Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Katie's Veggie Lo Mein

Happy hump day everyone. Can you believe tomorrow is January 1st already? I cannot believe how quick 2008 has gone by for me. In just a few short months I will be stumbling upon my second wedding anniversary with my wonderful Husband Daniel and after ending 2008 on a sour note, 2009 looks more promising for us. I am not sure how you and your significant other ring in the New Year but this year my goal is to actually still be up for it. Both Daniel and I had to work today and he promises that he is leaving work right at 10:30 so that he will definitely be home for the ball drop, we will see if that actually happens. My first thought for tonight was to get comfortable and order us a nice big pizza from La Rosa's, compliments of my wonderful Grandparents who gifted us with a gift card from the place for Christmas. Instead I am, for the first time ever, going to attempt to make Chinese food. My relationship with Chinese food is a rocky one. I will only eat a few things and usually I will take a few bites and regret having ordered anything at all. I do the same thing with Chipotle. I crave the stuff until I have to have it and then when I get it, my craving goes right out the window. Daniel on the other hand LOVES his Chinese. I think it depresses him that I don't love it more and I appreciate the fact his best buddy in the entire world loves it almost as much as he. So whenever Daniel gets the craving it's Mike to the rescue. I decided that maybe, just maybe, if I made Chinese myself at home, where I know what all is being put into it, that maybe my feelings for the stuff would change. So we picked up some nice looking vegetables and some Chinese hot sauce from Jungle Jim's on Saturday and I figured I would go for it tonight. The original plan called for the rice noodles that we also picked up but I am going to be honest with you, they scare me. The bag gives directions on how to cook them but it involves water and oil on the stove and it doesn't say how many to use and I am definitely not going to cook the entire bag because if I did I fear that we would be eating rice noodles from tonight until the end of January. So...I am cheating and not being authentic by any means and will be using angel hair pasta straight from the box. I promise though, once I gather the courage to make those rice noodles, or Daniel does it for me, I will post another recipe using them. So here we go hoping to change my feelings for Chinese food and hopefully making Daniel never want to order take out again.
4 tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 C. Chicken Stock
1 tbsp. Cornstarch
1/2 head of Napa Cabbage
1 15 oz. can of Baby Corn
1 bunch of Green Onions (Which did not make it into the ingredients picture...oops)
2 Carrots( 3 are pictured but after doing 2 I felt 3 would have been too much)
1 sm. bag of Sugar Snap Peas
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Ground Ginger
Angel Hair Pasta

1.) Begin by prepping all of your vegetables. I shred the napa cabbage, julienne my carrots, and cut my green onions on the diagonal into about 1 inch pieces. Keep everything in separate piles.
2.) Bring water for pasta to a boil, add salt to your water, and then dump the box in.

3.)In a separate bowl add your soy sauce to chicken stock with cornstarch and about a dash of ground ginger. Mix until cornstarch and ginger has dissolved.
4.) Begin by sauteing your vegetables. I started with the carrots along with the garlic then the baby corn, sugar snap peas, green onions and lastly the cabbage. You do not want these vegetables to be soft, everything needs to have a nice crunch to it but still be cooked. I pretty much tossed them in the pan a couple of times and then added everything else. 5.) Once the vegetables are done being tossed around I added my cooked and drained pasta.

6.) To this mixture I add my chicken stock mixture that you created in step #3.

7.) Allow to heat through for about 5 minutes, on low heat.

Now you can easily swap out any of these vegetables for others. My original plans called for some fresh mushrooms and then I got to thinking about some fresh peppers and maybe even some broccoli. I asked Daniel what veggies he preferred and he nixed the mushrooms and was hesitant about the broccoli so I omitted them. I suggested the baby corn to him the other day and when I questioned him again what he wanted in this dish this morning while making up the grocery list, he reminded me of the baby corn with concern about them in his voice, when I forgot to mention to them. I am glad he remembered, because not mentioning them was no accident, I had completely forgotten about them. The man forgets to lay out chicken for dinner, but don't you dare forget about his baby corn. Speaking of chicken, this dish would be really great with a meat involved as well. Brown up some chicken chunks or even some shrimp. Can you imagine how pretty the dish would be with some pink shrimp mixed in :)?

Now for my verdict. As you can see in the ingredients picture, I include sesame seed oil and made the mistake of drizzling it over the dish. I tried it before I did this and after. I like how it tasted much better without the sesame seed oil and won't be doing that again, this is why it isn't listed on the ingredients list. This dish was good, but unfortunately I still wasn't thrilled with it. I am just not a big Chinese person and I can't even fully enjoy it when I make it myself. The true verdict will have to come from Daniel, but I just don't know about this one. Maybe you will be able to take my initial recipe work on it some and make it a really, really good. I warned everyone that these recipes could be good or bad, and my feelings are that this one is bad. I even bought a new wok for the occasion. It sure does look good though, I guess that's something.

Looks like I will be calling La Rosa's after all, thank God for generous Grandparents!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Katie's Eggplant Parmesan

Growing up my Mom was never one to experiment in the kitchen, we didn't have vegetables other than the typical corn or potatoes, we were never served fish unless it was frozen and shaped like a stick, and the only thing italian served in our house was spaghetti made from Ragu out of the jar. I don't blame her, my Grandma is the same way. I remember a story of my Grandma serving frozen peas for dinner that she thought had cooked long enough. If it weren't for my other Grandma and my Dad, I know that I would probably be the same way, let us all have a moment of silence for what could have been my life. Anyway, when it comes to the sort of dish I am making for you tonight it's pretty much safe to say that I am self taught. I have also begun making and eating things that years ago I would not have touched with a ten foot pole. Take for instance the fried oyster that I tried at Jungle Jim's on Saturday, and actually enjoyed, who would have thought?? Tonight was another night of firsts for me. I have never had eggplant before and have always heard great things about eggplant parmesan. I decided that it was time to try it out so I did and this is what I came up with.
2 Eggplants
1 Jar of Marinara Sauce (No Ragu please!!)
1 C. Bread Crumbs
2 Eggs (which I forgot to add to the ingredients picture)
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2.) Slice eggplant into about 1/2 in. slices
3.) In separate bowls add the eggs with about a tablespoon of water and mix, and then in another bowl, add about 1 cup of bread crumbs. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. I used about a tablespoon of each, but use however much you would prefer. I like my bread crumbs heavily seasoned.4.) Dip each slice of eggplant into egg mixture and then into bread crumbs. Add to heated skillet that you have added two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and two tablespoons of butter to.5.) Repeat step 4 until you have browned each slice of eggplant.
6.) Take a 9x13 baking dish and spread about a 1/2 cup of marinara sauce to the bottom.
7.) Layer eggplant on the bottom. Mine created about two layers of eggplant.8.) Top eggplant with the rest of your marinara sauce.
9.) Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Use as little or as much as you prefer. Bake until the cheese is melted and has a nice golden brown color.
Now for the verdict, this was pretty darn good if I do say so myself. I think next time instead of browning the eggplant in a skillet on the stove, I am going to attempt to do it in the oven. This will save some time as well as prevent the extra fat that browning them in butter and olive oil adds. Now this is the first time I have ever tried this dish so I have absolutely nothing to compare this to but this is definitely a keeper and if you are looking for something quick and easy that really impresses, then this is the dish for you. If you want to make it extra special try using your own marinara sauce. I was being really lazy and used the kind that comes out of the jar, which is allowed every now and then. Serve this alongside a nice salad and a big hunk of garlic bread straight from the oven and you have yourself one heck of a dinner.

**Update on the sausage and peppers rustica-Daniel enjoyed it...yay for me. He had some last night when he got home from work. His only complaint was that it needed more of the sausage, said you can never have to much of the stuff. I guess this means next time I will be using more than just the three links of sausage.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sausage & Peppers Rustica

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Daniel loves this particular pasta dish. In fact I think this was the dish he had right before we drove across the street to the jewelry store and I came home with a big ol' diamond engagement ring. I swear I just wanted to show him what I liked, how was I to know he was going to be feeling generous and let me keep the ring I fell in love with?? Man do I love my ring!! Thanks again Sweetie!

Anyway, this recipe is straight from Olive Gardens website so thank you to them. I have adapted it somewhat because the recipe they have listed is a bit confusing and calls for 5 cups of salsa marinara which I think is a bit much and plus I didn't have fresh basil because the store was out.Ingredients:
-Peppers- Green, Yellow, seeded and cut into strips, I used 2 of each color
-Italian Sausage (I used three links), cut on the diagonal and browned
4 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1- 28oz. can of Plum Tomatoes, including liquid, chopped, not pureed
4 -clove of Garlic, finely chopped
1- 10 3/4 oz. can of Tomato Puree
Salt and Pepper
Penne Pasta

1.) Brown the italian sausage in your skillet and then cut into slices after you have allowed them to rest for a few minutes. Set aside in a separate bowl.2.) Add peppers to pan along with 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil along with two cloves of the chopped garlic. Saute until crispness is lost, but not soft. Add sausage to peppers.3.) Cook pasta as directed on box.
4.) Combine chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, rest of the chopped garlic, and olive oil, to sauce pan and bring to a light simmer. This makes salsa marinara. I also added a tablespoon of italian seasonings along with about a tablespoon of the pepper and a tablespoon of salt.
5.) Drain pasta and serve, top pasta with sausage and peppers, and salsa marinara.
I am by no means a fan of this dish, mainly because I am not a big sausage person, but a good cook always tries the food that they make and I must admit, I would probably eat a bowl of this stuff if I allowed myself. Daniel unfortunately works second shift so I will have to wait until tomorrow to get his verdict. Something tells me he is going to like it though. This recipe is definitely a keeper and yes Uncle Dan, I will make you batch sometime!!

*I would just like to mention that during the course of this evening I received a war wound. While opening the refrigerator I had a jar of pickles fly at me, shatter at my feet and during the clean up process I had a piece of glass shoved into the palm of my hand which took FOREVER to get out. Now, not only do I smell like a dill pickle but it hurts to close my hand. For the record, if I get injured again tomorrow during the dinner preparation, then I hereby cancel all of the other meals and I am ordering a pizza! :)
It has been a few days since my last post and I must admit it was due to laziness on my part. The Holidays, when your parents are all divorced and also when you have in-laws, tends to be a bit overwhelming. So many places to visit and so little time to do it in. I went to bed at 7:30 last night and could have thrown my alarm clock across the bedroom when it began buzzing at 6 this morning for work, I guess almost 12 hours of sleep was not adequate enough. Anyway, the Holidays are over and it's back to the daily grind of what I like to refer to as "Life".

This Christmas was an exceptionally good one. People have seriously underestimated my love of anything kitchen/cooking related through the years and this year they finally caught on. I love all the gadgets and gizmo's and this year I got plenty. They don't have to be fancy and they don't have to be top of the line expensive either. If I can use it in the kitchen then it will tickle my fancy. Not only did I get lots of kitchen stuff but Daniel and I both got lots of cash. So where do you go when you have kitchen tools to use and money to spend you ask?? Jungle Jim's that's where!! For those of you who are not aware of Jungle Jim's let me tell you, it's the greatest place on earth if you like to cook or eat. You think Super Wal-Mart is big, this place could hold two of them. It is 6 acres of every type of food imaginable and let me tell you another thing, you turn two fat people who a) like to cook, b) like to eat, and c) have some green backs on them, loose in that place, bad things are bound happen. To mention just a few things that made their way into our shopping cart; buffalo burgers, oysters, and a dill pickle the size of...well it's big and we will leave it at that. Of course we also got an assortment of fruits and vegetables, many of which I have never tried let alone cooked with and I am excited to say that this week on Katie's Korner we are going to be very busy using them. Take the two eggplants that I bought for instance. I have been wanting to try my hand at making an eggplant parmesan so it's now or never. We also bought a huge head of napa cabbage, you know the kind you find in Lo Mein's. We also bought a bag of rice noodles, obviously with the intent of making some sort of Chinese dish. On tonight's menu, Sausage and Pepppers Rustica. Daniel loves this dish that is occasionally served at Olive Garden and I just happend to stumble across their actual recipe. Since he picked up some nice looking peppers and italian sausage from Jungle Jim's then I figured I will whip a batch up for him. You will also be happy to know that Daniel will be making an item for the blog on Saturday. My Husband loves to BBQ and especially loves using his smoker that was purchased last year at Christmas. This man makes the best pulled pork you will ever put in your mouth and he is going to be sharing his trade secrets with us. Please see the weeks menu below and make sure you tune in to watch everything take shape. Everything with the exception of the sausage and peppers rustica and Daniel's pulled pork are items that are going to be created as I go so things could be good or they could be bad. Let's hope everything is at least edible.

Monday: Olive Garden's Sausage & Peppers Rustica
Tuesday: Katie's Eggplant Parmesan
Wednesday: Looks like Chinese, so it must be Chinese, Lo Mein
Thursday: Spinach and Chicken Pasta Toss
Friday: Garlic Encrusted Steak with Asparagus and whipped cauliflower
Saturday: Daniel's Pulled Pork, side dishes to be determined

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve Everyone! I spent most of last night finally making the cake balls and buckeyes that were supposed to have been done Saturday during the family bake off and then on Sunday when they weren't finished on Saturday. What can I's been a lazy couple of days and they are so time consuming that I just couldn't force myself to hunker down and get them finished. Well I finally hunkered down last night and finished dipping the cake balls this morning and I must say, they both came out really well and from what I have tasted are really quite scrumptious. I obtained both recipes off of my all time favorite website, and I have posted them below for your viewing pleasure as well as a few pictures. I didn't take step by step pictures because it is probably a safe assumption that everyone viewing this knows how to make both items. I will also be adding another family favorite recipe that Daniel and I made today for Christmas Eve dinner with my Mom's side of the family. We like to refer to them as Cowboy Baked Beans because we put pretty much everything but the kitchen sink in them. They are very yummy and go great with not only the ham we are having for dinner but for any of your BBQ needs.

Cowboy Baked Beans
53 ounce can of Campbells Pork and Beans
1 C. of Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 lg. onion, sauteed with ground beef
2 tbsp. of garlic powder
1 tbsp. of black pepper
2 tbsp. of mustard
1 rounded tablespoon of molasses, we're talkin' heapin' here people!!
6 slices of bacon, cooked and broken up into pieces, or half of a pound if you want. One pound if you are filling generous.
Because I am so worn out tonight I am not doing step by step directions. You basically brown your hamburger along with your onion and then mix everything together. If you wanted to, you could start browning your bacon in the pan first and include the bacon drippings with the mixture. That's how you do it if you aren't worried about cloggin' an artery or two. That's how Daniel does it and it gives it nice flavor. Tonight however, I cooked the bacon separately and also used very lean ground beef that didn't produce any extra grease.

Now onto the cake balls and buckeyes. I didn't think I was ever going to finish rolling little balls last night and having said that, I am sure at least one or two of you need to get your minds out of the gutter :).
I used the following recipe for the buckeyes:

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening DIRECTIONS:
1.)Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.
2.)In a medium bowl, mix peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar with hands to form a smooth stiff dough. Shape into balls using 2 teaspoons of dough for each ball. Place on prepared pan, and refrigerate.
3.)Melt shortening and chocolate together in a metal bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water. 4.)Stir occasionally until smooth, and remove from heat.
5.)Remove balls from refrigerator. Insert a wooden toothpick into a ball, and dip into melted chocolate. Return to wax paper, chocolate side down, and remove toothpick. Repeat with remaining balls. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.
And I used the following recipe for the cake balls:
1 (18.25 ounce) package cake mix (I used a red velvet cake)
1 (16 ounce) container prepared frosting (I used cream cheese flavored icing)
1 (3 ounce) bar chocolate/vanilla flavored confectioners coating or otherwise known as almond bark.

* I have also had luck using a chocolate cake mix using cream cheese flavored icing. Your options are endless.

1.)Prepare the cake mix according to package directions using any of the recommended pan sizes. When cake is done, crumble while warm into a large bowl, and stir in the frosting until well blended.
2.)Melt chocolate coating in a glass bowl in the microwave, or in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
3.)Use a melon baller or small scoop to form balls of the chocolate cake mixture. Dip the balls in chocolate using a toothpick or fork to hold them. Place on waxed paper to set.
After a long day of rolling and dipping things and then going to the grocery last minute to buy the stuff to make the baked beans, I am going to bed. I have to be up and at em early tomorrow morning because I am cooking breakfast for everyone and my house is a mess right now so I will also have to do a quick clean up. No white gloves allowed in this house tomorrow!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's for Dinner Night II?

What's for dinner tonight you ask? Good question, it took me just about all day to come up with the answer. As just about everyone in my family knows I am a pasta fanatic. I love spaghetti and could probably live on it if I allowed myself. I have tried to kick the habit some since my Husband, Father, and Sister all make fun of me for it but every now and then a girl just has to tell them to hush it and go for it. Tonight I didn't really have the means to come up with a regular spaghetti sauce so I had to work with what I did have. A few months ago I was introduced to Vodka sauce. Oh my it was heavenly, we had it served over pasta to go along with baked cod. Since then I have been hooked and regrettably to get my fill, I have been buying it (gulp) by the jar. Now there is nothing wrong with the jar once and again and they are so very convenient when your lazy and not trying to impress anyone, but tonight was different. The roads were iced over and as I mentioned yesterday I am broke as a joke. This meant if I was to have Vodka sauce, I was going to have to do it all on my own and the great thing was...I had all of the ingredients needed to make it. Now let's get serious shall we?

List of Ingredients:
1 Chicken Breast, diced and browned.
1/2 Lg. Onion, chopped finely
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
3 Cloves of Garlic, chopped finely
1 C. Heavy Cream
1/2 C. Vodka
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Dried Basil
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pasta of your choiceSauce serves four.

1.) Begin by cutting your chicken breast up into small pieces, saute in pan with tablespoon of butter/margarine and tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Cook until brown. Set aside in small bowl.
2.) Add two tablespoons of butter/margarine along with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to same pan and add onion and garlic. Add a teaspoon of black pepper and salt to the onion/garlic mix.
3.) Cook onion and garlic mix until translucent. Add vodka and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.4.) Add crushed tomatoes.
5.) Add heavy cream and gently stir together.
6.) Add basil and oregano.
7.) Add chicken back into sauce mixture and stir.8.) Allow sauce to simmer on low heat for a half hour.
9.) Add sauce to your favorite pasta. For this meal I used Tubetti by De Cecco and topped it off with Parmesan cheese.
Now time for the was EXCELLENT. I am so proud of myself and believe me when I say it beats the open faced sloppy joes that were for dinner last night. Although, Daniel said they were pretty good, so maybe they were a winner after all. This meal is great with a side salad and slice of good french bread and is one that would definitely impress the in-laws. It would also go great with a glass of red wine, but I don't drink so I am just guessing with that one. Did I also mention that the onions and garlic saute caused Toby to get up off of the couch to see what I was doing. If only I could bottle that smell. Everyone needs to attempt to make this sauce on their own at least once, I guarantee you will not regret it and it is a good excuse to go out and buy a bottle of vodka if you don't have know for those rainy occasions when you need some :).

Oh yeah, Aunt Robin, my stove is sloppy again, do you think you could stop by sometime tomorrow?

Monday, December 22, 2008

What's for Dinner?

What's for dinner? I am sure that is on just about everybody's mind and like me I am sure you are probably having a difficult time trying to figure out what you are in the mood for. Normally this wouldn't be to difficult of a process however I am in desparate need of going to the grocery. Unfortunately my funds have been tapped, erased, flushed down the toilet, or to just come out and say it...have all been spent. My pantry is loaded but my fridge has been left bare. I think I have one chicken breast left and splitting it between two hungry people is just not going to cut it, so tonight everybody is a night where Katie has to get creative. I have the following items on hand and I am going to attempt to knock my socks off with the ingredients. Please follow me on what could be an amazing meal.

First off, we had left over sloppy joes from Saturdays bake off. My Husband doesn't like vegetable soup so I had to make him a separate meal. I am a good wife like that. I also had a bag of potatoes that were starting to sprout so I figured now was the time to use them up. I also had a roll of crescent rolls because those along with cream cheese and sour cream are always in my fridge. Lastly, I had shredded cheese. Once again another staple in our house. So I decided to make ranch baked potatoes along with open faced sloppy joes.

Here is what you will need;

Sloppy Joe meat, I had it left over, but if you wanted to make it fresh use a pound.
A roll of crescent rolls
Shredded Mild Cheddar
Ranch Dressing
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Ranch Baked Potatoes

1.) Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
2.) Wash potatoes and slice like a fan, not cutting all the way through.
3.) Rub down your potatoes with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4.) Bake in oven for 30 to 40 minutes are until golden brown and baked through.
5.) During the last 5 minutes of baking pour about a tablespoon or two of ranch dressing on your potato making sure it drips down into the slices. Sprinkle the top with cheese and put back into the oven until the cheese is melted.

Now for the open faced sloppy joes:

1.) Take your crescent rolls, unless when you take them out of the package something like this happens.
They crumble and tear apart. Now because that was my last roll of crescent rolls I had to think fast; so I improvised and used the biscuits that had been set aside for the biscuits and gravy that was being made on Christmas morning. Looks like I am headed back to the grocery!
2.) Throw away your broken crescent rolls and break open the Grands Biscuits, with those flaky layers and extra butter tastin'.
3.) Flatten your biscuits out and put on a sprayed baking sheet. I used my pizza sheet that has holes in it just to insure that they baked more evenly.
4.) Spoon onto your biscuit some of your sloppy joe mix. I didn't measure anything, I just piled it on until I couldn't pile anymore. Of course be sure to leave enough for all eight biscuits.
5.) Pop in the oven at 350 degrees until the biscuits edges are a nice golden brown.
6.) During the last few minutes of baking pull those bad boys out of the oven and sprinkle with some more of that shredded cheese you used on the ranch baked potatoes and stick them right back into the oven to allow the cheese to melt.

Now for the verdict. While I love baked potatoes and these smelled heavenly during the last few minutes in the oven, they did not knock my socks off. They were good but I would definately do things differently next time. I think maybe I would sprinkle them with parmesan cheese and some Hidden Vally Ranch seasoning and instead cut them into fries. As they were I think they would go over well with children because let's face it, don't most all children like cheese and ranch dressing?? As far as the open faced sloppy joes go, they were good and very easy to make when you are pressed for time. Another keeper for children! I think next time I will make them into a open faced pizza using pizza sauce instead of the sloppy joe sauce. Add some onions, mushrooms, and a little mozzarella on top. You of course could add any of your favorite pizza toppings. In conclusion, while this meal filled the empty spot that was growing larger in my stomach at every passing moment, this isn't something I would necessarily make again. Great for young children, definately not something you would serve to the in-laws.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Well the family bake off has come to an end and everyone was in agreement that today was pretty fun although baking and decorating cookies is a lot of hard work. The plan was that I was going to make cake balls, gingerbread men, and one other treat that is going to be left unspoken because they are going to be given as a surprise for my Uncle on Christmas instead. I started making the gingerbread cookies around 3 and quickly ran out of time and energy to even attempt to make the other treats. This of course means I will be busy baking tomorrow, but oh well, tis the season. I tried a recipe for gingerbread cookies that isn't too gingery (not sure if that is a word) but is definitely a keeper because it is so easy to use and make cut outs with. They hold their shape perfectly which is always a concern of mine. Let us start shall we?

Below is the cast of characters.
You will need the following ingredients:

1/2 C. butter, softened
1/2 C. brown sugar
2/3 C. molasses
2 eggs
4 C. all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the molasses and eggs. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, and add the baking soda, salt, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger; beat into the molasses mixture. Gradually stir in the remaining flour by hand to form a stiff dough.
3. Divide dough into 2 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out cookies to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes using cookies cutters. Place cookies one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven.

My favorite part of this experience was the I got to use my holiday themed cookie cutters that I bought for myself on my birthday, well I picked them out, my brothers bought the gift card that actually paid for them but you know what I mean. The clean stove is compliments of my Aunt Robin, have I ever mentioned I am a sloppy cook and everything gets splattered on my stove/oven? No...well I am bad like that. Did I also mention, I hate cleaning up those messes...yes I do, badly!! Those are two issues that do not go hand in hand which is why my stove is always dirty...sorry Mom...sorry Daniel!

The icing we used to decorate these fabulous cookies was also another winner. Silly me forgot to take pictures of that process but below is the recipe.

1 C. confectioners sugar
2 tsp. milk
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. almond extract
assorted food coloring

1. In a small bowl combine confectioners sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.
2. Divide into smaller bowls to add your colors.

See how pretty the icing is on our cookies? Man I just love how these turned out. Aren't we a creative bunch of people?

Creative we are, clean as we go people we are not! I will be cleaning my kitchen for the next two days, which is fine with me, because I am not one to clean my kitchen when I should anyway! Ask my husband! See the picture's ten times worse than this. I am afraid it might also break the new camera if I took a picture so I am just going to skip that step. You will note the lovely lady in the pictures as well. That's Aunt Robin and she made me promise I would not post a picture of her, even threatened she would withhold all of my Christmas presents. Obviously I lied to her and let's get real here. The woman loves Christmas and believe me when I say love is not a strong enough word. Like how I just asked you to believe me after I just got done saying I lied? Sorry, had to chuckle with that one. Anyway, she has been giddy with excitement over her Christmas presents for us this year since before Thanksgiving. I think it's safe to say she won't be withholding anything from me so Aunt Robin, next time you will just have to smile for the

Hope everyone enjoys the remainder of the last weekend before Christmas. Daniel finished the hanging of the lights outside this evening. Everything looks really nice and I even helped for about a whole three minutes before I left him and started raking leaves out of the flower bed. I have a few more presents to wrap and of course tomorrow I will be busy finishing all of the treats we were supposed to do today. I think I am starting to get into the holiday spirit but it's definitely not there all the way just yet. Here's hoping it happens soon because we are seriously running out of time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Yes I am quite aware that Christmas is less than a week away and yes I am aware that I still have a million things to do, the problem is I can't quite seem to get myself into the mood. For me Christmas just doesn't seem like Christmas this year. It could be the lack of funds to purchase gifts or go all out on the cooking and baking or the lack of a Christmas tree in my living room because the hubby and I made the executive decision to save our money this year, but not even the Christmas carols or the decorations are enough to spark my interest. I was starting to wonder if this was just something I was dealing with, but sadly I feel that it is affecting everyone. I have received only one Christmas card and my Husband, who has Christmas listed as his second favorite holiday of the year, has only just now begun putting up the outside decorations. I will warn everyone now, we will be that house that still has their lights up in February only for the simple fact that he has gone to so much work to get them up that only using them for a week is out of the question. I am hoping that after this saturday things will pick up in with my Christmas spirit. My Dad's side of the family, who currently get's together every Saturday night for a family dinner, is getting together for a day of Christmas baking and quality time. Daniel and I will be making cake balls, buckeyes, and maybe, just maybe if this little elf can get herself even more motivated...a christmas cookie of sorts. Which kind I don't know...we'll see if I am feeling merry or not!! Pictures and recipes will be following so stay tuned!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Great Dane Rescue

It is obvious that my Husband and I are devoted to the love and care of our three furry friends. We are firm believers that animals are the key to happiness and sometimes survival in a world that isn't always good. Our dogs are our companions, best friends, and the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes. Their lives complete ours. They love us when we are sad, they cuddle us when we are lonely, they support us when we are sick, and most importantly they make us laugh. Our boys make us laugh all of the time.

Wagner, Bandit, Toby, and our dearly departed Lucia all came from rescues or the pound. We have considered once to purchase a dog from a back yard breeder, and it was shortly after we had to have Lucia put to sleep when we were craving the affection of a particular red doberman princess, and it didn't take us long to realize that we just aren't the type of people to do such a thing and that no matter what we did, we were not going to find another red doberman with the personality of Lucia.

Now I am not saying that it isn't right for others, but for Daniel and I, giving a dog who would otherwise be put down a home is more up our alley. Our dogs aren't meant to be fashion accessories nor do we ever intend to breed them. They are our friends and we don't care where they come from or whether or not they have the right papers so rescuing them is just something we do and will always do.

Wagner and Toby are our "special" children. They were both adopted from a Great Dane rescue out of Bethel Ohio while the others were picked up from the pound. Now that doesn't make Bandit nor Lucia any less special than the other two monkeys. But because we adopted Wagner and Toby from the rescue we have more of an attachment to the place and the people who volunteer there on a daily basis. In fact, we started volunteering there ourselves shortly after the adoption of Wagner back in 2005. We go to quite a few rescue events and once a month we go back to the pound where we picked up Bandit and set up a table with all of the rescues information. It also gives the public an opportunity to see just how big these Danes get and that their personalities and temperments are that of a small child. Sweet, cuddly, and always affectionate. Of course they have a rebelous side as well, but thats another post on its own. Anyway, with it being around the holidays I feel that it is important to stress the need to check out your local rescues and pounds. I can guarantee that many dogs will be purchased for that special holiday gift. Unfortunately many of those same dogs will wind up in rescues. Whether it is because the dog didn't get along with other pets, the person receiving it didn't really want that sort of dog, or because the dog didn't act a certain way. This season is even worse because of the poor econonmy. So many of these rescues are packed full with dogs that were owner surrenders because they just cannot afford the upkeep of the animal anymore. For others it's because they are losing their homes and cannot take the family pet with them to their new home. If you are anyone you know are looking to adopt a furry friend this holiday season, please visit your local rescue or pound. Please give a home to animal that may otherwise never get one and if adopting one at this time is not a viable option, please consider making monetary donations. The Great Dane rescue that we are associated with is in need of money quite badly. The facility is need of repairs and for the first time ever they are having to buy their dog food. Of course our rescue always takes in Danes no matter what their health is like and because of this they have racked up a nice medical bill with the vets and could definately use help lowering it. All donations are tax deductible!

Below are links to some of our favorites, the first being for the Great Dane Rescue. Be sure to tell them that Wagner and Toby sent you!! (Second Chance Rescue)
I don't know about everyone else but I just adore the Holidays. There are many reasons for this; family, friends, presents, and just the thought of Christmas in general. I love the music, I am gitty with excitement over the decorations, and there is just something magical about sitting in your living room with the only source of light radiating from the lights decorating your Christmas tree. Of course there is that one other source of excitement in my house and I am sure many of you would agree...FOOD! I love to cook almost as much as I enjoy to eat. Food is the common denominator when it comes to spending time with family and it is a routine that my family has stuck to every Saturday evening for as long as I can remember. Now we are by no means fancy people. We do not turn our noses up at a nice juicy hamburger nor do we deny ourselves the rights to a nice casserole straight from the oven. We do however have those special food items that seem to only make their appearances on special occassions. With the holidays practically knocking on my front door as we speak I thought I would share with you a few of my families favorites. These items are good for Christmas dinners just as they are good for the neighborhood block party. Hopefully I will be able to start posting pictures of the dishes I am speaking about. If you are anything like me, I require pictures. If a cook book does not include pictures of the dishes it is not purchased. I like knowing what my dish should look like and I usually eat with my eyes first so it helps knowing what it looks like. Anyway, here is the recipe for my Step-Mom's famous cauliflower salad. It is a little time consuming and it is best left to "marinate" over night, but trust me when I is worth every minute spent!!!

Cast of Characters:

1 Lg. Head of Ice-Burg Lettuce, chopped and rinsed

1 Sm.-Md. Size Head of Cauliflower, chopped into small florets.

1 bunch of green onions, chopped and rinsed

1 Box of frozen peas

2 Cups of Hellman's Mayo

1 package of Good Seasons Garlic and Herb Dressing Mix

Parmesan Cheese

1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled

All of these measurements are estimates. The magic of this salad is that you can use just about as much or as little of something should you choose. My Uncle doesn't like peas...your Uncle may not either. If this is the case, don't use the hole box, use half. It is entirely up to you! The only requirements is that you must use real mayonnaise. For the love of all things magical this Christmas season, do not use Miracle Whip in place of the real stuff. The taste Miracle Whip gives this salad is horrid!!!!! Don't ask me how I know's a bad memory and I prefer to keep it locked away.

Anyway, back to the salad. The key to the salad is layers, and you are going to layer your salad based on the order in which the ingredients are listed above. When it comes to the Hellmans, I tend to use a little more than the two cups. But that's my preference because I like my salad to be a little more "wet". I probably use close to three cups...gulp. And by the way, that is cups as in dry measuring cups, not wet. Good grief, if you used three cups using your liquid measuring cups, the lettuce would definately be "wet", it would probably need a life jacket. After you spread a nice layer of the mayo over your salad, you will then sprinkle your Garlic and Herb seasonings topped off with another layer of parmesan cheese. I have never really measured how much I use, but I am generous with it. You want a nice layer of the stuff, but it is totally up to you on how much you use. Last layer is the bacon. Now the recipe calls for a pound, but family has a fascination with bacon. Who am I kidding, we have a fascination with food in general. My Step-Mom always suggested using more than a pound, so if you have no probably clogging an artery or two then throw in an extra pound. Normally because of my need to use more mayo each time, I try to behave myself by only using the one pound. After you are done layering your salad, cover it up and throw it in the fridge. If you are good like some people, you will forget about it until the next day. If your bad like me then that means you made it the morning of the event you need it for and it won't get to marry overnight. No big deal, but does need a few hours so plan ahead. Oh can toss the salad right before serving. No later!

Now I know this all seems a jumbled mess, but bear with me people. This is my first food post so I am a work in progress. Just remember, the key is in the layering, and if you follow the layers based on how the ingredients were listed above then you are golden.