Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

As I'm sure is true for everyone, my life at home and at work have been one big blur of busyness! I'll be back when it all settles down. But for now, Happy Holidays to everyone. Be safe and enjoy all your blessings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just want to type "pee" again....

Ravings: Being sick sucks. I spent all day, and I literally mean all day, in bed. Shadow is such a trooper on these days. He will just lie there, staring at me (I know he’s hoping I’ll close my eyes so he can pee on me!), eventually give up and go back under the covers for as long as he can, and then crawl back out to start all over with the staring. He will occasionally whine, and that’s when I know it’s an emergency, but he still tries to soldier through, and will venture back under the blanket for another 20 minutes or so. Then the under the covers whining signals the “I really have to pee, but I am trying so hard not to make you get up, but maybe my whining will make you feel guilty enough to just tell me to pee on the carpet.” Don’t laugh! I did this once. I totally lifted up the covers and said to him “I’m sorry. I will die if I stand up, so pee wherever you want.” And I meant it at the moment, although I am eternally grateful that he didn’t take me up on it. I have no idea how he did it, but I think he went like 48 hours without relieving himself.

Now don’t be getting all proud of him and jealous that he’s such an awesome dog because he’s also peed on the couch because I left him in the house for 20 minutes while I was in the yard. He has gotten better as he’s gotten older, but Italian Greyhounds are notoriously difficult to potty train, especially once it gets cold. He would sell his soul, and mine, to be able to pee inside once the temperature falls below 65. I can’t say I blame him!

On Sunday, I took my nieces to see a movie. The 5 year old would tell you that we saw The Muffets. She’s too stinkin cute! In my sickened delirious state, I forgot that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD would be at the mall, which is where the movie theater is. So we are driving around the parking lot, praying to any god who will listen to let us find a spot. I know there is one who’s got to understand the enormous undertaking it is to take a 5 year old and 7 year old to a movie. But there are absolutely no spaces. We just keep driving as I’m secretly getting desperate, but am trying to make it an adventure, when the 7 year old says “We need Uncle Jason with us.” “Why’s that?” I say. “He has parking mojo.” she states matter of factly. Now, I need to tell you that he really does. We can go anywhere and he will find a spot. Up front. It’s kinda weird. But I sort of laugh and say “Yes we do.” Then she says “What’s mojo?” I love her!

Cravings: I’ve been sick, so get off my back! I can’t remember the last time I turned my oven on. I can’t remember that last time I had real food. I ate cottage cheese with beets for lunch!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sleep is calling my name!

Ravings: I am sick! There I said it. Despite the fact that it never works, my first line of defense for winter cold and flu season is pure denial! But I feel like crap and it takes every ounce of energy I have to make it through my work day. Last night, I walked in the door, let Shadow out, changed into my pj’s and went straight to bed. I did get up a couple hours later to make the Salted Caramel Butter Bars (see Cravings) for our yearly graze at work, have a cup of tea with lemon and honey (my other go to remedy), and crawl back in bed. I have no idea why I am even at work today, other than these treats are way too good not to share.

Cravings: I was first introduced to these sinfully delicious bites of goodness by my sister. I had made the Eggnog Cheesecake bars for the WAR party that I discussed in the My Voice blog post, but she had to show up with these heavenly bars, I am convinced just to outshine me! Words cannot describe how yummy these things are. But be warned, they are not in the least bit healthy. They are, however, worth every single calorie! I did alter the recipe slightly by making my homemade caramel.

Salted Caramel Butter Bars
(from Shelley at Cookies & Cups, but slightly altered)

1 lb. salted butter room temp
1 cup sugar
1½ cups powdered sugar (I only had 1/2 cup in my pantry, so I substituted 1 cup of brown sugar)
2 Tbs vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and stir until incorporated. Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-half of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust, and place the remainder of the dough in the fridge to chill. Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approx 15-20 minutes. While that's cooking, make the caramel.

For the Caramel
(From Katie at Good Life Eats, also slightly altered)

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Bring cream and butter to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside. Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a golden caramel. Carefully stir in vanilla extract and cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened, but pourable. Allow to cool for a bit.

When caramel has stopped bubbling, pour it evenly over the prebaked crust, and crumble the rest of the dough on top of that. Put back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

This gotten eaten before I was able to finish cutting it, so I didn't get a picture, but you can see the original on the Cookies and Cups site.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ying and Yang

Ravings: I am not typically at a loss for something to say, especially when I have free range to express myself however and about whatever I want. There is no shortage of opinions floating around in my brain. But these past few days I have struggled with what to write about. And I haven’t really been able to figure out why. But I think I know the culprit.

I went to bed a little early last night. I was just feeling “not quite right.” You know that feeling. When you wonder if you are trying to do too much (I worked, went grocery shopping, did P90, made dinner, and cleaned up the kitchen), aren’t getting enough sleep, or if you are getting sick. As I was lying in bed praying I wasn’t getting sick, it dawned on me that I am sad. It’s that deep, mellow sad that you aren’t even really aware of until you stop to think about it. I was dreading the Christmas sorrow that I knew was inevitable, so I think I just buried it. But in order to do that I had to turn off all emotions. I knew that something was off. I usually like Christmas time and enjoy all the planning, but I have been feeling like I’m just going through the motions. I have to let the wave of loss come over me so that I can feel something. I’m just not willing to go through the holidays in a state of numbness in order to avoid the pain. I’m not willing to sacrifice the joy that I know will there waiting. But I'm also afraid of the pain that will envelope me. It threatens to creep in even as I write this. It's a scary place, but there I know that I will be ok. I've waded through that sorrow before and come out on the other end, and I know that I will do it again. There is comfort in the knowing.

Cravings: Jason and I love appetizer dinner. It just feels like you are cheating, even if you really aren’t. And you can mix food regions and still seem super cool. Our usual appetizer dinner is purchased, pre-made bite size goodies from Trader Joes, but it can get expensive so I tried to recreate it. I can’t say that it was a huge success, but it did taste good and I got to control the ingredients a bit more. The big downside is that it’s time consuming. One of the big draws of appetizer dinner is the little to no prep work. That is not true when you make them yourself. So I have not yet perfected the home made appetizer dinner, but someday I will! On our menu last night: mozzarella sticks with tomato dipping sauce, black bean quesadillas with creamy guacamole, and arugula, apple and radish salad with cheddar cheese.

Mozzarella sticks

1 package of mozzarella cheese sticks
½ cup flour
1 egg beaten
1 cup panko
½ -1 cup oil
½ can fire roasted tomatoes

Unwrap all the cheese sticks (this is the worst part!). Heat oil (I used safflower because that’s what I had) while coating cheese. Roll cheese to coat in flour, then dip in egg, and coat with panko. Fry in shallow pan just until browned. I warmed the tomatoes in the microwave for about 1 minute.

Black Bean Quesadillas

1 package corn tortillas
1 can black beans, drained
½ can fire roasted tomatoes
1 T taco seasoning mix (I make my own. I’ll add the recipe on another post)
1 bag shredded taco cheese

Mix all ingredients, except cheese. Lay half the tortillas on foil lined sheet pan(s). Top each with a bit of cheese, then top with the bean mixture, and then top with more cheese. Lay the rest of the tortillas on top and press down a bit so they stick. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Creamy Guacamole

1 large avocado
2 -3 T plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lime
2 T fresh parsley, chopped (you can also use cilantro)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash avocado in a bowl and then stir in rest of ingredients. Serve with the quesadillas.

Arugula, Apple, and Radish salad

2 cups arugula
1 apple (I used pink lady)
4 large radishes
2 T chocolate balsamic vinegar (you can use regular)
½ cup cheddar cheese

Put 1 cup of the arugula in each of 2 bowls. Top with thinly sliced apple and thinly sliced radish. Drizzle each salad with 1 T of the vinegar, then top with cheese. (I made CJ another one when he came home!)

Jason’s brother was over last night helping him with some car stuff so we didn’t eat until after 8pm when they finally came in the house. They did even make it past the kitchen and I think I was the only one who used a plate! I think they were starving. But in their haste to consume, they prevented me from taking a picture!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Smile. Snap. Got it!

Ravings: We officially made it through the family pictures alive. Jason did of course ask me at least twice why we were having pictures taken again, but he was a pretty good sport considering we were outside in the cold for several hours on Sunday. And I did reward them with dinner at Red Robin. Jason loves there Bleu Ribbon Burger. I introduced him to the concept of putting blue cheese on burgers and/or steaks and he is now obsessed with it. Add the endless fries and he’s in heaven. I’ll post a couple of the pictures when we get them back. It was a fun day!

Besides the weekend being entirely too short and having a to do list that could last me through the first part of 2012 but has to be done by Christmas, I really have very little to rave about today. The holidays are a rough time of year, and I’m sure I will experience some depression and bitterness, but today I am good. I would even say happy! I know....Why did I put that it print? I've just doomed myself.

Cravings: Despite feeling like I didn’t stop moving this weekend, I didn’t actually do a ton of cooking. Thursday night we had Chicken Noodle Soup, which was homemade, but I took it out of the freezer and since I had made it before I re-started my blog, I didn’t write down the recipe. I'll work on coming up with one.

I went out to a late work lunch on Friday, so I didn’t make anything for dinner. I made the boys fend for themselves. I think they ended up eating cereal. See what happens when I don't cook.

Saturday I spent the day with my sister and her daughters. We took them to see Arthur Christmas, so dinner consisted of the largest tub of popcorn I’ve ever seen, a bag of twizzlers, and a diet coke. We did split the popcorn with three little girls, but we were both sick by the time we got home! Movie theater popcorn is the devil.

I did, however, leave the boys dinner, already made and ready to be popped in the oven. They both reported that it was “really good.” Not sure what to call it. Baked Squash or Noodleless lasagna. Either way, incredibly easy and reportedly boy approved. They forgot to take a picture though!

Baked Squash/Noodleless lasagna

2 cups zucchini, chopped
2 cups yellow squash, chopped
½ sweet onion, chopped
1 can great northern beans, drained
1 small can V-8 juice (or the equivalent of tomato juice/sauce)
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
1 T garlic salt
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Mix all the ingredients together in a oven proof dish. I covered it with aluminum foil and left it in the fridge for the boys to heat up that night. They cooked it for about 20 minutes at 350.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Has anyone seen my sanity?

Ravings: It’s official. I’ve lost my mind. Not only did I finish the baby blankets last night, but I made dinner, did laundry, and started doing P90 again. Where did I find all that energy? I need to figure out the source and bottle it. Seriously, there are days I can’t even manage to walk upstairs to pee. I just sit on the couch in misery praying for a first floor bathroom to magically appear. If I had the bottled energy, think of all the crap I could get done. The possibilities are truly mind boggling.

So here are my super cute, and really cheap, baby blanket Christmas presents for my nieces. I am totally pinning myself for these! (What? You don’t know what I’m talking about. Follow this link, but only if you are looking for a completely obsessive time sucker. Seriously. Do not come back here and say I didn't warn you!)

Dinner will be described in painful detail below!

Do you seriously want a picture of my laundry??? Ok, in all fairness, I didn’t do ALL the laundry, but we did wash, dry and put away the towels, as well as re-dry 2 loads of clothes, fold it and put it all away. Why did we re-dry two loads you ask? That’s what I should have taken a picture of. CJ’s idea of folding clothes equates to wadding everything in an individual ball and jamming it in the laundry basket. In all fairness, I did tell him I would finish ours so he could do his and I forgot. I guess I should be grateful it didn’t get thrown on the basement floor!

And then the P90….First, ouch. To everything. It’s day one and I feel like I’ve worked just about every muscle in my body. Even some I didn’t remember having. Second, what was I thinking? We’ve done this before and lasted approximately a week and a half. It’s 90 days. 90! Do your realize that's 3 straight months? I recall that after the first week of doing this the first time, neither of us could really move anything. It hurt just to lie in bed. And yet, I’m trying it again. So clearly I have lost my sanity. I think it might be easier, and more enjoyable, to just stop eating. And we all know how much I love eating. This workout kicks my ass. And it’s not even P90X. I think that would literally kill me.

My goal is to make it at least 2 weeks before throwing in the towel, but I really would like to finish it. I am woefully out of shape, and I am terrified that I will someday be that lady on The People of Walmart. Seriously. Terrified. And it was either this or give up sugar. Check back in a couple weeks if you are looking for some free baking supplies!

Cravings: I was really afraid that after forcing Jason to suffer through the P90 workout, he would not be happy with last night’s dinner offering of Stuffed Acorn Squash with Creamy Polenta, but he actually liked it. He had seconds. (He also ate some peanut butter right out of the jar, but that was after he ate more squash!) I also made Quick Chocolate Pudding for dessert. I think I found this recipe on Pinterest (I warned you that it will take over your life!), but now I can’t find the link, so I can’t give credit to the rightful owner. I hate when I do that. I’ll give you the recipe because it is so simple, but know that I didn’t create this and I will try to find the original source.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

½ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup matchstick carrots
1 red pepper, chopped
½ cup shredded cabbage
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 T cherry balsamic vinegar (use can use regular)
½ T dried sage
½ T dried oregano
Salt to taste

Saute onion and carrot until softened a bit. Add red pepper, cabbage, tomato and rest of ingredients. Turn to low while preparing the squash. Cut ends off squash just so they sit level. Cut in half and clean out seeds. Put stuffing in/on squash in a baking pan. Put a bit of water in bottom of pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 until squash is soft. Top with creamy polenta to serve.

Creamy Polenta

2 cups water
1 cup polenta
2-3 T heavy cream
½ cup gorgonzola cheese
½ T dried sage
Salt to taste

Boil water. Stir in polenta. Lower heat and cook for several minutes until soft and thickened. Turn off heat and add other ingredients, stirring to incorporate. Serve immediately.

Quick chocolate pudding (I forgot to take a picture. Sorry! I could barely move after that workout.)

½ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
3 T cornstarch
1/8 t salt
2 cups milk
1 t vanilla

Combine first 4 ingredients. Wisk in milk until smooth. Microwave uncovered one minute at a time, stirring/wisking after each minute until thick. Let it cool. Refridgerate. And enjoy! Jason put whipped cream on it, of course. This was after the peanut butter, fyi. I don’t think he gets the concept of doing P90!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Am I on Candid Camera?

Ravings: This weekend my sister’s family and my family are having pictures taken. By a professional photographer! And we are paying him! A lot! Here are the conversations Jason and I have had about this upcoming event.

First I approach him with the concept. We can get some candid shots. Put something together for your mom. I’m sure she doesn’t have too many pictures of CJ. Etc, etc. You get the idea, right? His response: Sure, whatever you want.

A week or so later I approach him with “We are scheduling the pictures.” Him: “What pictures?” Me: “You know, the pictures we talked about doing with my sister” Him: “Huh?” Me: (with the look. you know the one.) “Really? We talked about this a few days ago.” Him: “Oh ok” Me: knowing he has no earthly idea what I’m talking about and has essentially stopped listening 3 seconds into this exchange “Do you have a preference on days?” Him: “No, whenever is fine.”
And another few days later. Me: “We scheduled the pictures for Sunday the 11th.” Him: “What pictures?” (Are you sensing a theme?) Me: “The pictures we are doing with my sister.” Him: “Do you really want to do this?” Me: “That is why I asked you about it weeks ago. I already agreed to it.” Him: “Ok, whatever.”

And then just a few days ago. Me: “I bought you a couple sweaters to try on for the pictures on Sunday.” Him: “What pictures? I’m working Saturday.” Me: “We are having pictures done with my sister, and I know you have to work Saturday. That’s why I scheduled it for Sunday.” Him: “Why do we have to have pictures taken? Can’t you just take them?” Me: “Yes, but then I’m not in any of them, and he’ll be doing candids.” Him: “Oh. I don’t wear sweaters.” Me: “I know you don’t love sweaters, but we are planning to go to the park for a while and I would prefer you not have a coat on in all those pictures.” Him: “I’ll just wear a polo.” Me: “Have you been outside? It’s winter!” Him: “Oh. Ok, whatever.”

None of the sweaters fit him, of course! So we agree to go shopping on Tuesday (last night) after work. That was also an interesting conversation that went in about 14 circles, until we landed on me saying, “You can go shopping with me or live with whatever I pick out!” He’s super picky and he knows I have a wicked sense of humor, so he agreed to go. Yesterday morning, I say to him, “We’re going shopping tonight right?” His response: “For what?” I was not so kind at that point. It was morning and you can see how many times we have had the same conversation. I had a right to be mean! After his apologetic phone call that afternoon, he agreed to go shopping until we found what we needed. (Jusy FYI: I also apologized for being mean!)

Believe it or not, the shopping experience was the worst part! First, he’s a guy, so his idea of shopping is grab the first sweater you see and head out. He’s worse than shopping with a toddler! Then, the selection is horrendous. What do they even make men’s sweaters with the tight band at the waistband? Is that flattering on anyone?? Especially men who don’t look photo shopped! Jason is not Will Smith or Mark Wahlberg or even Sean Connery, and those men would not wear those sweaters! Jason looks like a caricature of himself wearing a tight waisted sweater. If left to his own devices, he would dress like a 75 year old man from the 80”s. He doesn’t need help by having this clothing disguised as fashion. When I met him, he was still wearing pleated and cuffed pants. The man needs all the fashion assistance he can get.

We did finally find him a sweater that looks half way decent. At least he won’t look like a clown. Maybe the coat’s not such a bad idea…..

Cravings: Given the painful shopping excursion we experienced, I couldn’t force myself to come home and make dinner, so we stopped and got Mexican. Thank God for salsa and margaritas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Food wars

Ravings: I’m not sure I’ve raved too much on here about my stance on food production and laws. I am a huge supporter of locally sourced, organic food. Production farming, not only makes me sick (literally and figuratively), it also makes me outraged. The toxic chemicals that are allowed into our food are reprehensible. And what we, and our government, feed to our children is criminal. Just recently Congress ruled that pizza with two tablespoons of tomato paste counts as a serving of vegetables in school lunches. So now a slice of pizza with a side of French fries counts as two servings of vegetables. I don’t know about you but when I was a kid, that would have not cut it in my house as eating your vegetables. Here’s the worst part, and I couldn’t find the exact ingredients as I’m sure that’s a closely guarded secret, but school pizza is full of unpronounceable ingredients and tons of sugar. There is sugar is regular ole store bought pizza sauce. I can’t even imagine what’s in it when it’s mass produced with the goal of being as cheap as possible for school lunches. Regular homemade pizza is so easy and inexpensive, and can be made pretty healthy. So why is the happening? My simple answer is lobbyists. I don’t believe for one second that congress considered the health and well being of school kids when it made this ruling.

So I’m already fired up about this ruling, and all the other things that are slowly killing us in our food. Toxic chemicals, BPA, unnecessary sugar, growth hormone, and antibiotics to name just a few. And then I hear about the proposed Farm Youth Labor Rule being proposed by the Department of Labor. In very basic terms it will prohibit “young hired farm workers” (under age 16) from operating or tending any power-driving equipment, from being a passenger on that equipment being driven on a public road, from working in areas occupied by intact (not castrated) male animals older than six months, herding animals in confined spaces such as feed lots and corrals, and from using electronic communication devices while operating or assisting to operate power-driven equipment. (According to a spokesperson from Penn State University) Exceptions would be made for working on the parents farm, but not for working on another relatives farm.

At first read this doesn’t seem so bad, right? Unless you’ve grown up in farm country and know that working on a farm is the best job you can get in high school. And unless you think about whom this will effect. Corporate Ag business won’t be affected by this. They don’t hire young kids. Family farms will, however, be crippled by this legislation. Which I’m sure is the aim of the lobbyists for the big Ag corporations. People are beginning to realize the danger in buying animals from production farms and are turning to local farms. What better way to run them out of business than to make it even more cost prohibitive to hire help, especially, nieces, nephews, and neighbor kids willing to work hard. This legislation is, of course, being presented under the guise of safety. But the irony is that our government is protecting the big corporations that are killing us slowly, while running the small family farm out of business in the interest of safety.

Don’t even get me started about chocolate milk at school!!!

Cravings: After all that talk about the toxicity of our food, I will assure you that our meals are as organic as I can make them, and we have noticed a huge difference. A couple years ago Jason and I made the decision to stop eating fast food, and gradually we began eating more and more organic. We both feel so much better. We have more energy, get sick less, and I used to get frequent, debilitating headaches, which don’t happen anymore. I am currently working up the courage to give up processed sugar. Convincing the boys of this one is going to be a lot more difficult that convincing myself!

Last night’s dinner was Mediterranean Chicken with sautéed greens.

Mediterranean Chicken

4 Chicken thighs
½ red onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
Handful of Kalamata olive, chopped
1 T tomato paste
1 T anchovy paste
½ T oregano
2 T fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a large oven proof sauté pan with olive oil. Brown both sides of the chicken. Then add the rest of the ingredients, except the basil. If you don’t have anchovy paste, I would highly suggest getting it. It doesn’t make the sauce taste fishy at all. It adds this amazing salty nuttiness to dishes. You can get it in a tube and it keeps in the refrigerator forever. It’s totally worth it! Cover and put it oven for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the greens. Serve over the greens and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Sautéed greens

1 +2 T butter
1 T olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
Several leaves of kale, spinach, whatever you have.

Heat the pan with 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil. Mince your garlic. I use the Pampered Chef garlic press because it’s awesome, but you can use whatever method you prefer. Chop your greens. Add the garlic to the pan and stir for a minute then add the greens and some salt. Once they start to wilt, add 2 more tablespoons of butter and possibly a bit more salt to your taste. Serve.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm a grinch!

Ravings: I’m back! Friday was a “sick” day. (Events of the day will be kept confidential to protect the not so innocent. Namely me!)

Saturday was a sit on the couch and be completely unmotivated to do anything day. To be completely honest, I did some craft projects, but I didn’t actually get dressed. I did consult my sister, who knows all things, and she said since I changed my shirt, that technically counts as getting dressed, so I guess I wasn’t completely unmotivated. I made 2 baby doll blankets for my nieces form Christmas and a cool twirly scarf out of one of Jason’s old t-shirts. I am not quite finished with the second blanket, so I will post pics when I’m all done!

Sunday was a marathon Christmas shopping extravaganza. I’m under the delusion that if I use big, exciting words to describe it, then the whole process won’t suck rotten eggs. But, really, who am I kidding? Everything about shopping at the holidays blows chunks. Well, except for hanging with my sis all day, but I would have rather been playing video games and drinking wine with her!

Cravings: Jason was out of town, deer hunting, this weekend so I did little to no cooking, unless you count popcorn. That is totally a dinner entrée and you will never be able to convince me otherwise!

But did you know you can make your own microwave popcorn? And it doesn’t have anything bad in it, unless you add it of course. And it’s super easy. Put about ¼ cup of popcorn kernels into a paper lunch bag. Fold the top down twice. Lay the bag on its side in the microwave and use the popcorn setting. If you want more make it again. You can use the same bag a couple times, but don’t add more popcorn to the bag. I’ve found that it just creates more unpopped kernels. Then you can add any toppings you want. My fave is parmesan cheese and garlic salt. If the cheese is just falling to the bottom of the bowl, just pop it back in the microwave for another few seconds to warm the cheese up. Yum!!!

Now I did cook dinner on Thursday night and wow. It’s up on the favorites list for us. Ranch pork chops over braised white beans. Served with a little side salad. Before I go over the recipes, I have to tell you that I am a food snob, meaning Jason and I try to consume primarily organic, whole foods, local as much as possible. In our avoidance of processed food, I have developed some homemade fixes for previously store bought (read: processed) foods. One of them is ranch dressing. It’s so easy to mix up the dry ingredients and then just add the wet as you need to go. The other benefit is that they work great as dry rubs, like for our pork chops.

Dry ranch mix

4 T dried minced onion
4 T dried parsley flakes
2 t garlic powder

Most recipes you find will call for salt. I rarely add it to my mixes because we tend to add salt as we cook to taste. Just mix it up and store it with your spices. To make dressing add buttermilk and plain greek yogurt (or sour cream). For dip, just add the yogurt (or sour cream). You can make as much or as little as you need.

Ranch pork chops

3-4 T Dry ranch mix
2 T mayo (use the real thing please!)
2 pork chops

Mix the ranch mix and mayo. Spread onto both sides chops. Cook for 20+ mins, depending on thickness of your chops at 350. Seriously, it doesn't get easier than that!

Braised white beans

½ sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, chopped small
2 cans white beans (or dried equivalent. That is my next pledge. To give up canned beans because of the BPA in the cans)
½ cup water
1 T ranch mix
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion and garlic until translucent. Add carrot and sauté for a few more minutes, just to get them softening. Add the drained can of white beans. I then use the cans to add the water, getting out the mushy bean stuff at the bottom of the can. Helps thicken the sauce. Add the ranch mix and salt and pepper to taste. Turn burner to low and let it simmer a bit until all the flavors have blended and the beans are soft.

As a follow up to my canned bean protest: My mother informed me recently, which is what's prompting me) that you can soak dried beans and then freeze them. I am so going to try this soon. I’ll let you know.

She is also the one who informed me that you can flash freeze banana chunks, which we use in smoothies all the time. Or any kind of fruit really. Just lay them out on a sheet pan and put it in the freezer. Once it’s all frozen throw it in a Ziploc bag. Then you can use whatever amount you need. This also works with mushrooms, and Jason says he likes the frozen mushrooms better than the fresh ones. My mom is my cooking muse. I have already designed her Food Network show. She can pull together a gourmet meal using the ingredients in just about any pantry. And most of them include a reduction sauce. It's kind of her specialty!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can you hear the ice forming?

Ravings: Today has been an impossibly hectic day at work, and since the day is almost over, and let’s be honest, I won’t do this at home tonight because I’ll be creating wonderfully tasty kitchen creations, I’m going to say that I officially have nothing to rave about today!

Did anyone else just hear hell start to freeze over?

Cravings: Last night was vegetarian night, and it was so good that I don’t think Jason even missed the meat. He did make a comment that the only thing that would make the mushroom strudel better was some ground beef, but I think he just needs to make irrelevant comments. He’s just secretly jealous of my culinary talents.

Mushroom Strudel

Olive oil
¼ sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 package chopped mushrooms
1 T fresh rosemary
1 T fresh thyme
1-2 T brandy
1-2 T heavy cream
1 roll phyllo dough
½ cup melted butter

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Add mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and cook until everything is soft. Add brandy and cream. Use just enough to make it wet, you don’t really want sauce or it will make the dough soggy.

Melt butter and lay out 1/3 of the phyllo layers. Brush with melted butter and put ½ the mushroom mixture on the phyllo about 1 inch from the edges. Cover with another layer of dough and repeat. Cover with last layer of dough and brush with butter. Carefully tuck the ends and the sides under. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until dough is browned and flaky. I served it with a little side salad of spinach, sliced cabbage, red peppers, and matchstick carrots.

I had some leftover dough because one of my layers ripped, so I made 3 little tartlets for dessert. I cut the strip of dough in thirds and separated the layers in half, so I had 6 layered sheets of dough. I put each one in a ramekin and topped it with more leftover cranberry sauce (I may have to freeze the rest) and a few chocolate chips. I then topped it with the other layers of dough, put a little pat of butter on each ramekin and baked it on 350 for about 15 minutes. We served it with a scoop of the eggnog ice cream and some chocolate sauce. It was store bought. I wasn’t that ambitious!