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 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 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!'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 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. 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'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 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!