasker" devices that you usually see advertised on TV, that cranks an apple or a potato and cores and peels at the same time.  But this house doesn't believe in Unitaskers, thanks to A.B.!

We were pretty full from our dinner of Apple-Stuffed Chicken Breasts, so Brian and I couldn't manage more than a small serving.  And the only ice cream we had in the house to top it was Cookies n Cream.  Interestingly enough, it really added something.  Or maybe that's the pregnancy hormones talking.  :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hooray for Homemade Applesauce

Later on Sunday night, I pulled out "The Bible"  (aka Joy of Cooking) to see what apple recipes were inside.  Eureka!  Homemade applesauce!




I remember making applesauce in fourth grade for a school presentation.  I also remember it not being that difficult.  "The Bible" confirmed my thoughts.  According to the Joy of Cooking, applesauce really shines when you make it with 2-3 different kinds of apples.  I chose some Cortlands and McIntoshes from the bags.  Also, it said that peeling was optional.  After cutting and peeling Cortlands for Apple Crisp, I was all about not peeling them!!  Next is simmering them on the stove with a little cider for 20 minutes.  Done.  Add some sweetener. either 1/2 cup sugar or some honey.  I opted for sugar, but my kitchen was such a disaster, I didn't have any more measuring cups.  So I did a Rachael Ray and "eyeballed it."  Adding some spices next.  I whacked at the apples with a potato masher (love those multitaskers!) and then realized that the sauce needed to go through a sieve to get rid of the peels.  Brian and I tried and tried....we pushed as much sauce through an old colander as we could.  The end result?  Delicious and soooo satisfying.  It certainly beats the pants off the jarred kind!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Apple-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I must first say, this is NOT a weeknight dinner.  It takes a bit of time for sure.  It was so delicious, I am thrilled to have leftovers for the week!


Here is the link for the Apple-Stuffed Chicken Breasts.  We also made one change, we did not grill as it was 8pm on a Sunday night.  Instead, they were baked in a 400-degree oven for 25 minutes.  Brian was also concerned that they'd fall apart on the grill and I think he's right...


Brian stuffing the pounded chicken with the apple mixture.



Toothpicked together and ready for the oven.



The finished product....with an apple cider sauce.  The rice was good for sopping up the sauce!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Our Own Personal Applefest


We went apple picking today!  I hadn't been since I was a little kid, and I honestly don't remember it.  The place was super-crowded with a folk festival, but we managed to fill up two bags with Cortland, Gala and McIntosh apples.  Will LOVED his first experience in picking apples, and thought it was super-cool that his parents let him pull an apple off a tree and take a big bite out of it.  We loaded our bounty into the car, and Will promptly conked out as we left the parking lot.  Momma wasn't too far behind, dreaming of apple crisp.  After a short nap at home, it was time to start cooking.

Tonight's apple items were Apple-Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Fresh Applesauce and Apple Crisp.  Oh yes!!  The chicken was out-of-this-world good, and fresh applesauce beats the pants out of the jarred stuff.  I'll put recipes in a separate post.

One funny thing to mention is that we put all of the apples (still in the bags) on the dining room table when we got home.  They ended up falling over and some rolled onto the floor, scaring our dog.  Hilarious to watch!!  Will tried to help out but found a Gala apple and decided to take a bite.  I asked "Do you want some sliced apple, honey?"  Yes!  I went into the kitchen to slice it  for him, and before I can start I hear another "Crunch!"  Apparently, we made a monster out of him at the orchard!  This is how we help Mommy clean up the spilled apples...gotta eat them all.  :) 

No chicken soup this weekend, or anything pumpkin-y.  I left the Rachael Ray mag at work by accident and really want to make "that" soup.  And once I got apples on the brain, there was no room for pumpkin.  So another day, the fall season is just starting!

Friday, September 18, 2009

In Season....

It's time. 

Another reason for fall being my favorite time of the year....pumpkin!  Ohhhhh how I love pumpkin.  And I know some friends of mine that are hopelessly addicted this time of year.  I made a rare stop at Starbucks this morning, and their pumpkin line is out!  I'd already had my caffeine quota for the day so no pumpkin lattes.  I "settled" for a pumpkin cream cheese muffin.  Awesome!  The pumpkin flavor was so fresh, and the cream cheese filling ...oh!  Happiness.

This weekend we're taking Will to go apple picking.  I know that I went as a little kid but don't remember, so I can call it my "first" too.  I've heard that apple crops are fantastic this year.  When we were at the Woodstock Fair, there was an apple crisp booth.  They were cutting the apples and topping them right there...and it smelled so good.  Had I not already set my sights on a funnel cake, I would've had some. 

Another thing I've liked lately that's "in season" again is soup.  I have not made a homemade soup in a very long time, but I think I might this weekend.  The new Rachael Ray mag is out and there is a fantastic-looking chicken and orzo soup that's calling my name.  I'll let you know how it turns out!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Food and Dreams

Why are dreams so suggestive??  I dreamt about english muffins with peanut butter.  I don't even really LIKE peanut butter all that much.  I mean, once in a while it's ok.  I'm never going to be the kind of person that can stick a spoon in the jar and take a mouthful..  But this morning....I want peanut butter!!  And apples.  Luckily we have both and that's some semblance of healthy. 

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Burger-Mania!

Neither Brian nor I felt like cooking last night, so we took Will to our favorite burger place...Red Robin!!  They have the best, most original burgers and Will's always up for a burger for dinner.  Though he likes to eat the bun from the top and only gets a bit of meat, but at least he's eating....pick your battles!

It's always hard to choose one from the menu.  I really like their Banzai burger, which has a ring of grilled fresh pineapple.  Or the Mushroom Swiss burger with the roasted garlic sauce, love that one too.  Brian likes the "Royal Red," which has a fried egg on top.  It sounded kind of funky, but I tried a bite once and it is good.  Brian's the one that introduced me to the "Elvis Burger," a burger with only bacon and chunky peanut butter.  At first I thought the idea was disgusting, but don't knock it till you've tried it!

We have NEVER ordered an appetizer or dessert at Red Robin.  The burgers are huge, and the portions of fresh steak fries are phenomenal as well.  But I poked around the menu a little longer last night and saw that they have chili.  Mmmm......I could really go for some chili.  Then I saw it.....a chili burger!  It's served open-faced and you have to eat it with a knife and fork because of how messy it can get.  BAM, Best of both worlds!!!  It was soooooo good but I couldn't eat it all, despite my best efforts.

So there you have it....all three of us happy at the same meal.  Practically unheard of!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Italian Class

We got a catalog in the mail last week for night classes at the public schools in the next town over. Classes yes, but not typical high school fare. Stuff like crochet, Spanish language, and cooking!

I should mention that though I write the blog, Brian is a fabulous cook as well. He's signing up for a six-week Italian cooking class!! Pastas, meats and Italian desserts! He can't wait to learn, and I can't wait to benefit from his new skills! :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Autumn's a Comin'

It's the end of summer. What a short, cruddy summer it's been this year. First nothing but rain, and then like two straight weeks of ultra-hot weather. You know, the kind that you don't want to cook ANYTHING, just park on the couch and wish for someone to make dinner. This weekend has been a change, with cool, almost chilly air and a lot of rain. Is Autumn coming early??

I'm already dreaming of cooler-weather fare, like Shepherd's Pie, chili and apple dumplings. Actually, I've never made an apple dumpling but they certainly look delicious!

What are some of your favorite autumn foods?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

*CRUNCH*

After a dinner of cheesesteaks and tater-tots (Monday night dinners are usually pretty easy in this house) we ventured out to pick up my books at the library and then to Friendly's for ice cream. This was my third attempt in going to the library to get my books, their hours have been cut for budget reasons. Off to Friendly's!!

Will's not crazy about ice cream, which is just foreign to me. But we were at the carry-out window and he said he wanted a chocolate one. I didn't want to get him his own, because I knew he wouldn't eat it. So I asked him to share "his with me" and he readily agreed. I ordered a vanilla and m-n-m Friend-Z, which I didn't really want but hey, Moms are making sacrifices all the time! We brought them back to the house, and I put some in a cup for Will. Yeah, he didn't eat it. He decided that it was more exciting to let it turn to soup. So I started eating....and promptly stopped. I wasn't aware that MnM's freeze in ice cream! Ouch!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Peaches n Cream

Yes, it's another post about peaches. Summer's almost over, and they won't be around much longer so I have to get as much out of them as I can! (and I found a peach salsa recipe last night so that's probably next)

I bought peaches to bake a pie last weekend and they were taking FOREVER to ripen. They're also huge, I have no idea why they were so big last week compared to every other week. Well, New England is in the midst of a heatwave. It's been a sticky, gross 90+ degrees for the past three days. Not exactly baking weather! But I realized last night that the peaches were starting to turn, so it was heat be damned: I'm baking!

This peach cream pie came together pretty well with a frozen piecrust. (Yeah, I don't roll piecrust!) The baking part was interesting, you baked it at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, then turned the oven down to 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Then you pulled out the pie, sprinkled on the crumb topping, and baked it at 400 for an additional ten minutes.

it wasn't cooled off enough to have for dessert. But it just proves what I've always known to be true: a slice of pie and a cup of coffee makes an excellent breakfast!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Peach Doesn't Get Away this time....

It happened again! I bought a bunch of peaches to make that pie that I was talking about. I even got some tips from friends on how to keep them from spoiling. Two of them didn't make it, and I ended up being short for the pie. So instead there's a peach cobbler in the oven. I was going to make it peach and raspberry, but the berries got moldy before I could use them, too. (Maybe it's just me!)

The cobbler comes from my favorite cookbook of all time, The Joy of Cooking. I have not made a cobbler in a very long time, but I have to say that they are really, really easy! (Waaayyyyyyy easier than pie. Though I stopped rolling my own piecrust a long time ago, I just get too frustrated. Brian's really good at piecrust, that's why he's in charge of Thanksgiving pies!)

This particular recipe has a biscuit topping instead of a crumb topping. I had never tried making biscuit topping, but I think I like crumb topping better. Crumb is sweeter, while the biscuit topping is more savory. Either way, it still smells awesome as it's baking!



Pitting and slicing, then arranging them into a pan. I'll admit it...a couple of slices didn't make it to the dish. :)

Mixing the biscuit dough. I LOVE my stand mixer, one of the best Christmas presents ever!


Dropping spoonfuls of biscuit dough over the peaches. It doesn't get any easier than this!


The recipe said to bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees. I checked it at 35 and decided that that was "golden brown" enough. Any longer and it would've gone from cobbler to "crisp." (Ha ha)




The finished product!



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Crockpot Creations

Any serious crockpot users out there? I'm looking to take more advantage of this nifty appliance. I don't see too many recipes out there that both Brian and I (and rarely, Will) will eat. Brian's not a fan of beans of any kind.

I like to make a sweet and sour chicken thigh recipe in the crockpot, and my mom makes a really mean fudge cake. But that's about the extent of my crockpot experience. It's definitely something I want to improve on. I love the idea of "put the ingredients in, ignore it for 5-7 hours and then BAM! Dinner is on the table. Very appealing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Things Can Be Disappointing...

Though I write a menu still every week, we've been rotating the same meals over and over. So being in a rut, I pulled out the newest copy of "Taste of Home" for inspiration. My eye caught an article about cheap pasta dinners, so I put the recipe for "Lemon Chicken Tortellini" on the menu.

SO Disappointing! It had all the ingredients to sound successful....chicken, frozen tortellini, red pepper, baby spinach, lemon zest.... The problem was the sauce. I usually let Brian make any homemade sauces, because they are not my forte. This one was a butter and chicken broth sauce, and you thicken it with flour like a white sauce. Well, the recipe called for 1/3 c. flour. Brian whisked it in and was immediately sorry that he had. Upon tasting, I thought there would be a pleasant burst of lemon and a bit of kick from the red pepper seasoning. Nah........bland as the glue on an envelope seal. :( Needless to say, our garbage disposal ate well tonight. I guess if I'm hungry later I can always make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Favorite Hot-Day Treats

On ridiculously hot days, I like to make milkshakes. Just some ice cream from the freezer, a little milk and a few dollops of Hershey's Syrup. Coffee milkshakes for me and Will today!

Another one of my favorites is what Applebee's deems a "fizzer." Raspberry syrup, lemon-lime soda and some fresh lime to boot. Oh boy, do I love limes!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Garden Update (aka Name that Bug)

---Sadly, my zucchini plants have kicked the bucket. I'm not sure if it was the ravaging rainstorms or if I planted them too close to the shed. I did get three or four zucchinis before they died. Considering the plethora that I had last year that I had to find people to take it off my hands, I'm not all that disappointed. I'm really the only person in the house that eats it. Will only eats it clandestinely. Usually in some form of chocolate baked goods!

---Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes! I have lots of grape tomatoes! The only thing I've come up with for grape tomatoes is to put them into a salad. I'm going to have plenty of plum (Roma) tomatoes when they turn red though, and those are good in a variety of things. And there's two regular tomato plants....salsa here we come! I also have been hankering for a tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella sandwich on ciabatta bread, like we used to make at the coffee shop I worked at in college.

---Tons of herbs. Especially oregano. I'm not sure just yet what I'm going to do with all of it.

---Cucumbers! I'd say I have a dozen sprouting. I love cucumber. I find that they work really well in an Asian Steak Stir-Fry with red peppers, onion and a homemade stir-fry sauce. (Great, now I want that too!) Though I find a slice of cucumber with just a sprinkle of salt is quite good, too. And I recently had a slice or two of cucumber in a glass of water at a spa.....different than lemon and definitely refreshing.

Tonight, Brian was pulling some tomatoes and he noticed this weirdo catepillar thing. I have NO idea what it was, but being a total bugophobe, it creeped me out!! It had a face almost like a parrakeet, and Brian had a difficult time removing it from the tomato vine. It was the exact same color as the vine, so he missed it at first. Anyone know what it is?? Email me if you do.






Sunday, August 9, 2009

Just Peachy

What is it about peaches?? You buy them at the grocery store and they're rock solid! You set them out to ripen, come back in two days and they are so moldy/slimy that there's no salvaging them! I got a nasty, rotten surprise when I stuck my hand in the bag to get one to take with my lunch. Augh!

I'm crushing on a pie recipe in Taste of Home this month. It's a sour cream peach pecan pie. I attempted a peach pie once and the bottom was soaking wet. So I'm a little apprehensive....especially if the peaches can't stay useable long enough in my kitchen!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Those Cravings....

I've apparently reached the craving stage of pregnancy. At lunchtime, I was seriously craving mashed potatoes. So we went to Boston Market, where I devoured a mound of them with gravy, as well as a little turkey. Then, on the way home I was dying for some hot and sour soup! So I sweet-talked Hubby into Chinese food for dinner. (there wasn't a lot of arm-twisting involved) Wow that's spicy! But just what I needed. Now I'm a happy lady.

The first time I was pregnant, I craved sweets. I was hopelessly addicted to Hostess chocolate cupcakes, but I was pretty strict about it. I bought a big box at BJ's and only allowed myself one a day. And then, one night I had a dream about Thanksgiving and pie. When I woke up in the morning pie was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT!! By 10am I had caved and told my co-workers I was headed to the local grocery. They thought I was nuts, but enjoyed the apple and cherry pies right there with me!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spaghetti Night

I LOVE spaghetti nights at our house! Since we're busy people like most everyone else I know, we tend to have spaghetti at least once a week. I usually keep frozen meatballs for this occasion, I haven't rolled my own in eons. But tonight was Chicken Parmesan instead....love it! Unfortunately, I ate way more than my fair share and now feel like I need to fall asleep on the couch. Oh well, it was totally worth it! :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monster Harvest

I hurt my back the other night cutting zucchini off the vine. It was almost dark, we had just come back from a week's vacation in Western NY, and I was working quickly. Stupidly, I bent at the waist instead of at the knees and CRACK! It's not as bad as the job I did last September, but I spent the rest of the night on the couch with an ice pack.

Tomatoes are turning nice and red, and I should probably check on the carrots soon. The zucchinis that I got are monsters! One of them is over a foot long! I know that they don't taste very good when they get that big, but that's what happens when you go away for a week and it's been so rainy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Food Memory

How do you know when you've eaten something realllllllly good?? Not just run-of-the-mill delicious? When you are still raving about it two years (or longer) later!

I was talking to someone today about vacationing in southern Maine. She was considering York, and our family had gone to Wells a couple of years ago. We were talking about Ogunquit and the Marginal Way. And I said, "Oh if you go there....I know the best breakfast place. It's called "The Egg and I." I had the most fantastic eggs benedict there....only instead of canadian bacon, it had a pile of shredded Maine lobster. I'd go back just for that!"

Yep......that's how you know you've had something incredible, when you remember just how it tasted like it was yesterday!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

World Peace by Cake

Heat be damned....I just waited until evening when it was cooled down a little to make this Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake. It's still cooling and won't be cooled down enough to cut into tonight. Or I should say, I'm exercising serious willpower not to cut into it tonight!!

I love a good coffee cake. In my mind, the smell and taste of a coffee cake, along with a cup of joe, can solve most problems. Cinnamon, pecans.....they just smell so friendly and happy. I don't bake them often but when I do they're really special. And if this honey of a cake tastes as good tomorrow as it has made my house smell tonight, then the three of us are in for a real treat!!
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UPDATE: Oh, so good!!!! I forgot to mention that I followed two of the suggestions at the bottom of the recipe. I cut the sugar from 2 cups to 1 1/2 cups and it's still sweet. (I figured with the butter and the sugar that I could cut back a little bit and it would still be good.) I also took the suggestion of coating the blueberries in flour first, so it wouldn't turn the cake purple. Worked like a charm. :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Misplaced Goals in the Kitchen

The weather is finally clearing up and it's going to be in the 80's in Central MA today. So why the heck do I have a hankering to bake????

I've got my eye on a Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake, every night I mean to make it right after dinner but I get so tired I lose interest. I also have two overripe bananas that I hate to waste, and there's a recipe in Rachael Ray magazine this month for "Crunchy Coconut Cookies." They look kind of like the macaroons that I make at Christmastime only I imagine that they are crisp throughout.

Well, now that summer appears to be showing up late to the party, I'm certainly NOT going to wish it was cooler to bake!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coffee Shop Treats

Today I'm 12 weeks pregnant, and I've made a pivotal turn. The morning sickness has subsided, and I appear to be all about the food!

I had a three hour diabetes test today, and I had to fast from midnight on. Basically, the lab takes your blood when you arrive, and you drink this nasty, thick, sugary orange beverage. Then they take your blood every hour for the next three. You are not allowed to leave the doctor's office during this time, so be sure to bring a book or other entertainment. By the time I left it was lunchtime and I was ravenous! Before heading to work, I treated myself to a Panera lunch. I hadn't been there in a while and it certainly didn't disappoint.

I got the "Pick-Two" special, with summer corn chowder and a smoked turkey sandwich on cheese focciacia. Wow! I've wanted some corn chowder for a while now and this one was delicious. The corn was roasted and there were peppers in the chowder, so it had a Southwestern flavor. But you could still taste the buttery goodness that is essential in corn chowder. And focciacia rocks just by itself; add some smoked turkey, greens and chipotle mayo and it's out of here! I had that happy, warm feeling that you get when you've eaten something really pleasing. I haven't felt that way in a very long time, it made my afternoon before heading to work.

I have always had an aspiration for owning a coffee shop. I worked for a small specialty coffee shop duirng my college days at Salve, and I loved making coffee drinks and fancy sandwiches, baking cinnamon buns and huge chocolate chip cookies and cutting slices of scrumptious baked goods for customers. I also enjoyed the atmosphere with our regulars and tourist customers, experiencing their pleasure over our specials and new bakery items. Yeah, I'm probably viewing it through nostalgia-tinted lenses, but these are the parts that I remember. Maybe someday when Brian and I retire we can make that dream come true. Sitting in Panera today and being so pleased made me revisit those fond days.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

To Market, To Market

It's a little late in the season, but I made my first trip to the farmer's market today. I got some of their legendary corn on the cob, two kinds of lettuce and some fresh basil. The basil just smells SO GOOD! Perhaps it's time for another stab at the pesto recipe, no? Now that I have a food processor, I'm invincible! The corn will be perfect with our barbecued ribs and potatoes tonight. Mmm......ribs sound really good to me right now! I'm glad I seem to be interested in something food-wise, it's been a long week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hunger is a Black Hole

I must be getting a little better, because I'm hungry all the time. And by "all the time," I mean sick with hunger. The kind of hunger that you might possibly die before the waiter brings over the bread basket. It was so bad yesterday, we were having pizza at my parents for dinner in about an hour and I got a snack at McDonald's because I just couldn't wait that long!

Unfortunately, this also lends to eating out a lot. A snack here, a lazy dinner there. I have found two things that rock at the moment:

1. McDonald's Chicken Snack Wraps. I've had two in as many days. It's a chicken tenderloin, cheese, lettuce and your choice of dressing wrapped up in a flour tortilla. I get the honey mustard. Plus it's cheap.

2. I rarely go out for coffee in the morning, but today was one of those days. I'm starting to appreciate my 200 milligram caffeine allowance a day! Today I also picked up a Cherry Yogurt Parfait. Cherries, fat-free cherry yogurt, and a little granola with almonds and coconut. Delicious!! I should try making something like this at home.

So there you have it, that's what is making this prego very happy right now!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Food.....Nah

Due to morning sickness, I haven't been posting much about food. Well, I haven't wanted to even think about food all that much!!

Oh, yes! Will's going to be a big brother in January!!

So lately I've been subsisting on saltines, rice, mashed potatoes yogurt and peanut butter and jelly. Forget veggies (especially my usual favorite, asparagus) anything Mexican-style, fried or sour. I personally find it hilarious that I have a nice garden in the back yard that I currently won't enjoy a single thing from. Hopefully I'll only have a couple of weeks more of this. Some days are better than others.

However, I'm already having bizarre pregnancy dreams, and they involve around food. For instance, I dreamt about fresh pesto today. Maybe it's time to try that again. And pie! And Hostess Cupcakes! Oh, I LOVED those when I was pregnant with Will!!

Ok, Blog Friends: What kinds of pregnancy cravings did you have?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Produce for Charity

The past couple of weeks have been wet and rainy, so I finally got outside to the garden and MAN! Guess who forgot to thin the zucchini and cucumber plants?! I am going to have a ton this year, because there are not one, not two but FIVE zucchini plants out there! And booooyyyyyy do I need to weed!

I was reading an article in Woman's Day recently about a charity called Backyard Harvest. A woman in Idaho started Backyard Harvest when one year, she decided to plant a garden. She let her kids plant lettuce seeds and they planted the entire pack. At harvest time, they had 200 heads of lettuce!! And, as she put it, "nobody has that many friends that want lettuce from your garden." She contacted a local food pantry and asked if they acepted fresh produce, and they did! They did tell her that they don't get a lot of fresh produce to give out to needy families, though. So she recruited friends and neighbors to grow extra in their gardens and to donate the fruits of their labor to hungry families and a charity was born. It's going so well that the idea has expanded with people opening chapters in both Washington and California.

When I read the article, I immediately thought of my poor zucchini and cucumbers and thought about how many of my friends would want some when the plants explode with wholesome goodness next month. I thought it would be cool if there was a Massachusetts chapter. But for now, I'm happy to freeze some of my produce. Maybe someday there will be something like that here.

cross-posted at Life in the Carpool Lane.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Twist on a Chicken Sandwich

We went out to celebrate a co-worker's birthday today (that's what we do at my office, treat the birthday guy/girl to lunch) We went to a place on "Restaurant Row" and I got a chicken sandwich. Not just any chicken sandwich mind you, but a cider chicken sandwich. Chicken breast, bacon, Swiss Cheese and cider and granny-apple spread. Out of this world! I could only eat half, so I brought the rest home.

Will was eyeing it, so I put it in the toaster oven for him. What a waste....he hasn't touched it! :(

Friday, June 5, 2009

Just Like Magic

I love onions, but hate cutting them up. And I really hate the way my hands smell afterwards! It seems that no matter how many times I wash them, I still can smell them. Brian suggested rubbing my hands on the sink while washing them, and though it sounds suspicious it really works! Apparently, there's some sort of chemical reaction between the onion smell and stainless steel that makes the smell go away. Hey, I'll take it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Brian and Kim's Wedding--Food Recap

Brian and Kim met at a barbecue here at my house four years ago this August. They got married yesterday in a lovely ceremony, followed by a fabulous reception. There's lots to tell, but this is just the food aspect.

Their wedding featured something pretty cool, a cake table. In lieu of a wedding cake, Kim designed a table for specialty cakes from a local RI bakery. Brian cut and sanded all of the blocks that they used to raise the cakes, and they borrowed cake stands from family and friends. Pretty neat!


Here's a picture to show that the bride and groom actually got to eat! That's so rare at your own wedding, with all of the meeting and greeting going on!


Congrats again to Brian and Kim!




Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fresh

Did you ever notice that salad always tastes better in a restaurant? I've always said that if I could get it to be as fresh at home as say, Ruby Tuesday's salad bar, I would eat a lot more of it!

It's just Will and me for dinner tonight while Daddy works late. So I made us little cheeseburgers and frozen sweet potato fries. I had also bought a bag of coleslaw mix (just cabbage and carrots) and made the dressing according to the recipe on the bag. It was so fresh, I wanted more! Not at all wet and slimy like it can be when you buy it pre-made in the deli section of the supermarket. I'd definitely do that again.

We have been trying to be good and eat more salad with dinner. I used to be predominately a blue cheese dressing kind of girl, but lately I really like balsamic vineagrette and honey mustard. I'm also curious to sometime try to make my own dressing, I've heard that they're better-tasting than commercial brand.

Does anyone have any homemade dressing recipes that they'd like to share?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flavors of Summer

One of my favorite summer things: a scoop of cookies n cream ice cream over a sliced banana. Mmmm....is there anything better??

Marshmallows roasted over our outdoor fireplace and then squooshed into s'mores.

Grilled barbecue chicken. Sliced peaches. A tall glass of cold iced tea and kicking back after a long, hot day. Chicken caesar salad for dinner because it's too hot to cook. Oh yeah, that's the stuff!

Summer's not here just yet, but what are your favorites?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Here They Come....

I checked the garden last week, and of course the zucchini plants are sprouting. Those suckers could grow in sand, I swear!! I was a little disappointed that nothing else seemed to be coming up. Then Brian kindly showed me where the cucumbers are coming up, they're hiding in the weeds! I'm going to train the cucumber to grow on a trellis, in order to make some room. The sugarmelon appears to be doing nothing, but I refuse to be sad about it.

I also got some herb plants from my parents for Mother's Day, so today I put the mediterranean oregano and rosemary in containers. I also went a little crazy and planted some carrots, and I think I have a little room left over. The package of carrot seeds said that they're so easy to grow, they'll grow anywhere. My rocky little garden is going to put them to the test! We bought four (four!) different kinds of tomato plants, and I got them in the ground today as well. There's grape tomatoes, romas, "Big Boys" and "Early Girls." Oh Boy!

In case you couldn't tell, I'm loving having my own garden.....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Feeling Devilish

I am posting this because I know that a lot of people like Deviled Eggs. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I've just never been a fan, hard-boiled eggs are on a short list of things that I just don't like. (Along with hummus, lamb, mint and lima beans.) So I make these mostly for Brian, who really likes them. He also likes egg salad, which I wouldn't eat even if my life depended on it! When I make egg salad, I call it "A Labor of Love." :)

These are really simple, and a good summery food for a cookout or a picnic. Be sure to keep them cold though, and not leave them out too long.

Start off with hard-boiled eggs, salt and pepper, a little chili powder, onion powder, mustard and mayonnaise. I really don't measure ingredients here, I just kind of throw them in a bowl until it looks good. (figuratively, not literally.) And you can make as many as you want. I had five eggs to use up, so it'll make ten deviled eggs. (I once made eight DOZEN deviled eggs for a potluck, I don't suggest doing that!!)

Crack the shells on the eggs by rolling them around on a cutting board. Then cut the egg in half, and scoop the yolks out and put the yolk in a bowl.

Add mayonnaise, mustard, chili powder, onion powder, salt and pepper to the yolks. Like I said, I don't measure. But try not to put a whole LOT of mayo in there, or the mixture will be gooshy.


Scoop the yolk mixture back into the egg halves. Sprinkle the halves with a little parsley for a punch of color. Then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Voila!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Makin' Kabobs

We have an overabundance of kabob skewers in our house. Wooden, metal.....we have a plethora. So I soaked some long wooden ones (to keep them from catching fire during the grilling process) and we had a Chicken Kabob Night recently. They're really easy, and they can use up all that produce just sitting in the fridge. The chicken was marinated in italian dressing, and I chopped up baby red potatoes, green and yellow peppers and zucchini. The only thing I'd do differently is to parboil the potatoes first, just a little bit. They were really hard to skewer!





We love kabobs around here. Steak, pork, even shrimp and scallop! Alton Brown has an entire episode of "Good Eats" dedicated to kabob-making and someday I want to try to make his dessert kabobs! I'm sure that Brian will be on board with this. :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Kristen's Taco Dip

This taco dip is the recipe of Kristen, my soon-to-be SIL's sister. She made it for Kim's bachelorette party last week at my house. It's awesome! There wasn't any left when the party was over. I made it for a get-together last night that I didn't end up making it to, so I hope it holds for Mother's Day tomorrow! And Tostitos Scoops=best corn chip EVER!!

"Taco" Dip:
2 8oz packages of Philadelphia cream cheese (she likes to use use the 1/3 fat ones)
1 8oz jar of salsa
romaine lettuce (about 2 cups)
1 large red pepper
1 ½ medium to large tomatoes (I use tomato on the vine)
1 8oz package of shredded cheese (I use Sorrento Reduced Fat Mexican 4 cheese blend)

Ok, so here's how you make it. Leave the cream cheese outside of the fridge about ½ hr to get a little softer. Spread evenly on the bottom of the dish you're using with the back of a metal spoon. Put the whole jar of salsa on top and spread evenly. I chop up enough romaine lettuce to cover the salsa. You don't have to chop it up but it's harder to grab with the chips. Chop up red pepper into small pieces and sprinkle on top of the lettuce. Same thing with the tomato, chop and sprinkle. Last but not least, sprinkle cheese to cover the whole dish. If you choose to, you can put a little bit of sliced scallions on the cheese for color and flavor, but I didn't the night of the party. Now you can enjoy this wonderful dip with Tostitos Scoops!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Asian Chicken Burger Mess

Last night, we attempted an "Asian Chicken Burger" recipe. I immediately was drawn to it because the burger is topped with peanut sauce. And WE ALL KNOW how I feel about peanut sauce!!

The recipe called for putting 2 chicken breasts and five other ingredients (of which I can't remember) in a food processor. Well, my food processor is pretty small. Instead, I bought ground chicken, figuring that the end result is pretty much the same thing. Wrong!! The end result would not form into patties, it just slid off Brian's hands and gooshed in the bowl. It's already late, is there any way to salvage this?? Breadcrumbs!! I added a hearty pile of breadcrumbs to the bowl and Brian turned the mushy mix into four lovely patties for the grill. They held up during cooking, and made a pretty decent sandwich. Hooray!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Garden Expansion

I spent part of last Sunday planting this year's garden, and I'm so excited! So far, I have zucchini, cucumber, green peppers and....sugar melons! The grocery store called them "personal melons" and I think that's ridiculous. They're little baby watermelons, I couldn't resist them. I plan on adding 2 or 3 tomato plants to the mix, as well as an herb garden. However, after reviewing my space, I don't think I'm going to have room for that. So I am going to try to grow fennel, basil, oregano and parsley in containers. I haven't bought the containers yet, because I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for. But I have a vision!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Funky Ingredient of the Week....Mango

Mmmm....mango! One of my favorite drinks in the world is a strawberry-mango margarita. And I adore the mango iced tea at the 99. While perusing cookbooks to make up this week's Menu, I came across a recipe for Curried Chicken with Mango Chutney. Hmmm...that sounds interesting! I've been trying to come up with some different ideas for dinner so we're not having the same stuff over and over. it required stewing the mango with dried apricots and apple juice, allspice, ground red pepper, fresh ginger and cider vinegar. I didn't have any apple juice or allspice, so I settled for V-8 Fusion in peach and mango and some cinnamon and nutmeg. I marinated the chicken in curry powder, lime juice and soy sauce. It came out really good, the chutney was spicy-sweet and the chicken was perfect off the grill. Make some white rice and that's dinner! The rice sopped up the sweet juice of the mangoes nicely.





Mango is kind of a pain to peel, you have to have a bit of patience. Plus, you really can't tell where the "pit" is, because it's more like a rectangle. I had a little bit of chopped mango left that I'll blend into a smoothie later with yogurt and strawberries. Maybe when I have tomato plants going I'll try another fruit salsa with mango this time!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Something Different.....

I've been leafing through some old cookbooks of mine and making lists of things that I want to make. This recipe caught my eye because it's just so...different! We love tacos in this house but I do get bored of just ground beef, salsa and cheese. They cooked up pretty quick for a weeknight dinner and even Will had some! However, we learned the hard way that a flour tortilla filled with stuff is much too big for his little hands, as a good chunk of it ended up on the floor. So if you're feeding this to a toddler, you might want to make it quesadilla-style.

Also, there is no cheese in the original recipe. To me, cheese on a taco is a must! Plus, I'm getting bad at checking the fridge before I go to the grocery store and I had three different kinds of shredded cheese in the refrigerator. I found that monterey jack or swiss cheese work great with this recipe, as I had one of each!

Chicken Soft Tacos with Sauteed Onions and Apples (courtesy of Cooking Light)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 c. thinly sliced onion (I used sweet onion)
2 c. thinly-sliced, peeled Granny Smith apple (about two apples)
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 (6-inch) flour tortillas

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt, nutmeg and pepper. Add chicken to pan, saute 7 minutes or until golden. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

2. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add onion, cook 4 min or until tender, stirring frequently. Add apple, cook 6 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Add garlic, saute 30 seconds. Return chicken to pan, cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently.

3. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Arrange 1/2 c. of mixture over each tortilla. Yield: 4 servings.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Summer Syrup




Even though it's not quite summer yet (but feels like it!!), I had some strawberries that I needed to use up. So I dusted off one of my favorite syrup recipes. Well, it's the only kind of syrup I've ever made. It's good on anything from pancakes to ice cream, or even a dutch baby.


Simple Strawberry Syrup (courtesy of Cooking Light)

3 cups of sliced strawberries, divided.


1 c. sugar


3/4 c. water


2 tbsp lemon juice


1 tsp grated lemon rind (optional in our house)


Combine 2 c. strawberries, sugar, water and lemon juice in medium saucepan (non-aluminum) Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Cook until reduced, approx. 20 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then stir in remaining cup of strawberries and lemon rind.






Saturday, April 25, 2009

Eggies

I re-learned an important lesson today. I was at the grocery store and was thrilled to find that eggs had little $.75 off! coupons on them. Of course there's a catch...they expire next Tuesday. But hey, you can get through a dozen eggs in a few days if you have some egg salad, scrambled eggs for breakfast maybe, and do some baking? Absolutely!

Eeeehhh......you can do that if you don't already have 18 eggs at home, and a dozen of them are set to expire on Monday!! Note to self: check out the fridge before you head out to the grocery store. I'm trying to make the best of it, having a breakfast casserole tomorrow, baking some cookies and maybe Joey will get a scrambly-egg treat. Oops.