Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Cake

We have a little tradition around here of having a New Year's Cake.  On New Year's Eve we pick out a cake recipe, and make it to have while ushering out the old and bringing in the new.  It's usually not too fancy, just a recipe that's simple and delicious.

This year's cake is from the original Cake Doctor Book:  Maryann's Simple Chocolate Cake.  Instead of the called-for homemade chocolate syrup frosting, we opted to use a cannister of chocolate fudge Duncan Hines in the pantry.

Happy New Year from our family to yours, and Best Wishes in 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Creamy Chicken and Asparagus Over Toast

Last Friday was a flurry of activity:  getting out of work early and then preparing for the weekend's Christmas festivities.  But we took some time to make something really, truly fantastic out of one of my Rachael Ray Cookbooks:  Creamy Chicken and Asparagus over Toast.  I chose this recipe based on the awesome-sounding title and didn't even read it.

The recipe was a little misleading.  I was picturing something like a creamed chicken with bits of asparagus, over some regular sandwich bread toast.  WRONG!

Chicken breast, shredded gruyere cheese, fresh asparagus, ham strips and caramelized onion.  Served atop buttered baguette, broiled.  How could this be anything short of amazing??  It did not disappoint.  Dinner was a silent affair for the most part, as we hungrily enjoyed every bite.  Upon telling my mother about the recipe, she said what I think every time I make a RR recipe:  "She really doesn't pay any attention to calories."  No, no she doesn't.  But we were also in agreement that if you eat just a small portion, you're good to go.  We cut this meal into four portions, and had one for dinner and one for lunch the next day.   A perfect meal, for when you are wrapping and running around!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cook with Me, Sesame!

This week's cookbook in the spotlight:  "C is for Cooking", a Sesame Street cookbook that Will got for his birthday.  We made two recipes, Cookie Monsters "Me Love Meatloaf" and Grover's Pork Meatballs.

Both recipes were received with mixed results.  The meatloaf one, Will right off the bat wasn't interested.  Meatloaf?  UGH I don't like meatloaf.  However, he has graduated to taking a bite, chewing and swallowing and then telling us no thank you.  Well, most of the time.  :)  I liked that the meatloaves were cooked in individual muffin cups, but they kind of "stew" in their own fat, there's nowhere for it to drain off.  However, this was also filled with some great ingredients, like oatmeal and shredded carrots.  Good way to "hide" these kinds of things.

The sesame pork meatball recipe was really good, but dry.  There needs to be a sauce of some kind for the meatballs, without it it's just dry pork with no ingredient to hold it together. (Like an egg)  The rice was basmati rice though, which we had never cooked at home.  It was just like white rice from a Chinese restaurant!

So there you have it, first two recipes from Will's cookbooks.  He is really enjoying the work in the kitchen.  Somebody's gonna be just like his dad.  :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Birthday Treats

Tomorrow is my birthday, but my family got together today, being the weekend and all.  Nothing is better than having my family over for my birthday, I love family dinners.

Today's dinner was ALL. ABOUT. ME!!!  A nice dinner at home, and I got to pick everything that went in it.  So Italian it is....with both chicken and eggplant parmesan!  Good Lord I love both of those things.  To have them both on the same plate is just about as perfect as it gets!

For dessert I chose a Cake Doctor that resembles one of my favorite childhood treats.  Hostess Cupcakes!!  Devils' food cake, creamy filling and if they spell out "Happy Birthday Ginny," well, that is just sweet.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Surprise Pancakes

Conversation at Casa de Crafty Mama tonight:

What's for dinner?

The menu said stir-fry garlic chicken.  But we had that for lunch.  So we'll pick something else to make with the defrosted chicken.

Did you defrost chicken?  I didn't defrost chicken.

Ok---so I guess we won't be having chicken.

Hmmmm......go out?

No.  Don't want to spend the money for neither kid to really eat their meal, and everywhere we can go to eat will be mobbed on a Friday night.

True, true.  Soooo....pancakes then?

You know, I like how you think.


A trip to the grocery store for maple syrup, juice and bacon later, and we're all eating chocolate chip pancakes with bacon.  I don't know how we'll deal with that.  I mean, that's just so sad.  :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Truckstop Fare

You can always tell when Winter Break starts for Brian....there's a stellar menu on the side of the fridge.  This week's cookbook featured is "The Joy of Cooking" so it's a "Week of Joy!"

Last night's kitchen experiment:  chicken-fried steak.  I personally had never had it, but it sounded delicious.  (It's breaded steak with gravy.  What doesn't sound delish about that??)  I posted it on Facebook and got several responses of "OMG, that is sooooo good!"  And at least two people insisted that you MUST eat it with mashed potatoes.  Which was good, because that's what we were having as a side dish.  Since the potatoes were my responsibility, I chose to go the extra mile and added whole milk instead of 2%.  It really does make for a better-tasting mashed potato.

The verdict?   Brian and I loved it, and "squabbled" over the leftovers for the next day's lunch.  (Turned out there was enough for both of us to have them, BTW)  The kids...ehh.  Sean liked it, but he was more into the apple slices and corn on his plate.  Will politely tried a piece (which is a miracle in itself) and announced "Dad, I tried it and I don't like it."  So he had a hot dog instead.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lobster Ravioli Night

Since Brian had the day off from work today, he got to make something that he's always wanted to make:  homemade lobster ravioli.  Both of us love it, especially at Paul's Pasta in Groton, CT.   (This is one of our favorite restaurants from when we were dating.  We went back for our tenth wedding anniversary and the place was as delicious as we had remembered!)

I wasn't home for the making of the dough, or the filling.  So I think that I will just let the photos speak for themselves.  I will say this though:  for Brian's first foray into ravioli, it was deliciously successful.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Coconut Macaroon Thief

Hubby's favorite cookie:  coconut macaroons.  They're a very easy cookie to make but we seem to only make them at Christmastime.  I like coconut, but nowhere near as much as Brian likes it.  It would truly be impossible for me to like coconut as much as he does.  Pair it with chocolate and he's the happiest guy on the planet.

Last night on a whim, he decided to whip up some macaroons.  Upon inspection, I discovered that these were a little different.  They were light brown on top and soft throughout, instead of crispy and crunchy like I make them.  After he went to bed, I stole two out of their Tupperware container.

Watch your cookies, Hubs.  "Cause if you keep making them like that, you may have some competition in eating them!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another Food Network Fan

We have an issue at that is far from unique.  The preschool that our older son goes to, like many other preschools, has a scheduled "rest time."  After lunch, all the kids take to the mats with their blankets and "lovies," the lights are dimmed and everyone rests.  Will actually falls asleep during this time, almost every day.    The problem is, Will doesn't need the nap.  It's a surefire guarantee that he won't be tired at all at bedtime, and if he goes to bed at 8-8:30ish, he will come out several times saying he is not tired.  Or worse, playing in his room and having a grand ol' time until after WE are in bed as well.  Then in the morning he is not well-rested at all and Mr. Crankypants has come to visit our home.  Then he NEEDS the next day's nap.  It's quite the cycle.

So we tried something--we moved bedtime back to 9pm.  And interestingly enough, it's helped.  But...BUT!  That takes away a precious hour of Mom and Dad's quiet time.  Knitting, watching hockey, etc etc etc.  So the last hour of the evening is quiet time for everyone.  Usually I'm knitting in my chair, and Brian's watching a show on the Discovery Channel like "How it's Made" or something on the Food Network, or hockey. .  Will's taken an interest in the Food Network, and will sit quietly and ask questions about the shows.  This is to our great delight--being foodies ourselves!  It's a good thing--putting things on the TV that aren't all cartoons or animated educational kidstuff.  Right now we're all enjoying the show "Chopped." It's where four chefs compete in appetizers, entree and dessert categories.  Each chef is given a basket of ingredients that must show up in their finished dishes and are judged at the end of the round.  All four compete in "appetizers" and one gets chopped from the competition in each round.  The one at the end is crowned champion and the prize is $10,000.

One of the things I like best about this show is that it gets us to consider different ingredients in our cooking, and putting things that don't traditionally go together, or using ingredients in different ways.  It also gets Will looking at different foods and not judging them for what they look like, and trying different things.  For example, he never would have put his cereal with fruit.  Lately he's been asking for "salad for breakfast."  His salad consists of cheerios, blueberries and craisins mixed in the same bowl, with shredded toast topping.  I asked if he needed a spoon, and he said "No Mom, it's more of a hand salad."  The fact that he's willing to eat all of that together, I have "Chopped" to thank.  And who knew that a pushed-back bedtime could bring us closer together?  :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Brian made one of my weaknesses last night...sweet potato fries.  Actually, I love sweet potatoes any way I can get 'em...sauteed, baked, pureed, whatever!  They go well in a lot of things, including baked goods.  We don't eat them a lot, because the boys turn their noses up at them and Brian's not crazy about the texture.  But it turns out if you roast thin strips of them in the oven with an thin orange and olive oil coating, they're pretty amazing.  So I guess that they weren't "fries" in the proportional sense.   But they were pretty damn good.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Potluck Party

Last night was the Fourth Annual Hook and Needler Potluck and Holiday Swap!  It was the third year that I hosted, and I really love hosting this party.  Somewhere between 10 and 15 people congregate at my house, bringing food to share and gifts to swap.  We have lots of great food, and gather around my dining room table to knit/crochet, laugh and chat, and swap gifts.  It's low-key and casual, and I love it.

Brian loves it too, because he loves to entertain.  He had some vacation time to burn before the end of the year, so he took a half-day to clean up and make sure that the house was festive, and to make an appetizer:  Buttermilk Chicken Tenders with dipping sauces.  You know us...anything fried is delicious and we don't have it that often.  The sauces were pretty awesome too, fresh peanut sauce, feta and chive and Brian's new favorite, "molasses gravy."  Other foods that were here were chocolate cake shaped like a snowman with a coconut frosting, homemade custard flan (wow!) and authentic Italian Cookies.  Mmmmm.

I don't have any pictures of the event, really.  That's because we were all busy eating and enjoying.  This get-together is always a fabulous way to start of the Holiday Season.  :)