Sunday, November 30, 2008

And the holiday is OVAH.....

Leftover turkey has been chopped/shredded, packed into bags and thrown in the freezer.

Turkey bones were used today for turkey stock, although I might still do another stock with them and combine/reduce the two stocks. I think them bones still got some more to give.

Any Thanksgiving food that was taken home has been tossed. Well, there is still a piece of pecan pie, but that will likely go in the trash the night before garbage day.

It's snowing... has been all day, but it hasn't been sticking too much so I hope the roads are OK in the morning. With the furlough, those days I was holding on to for "possible snow days" ain't happening... which means I gotta go in and if it takes me two hours to get in, I just gotta stay two hours later. I do not like the thought of that.

I did finally get sick of turkey and was having an unnatural craving for a Mexican combo platter on Saturday, so I decided to stay in and make my own. For the first time ever I actually made my own refried beans - from dried beans to finish. I think I needed to cook my beans a little longer... I will say the flavor WAS indeed head and shoulders above the canned refried beans, but next time I try, I might just try canned beans with the other things (onions cooked in bacon fat and a can of Ro-tel). My homemade beans were damned close to those fan-flippin-tastic beans they used to serve at Margarita's Mexican Cantina in Vegas. Man, I miss that place. And the hubby really misses the Bistec Milanesa Con Camarones (think chicken-fried strip steak covered in a garlic sauce with shrimp... it was awesomeness).

Back to work tomorrow, back to the normal routine. I'd almost forgotten about the brother-in-law's Christmas party on Saturday. I always bring something and it's very "cocktail party"-ish.... people drinking and nibbling. Brother-in-law invites his friends, the cousins, some of the people who work for him, and much drinking and fun usually happens. I usually try to bring a couple things, but I think this year I'm doing three. Spinach-Cheese Swirls as the "totally veggie" option (my brother in law's in-laws usally make an appearance, and two of my sis-in-law's sisters are vegetarians), and I was unable to decided between Smoked Salmon Stuffed Potatoes (no caviar... I ain't made of money) and Louisiana Shrimp Dip, so I might just bring both. Yes, I have that much cream cheese on hand right now. But I might go for a "warm" version of the dip and bring my new warming tray... that thing just ROCKED on Thanksgiving. Kept my sweet potatoes and the tragic pumpkin gratin warm. And if I'd have known it worked so well, I wouldn't have bothered to even warm my green beans and almond browned butter before we left since they were kinda overcooked by the time dinner came around. Looking forward to using this on holidays when I bring warm things to other houses.... I can at least keep my own stuff warm and not need oven time.

Sigh.... do I really have to go into work tomorrow?? What is it I do again???

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Happy Turkey Day!

Hope Turkey Day went well for all, even if you chose to stay in and heat up a frozen dinner (hey... sometimes you just know your own company will be better than the outside world).

I woke up this morning to a crusted-shut right eyelid that was also swollen. Lovely. It was interesting doing my last-minute things in the kitchen this morning with one eye, but I managed to do it. All of it was pretty similar to last year.

But oh.... if you were thinking of trying the Pumpkin-Pecorino Gratin? DON'T. Epic FAIL. Not good.

Not hitting a single brick & mortar store tomorrow, even though I want to get an eye mask that you can heat up to try and get this crazy eye under control (apparently, I might have an ingrown eyelash or "dandruff of the eyelashes" or something zany).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

T-Day countdown... Days 2 & 3

So.... yesterday the goal was to go to Hagens and get some smoked shrimp. Mmmm... two pounds of lovely smoked shrimp.....

I picked up some frozen crawfish and pickled herring. Then I got myself a cup of gumbo and an order of fried clams for lunch. Very yummy.

The plan was then to come home, work out and get on with the day.

But these decided to interrupt....

Yep... I fell DOWN the stairs. Badly. I've become somewhat of an expert at falling up stairs, I do that frequently enough where I have perfected my technique, but down is another store. I laid there for a moment. Got up and was shaking, but nothing seemed too out of order. Headed upstairs and sat for a few minutes just to make sure I was OK, and decided to just put off the workout for the day.

Only Thanksgiving prep I did was put all my pumpkin puree in it's final serving dish, and mixed up the pumpkin filling for my Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart. Nothing exciting.

I think I actually pulled the muscles in the top of my right foot, and it still hurt this morning. Fun.

But, today is the Big Show, time to get on with all the other things I wanted to get done. First, the turkey breast that would be going into the crockpot. I usually don't pay much attention to all the people who say "put it in a bowl, just in case it leaks on you". It's never happened to me!

Well, now it has, I guess. Le sigh.

After I had that cleaned up, I threw the turkey breast and some turkey tails I got at the produce mart in the crockpot (hey, they were cheap, and I'm looking forward to lots of bones for stock).

Next up was the crumble for my sweet potatoes. Usually, I just do the crumble on top of the sweet potatoes, but for some reason my mother in law requested the sweet potatoes without the crumble. I know the hubby's uncle is currently going thru chemo and not handling it well, but I know he's not allergic to nuts, I don't know if she was just thinking more "plain" type food or what. And one of the husband's cousins is allergic to nuts. He's a teenager now and all into trying new foods, so I figured I'd keep the nuts on the side for a few things in case he now wants to try them (he used to love the excuse that he couldn't have so-and-so because it had nuts in it).

I actually do the sweet potatoes different than the recipe... throw the stick of butter into a big pot, add 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup OJ and peeled and diced (1 inch cubes) of sweet potato and bring it to a simmer, then cover, reduce the heat and cook until the cubes are soft, which usually only takes 30 minutes for me although my origianl reference says 45. Then uncover and boil away until the liquid is syrupy. The potato cubes mash up a little bit while you're stirring, leaving you a nice contrast of mashed and whole sweet potato. And sorry, no pictures of that, since my phone ran out of juice and had to recharge.

So, I wanted to try the crumble on its own, kinda as a seperate thing you could sprinkle on top of your sweet potatoes if you wanted. Started it off as any other crumble... flour, brown sugar and butter....

Smoosh it all together. You can do this in a food processor, but I just went old-school with my hand pastry blender. Wooo... look.... crumbly and pretty...

Added a half cup of chopped pecans, and then spread it on a baking sheet. And it worked!!


I was happy. I was on top of the world. I was about to be violently shoved back into my place by the evil, evil, Martha Stewart.

Stoopid Chocolate-Pumpkin Tart.

Cookies (and this was an adventure on it's own... since these "chocolate wafer cookies" are now kept by the ice cream supplies most places, not by the cookies) and sugar in the food processor.

Action shot!

Mmm... chocolate.... after I added the melted butter...

You then press the crumbs into the bottom of a tart shell. Which I did. And bake it. Which I did. Then melt 4 oz. of chocolate chips, which I did. Then spread on the baked shell. Which went horribly.....

The stuff just did NOT hold together in any crust-like manner. It was horrible. It happens with Martha recipes a lot... they sound so easy to do when you read them, and they obviously leave out some big technical details that you really need to know. Being a technical writer - someone who revels in the little details that make all the difference between success and total FAIL - I find it kinda evil to let bad recipe like that upon the world. Martha Stewart 1, Hausfrau 0. Actually, she might have way more than 1. I don't always have a lot of luck trying to pretend to be Martha.

After that, I decided to do something easy... topping for the Pumpkin and Percorino Gratin. Two slices of bread and 1/4 cup of pecorino cheese. Easy enough.

That'll go on the pumpkin tomorrow, and I'll throw it all in the oven.

After that, it was on to the stuffing. Since my dad passed in 2004, I've been trying to figure out what the magic was to his stuffing. I still haven't figured it out, but I get a little closer ever year. This year, I planned on actually adding the celery to it. But while I was at the produce mart, I saw this, right next to the celery....

Cardone, or Cardoon. I figured I could use it kinda like celery. I should have checked before today, because although you can, apparently it's more bitter and best if you give it a long pre-soak.

Sigh. Ok... no celery, no cardone either. Moving on....

I did find one great thing... a microwave bag of wild rice....

My dad's stuffing recipe used wild rice, and it's always stressful for me to have to make it. I was overjoyed to find this lovely packet. Sure enough, two minutes in the nuke box and it was perfect. Added to my simmering mushrooms and onions....

Add that to dried out bread cubes and some cooked & crumbled sausage. Add some sage, salt and pepper, and moisten with stock. I used chicken stock.

And a blurry picture of the stuffing, just out of the oven.....

Not too bad. Closer than any previous attempt, at least.

I then started a new Chocolate-Pumpkin tart. I tried more butter in the crust and it was better, but I probably should have melted my chocolate more. Then I quickly threw in the filling and got it in the oven.

At this point, there are no pictures because the hubby called at about 2:30 and said they were letting them out of work at 3pm. And he had to pick up a pie from Baker's Square at 4pm.

What he obviously meant to say was "we get off at 3, but I'm going to the comic book store and a couple other places and I'm not going to be home at my usual time". So, by 5pm I was mildly freaking and checking local traffic reports for reports of horrible, firey car crashes (there weren't any in any area I figured the hubby would be). And my hubby's phone is chronically NOT charged or just off. And it drives me CRAZY at times like this. At 5:30pm, he finally came home.

He went to nap, I moved on to my browned butter and toasted almonds.

Butter, just foaming...

Getting there.....

We have brown....

And mixed with the lemon juice (and a little soy sauce and balsamic)

And the slivered almonds, toasted in the oven....

I have to remember to ask my mother in law tomorrow... my husband has said since we first started dating a zillion years back that their family tradition for the night before Thanksgiving was to have McDs. I'm fine with that. And yes, he had to go into work today but I spent the entire bleepin' day in the kitchen on my feet. I need confirmation from the Supreme Mother In Law that it is the job of the person who did NOT spend the day prepping to go pick up the food. Seriously.

After dinner, I did a quick food processor pie dough for my pecan pie, mixed up the pecan pie filling, removed the turkey breast from the crockpot, cleaned the kitchen and ran the dishwasher for the FOURTH time today, and the kitchen is now closed. It's time for this Hausfrau to relax with a couple of bottles of Blue Moon's Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale and RELAX.

We now bring you this important Thanksgiving Day message....

Martha Stewart is evil.

Evil, I tells ya.....

Monday, November 24, 2008

T-Day Countdown... Day 1

Day one of the work furlough, and I was up at my usual time to get going. Had some breakfast, got in a workout, and headed off to do some shopping. Got some shopping done for my brother & sister in law and my mom (and some for me - hey, this gal was dreadfully low on her Lancome foundation).

Had a lovely lunch with ThatWordGuy and headed home. And it was on to cooking.

First up... the BA Foodist's (aka KindaATool) Mom's Chicken Liver Pate. Why KindaATool? As much as I like his writing and even think he's kinda cute (I am a total sucker for long hair), when he was on the Next Iron Chef thing on Food Network it was like he NEVER had a kind word to say to anyone. Like, EVER. I'm not 18 anymore. I don't have the energy for angst (come to think of it and the boyfriend I dropped right before I hooked up with the hubby, I didn't have much energy for angst at 18, either...)

I am not squiemish when it comes to the organ meats... I'm a fan of pates of many sorts. But I've never tried chicken pate, and chicken livers are dirt cheap at the produce mart. Why not give it a shot?

The mis....

I actually (accidentially - forgot to look at the recipe before I went shopping) bought twice the amount of livers that I was supposed to. Um, oops. Looks like on my outtings tomorrow, I'll need to get me some more good butter.

Sliced bacon and butter into a pan....

Bacon... butter? Is that you calling? Talk sexy to me, baby....

And the whole fine mess after onions, apples, livers, garlic and majoram (which I bought special for the recipe... hey Andrew... herb gardens are long gone by this time of the year).

Food processor action shot!

You then push it through a strainer to get out the big lumpy stuff. I probably should have used a finer mesh. Oops.

... and if you have feral cats that live in the bushes next door (neighbor has actually put out boxes for them by this point in the year so they'll stay warm thru the winter) you can take the bigger bits that are left and put them out for the cats....

They must have liked the cooking smells, since they weren't far when I opened the door. And they were on that stuff like... well... cats on chicken liver pate, I guess. It was gone in like five minutes.

The final verdict.... meh, right now. It's not as strong as something like liver sausage, and I wonder if the flavors will change after a couple days in the fridge.

And since I was home and had time and I think I still have FOUR packages of hot dogs in the freezer, it was bagel dogs for dinner....

Purty, no?

You just make a regular bagel dough recipe, and then cut the dough and roll it into long strips, and wrap them around the hot dogs. Always a dinner that makes the hubby happy, since our supply of store-bought bagel dogs was cut off awhile back. And even though I use a egg bagel recipe that I got from a friend (thanks, Maria!) I think I still need to find a new one. They're just not the yellow I expect egg bagels to be. I suppose I could try doing just yolks next time....

After dinner, it was on to cranberry sauce....

Berries in the pot with the strained wine mixture.....

The "pop pop pop pop" stage of cranberry sauce making......

And now it's starting to look like cranberry sauce....

Wooo.... purty.... and ohmywordthismakesthehousesmellfantastic......

Even if you're not looking for an excuse to have to finish off that bottle of zin that you open for the sauce, it's a nice recipe. The orange and spices are just something that you cannot get out of a can. And really, the zin is one of my favorite parts about it since it is a "spicy" wine that works so well with a sweet/tart recipe like this. If you've just never liked wine, this is one that might make you think twice, since it is just such a great pairing.

On deck tomorrow... the pumpkin gratin, the sweet potatoes, and the browned butter. Might also make my pie/tart dough. And the trip to Hagens. Woooooo!!! Smoked shrimp!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's 9:30pm, and I don't have to go to work tomorrow....

Let the happy Furlough Feeling begin!

I must admit, it actually made for a nice weekend, knowing I didn't have to slam everything into two days.

So, of course, I slammed everything into two days.

Saturday is was cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Only thing I did not get around to doing was vacuuming the carpet. No biggie. Might do that tomorrow.

No cooking. I ended up running to pick up some Jimmy John's. The parking lot was a madhouse because the Little Caesar's a couple doors down was having it's opening weekend. And it was crowded. And I was confused. Why... in a town where there is at least fair-to-good pizza on most every corner... would people be standing in line for that stuff? Back, years ago, when that stuff was the big 2-for-1 deal it was what we ALWAYS got for pizza parties at school because you got a lot for the money. But it was all always gross. Ick.

Today was shopping day. I was thinking of putting it off until Monday, but figured the store would at least be staffed for crowds today. It was oddly uncrowded. There were a lot of people at the stores last week, so I don't know if people were stocking up then, but it was just oddly un-crowded for a Sunday before the holiday.

I did end up having to go back to one store a second time... the chocolate/pumpkin tart has a crust made from chocolate wafer cookies. I looked at three places and could not find them. Got home, and after the groceries were all put away I hit the 'net... turns out that a lot of stores now put them by the ice cream cones & stuff. Sigh. I hate it when stores do that. And I also wonder WHY, in this digital age, they don't have some gizmo for the people who work at the stores where they can do a simple search on some wireless device and tell you were to find something rather than staring at you blankly when you ask a question.

Kinda fizzled out after that.... relaxed, watched some TV, made crab & scrambled eggs for dinner. Used green onions rather than chives, and it was still good. But man... that recipe just calls for good crab. I've tried it with lesser-than-lump crab and it's just not as good.

Going to head out tomorrow morning and try to get a little Christmas shopping done. Afternoon will be coming home and doing some cooking and cleaning out the freezers. Wooo. Dinner plan is bagel dogs since we have about a zillion and a half hotdogs in the freezer. Ooops. My bad. And come to think of it, I might pull out another 4 hot dogs and do a double batch of bagels, as long as I'll be doing it anyway.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad blogger! BAD!!!

Forgive me, for I have been a bad blogger this week.

I wanted to show off some stuff... like making sausage gravy for a yummy biscuits & gravy night, document the making of rueben sandwiches, complain about my husband's attitude toward stir-fry night, Beaujolais Nouveau Day... but it's been busy 'round here.

Since we got my elliptical up and assembled, I've recommitted to the weight loss track. Now, I'm one of those people that is NOT willing to give up the food I love (well, I will use portion control, but butter, eggs, cheese and breads still need to have a place in my life or I'll be a horribly unhappy person) so my only option is excercise. My goal is to try and get in three "intense" workouts a week, and two less-straining workouts in. On goal with that so far thru this week.

However, it's cut into my free time. I'm not a morning person who can wake up and get on the elliptical, so I do it first thing when I get home. So, of course, this week was working late and then dealing with horrible traffic and trying to get home in enough time to get the workout in and have dinner ready at 7pm. I succeeded. But there just wasn't time to worry about photos or put together a post or nuttin'. Sorry, folks.

But, that shouldn't be the story for next week, since at 5pm today, the first week of furlough at work started. One whole week of no work. Several days of cooking ahead for Turkey Day. All the time in the world.

I'm actually kinda looking forward to the furlough. Sure, it'll burn up all my vacation time, but I was likely going to be taking off most of the same days anyway. Sure, there will be some unpaid time in there. But I am happy to take the cost of some lost money to ensure I still have a job. It's a fair trade off in the current business world.

No excercise tonight and no cooking tonight... Friday is my night off. Hubby picked up some Culvers and we stuffed ourselves silly.

Tomorrow is Cleaning Day. I always cook MUCH better in a clean and organized kitchen, and mine is very much not that right now. Also want to get the rest of the house straightened up so I can just do spot-cleaning until the holidays, and not have to worry about it then.

Meeting ThatWordGuy for lunch on Monday, which should be fun. On Tuesday I plan on running to Hagen's Fishmarket to get some smoked shrimp, since I have been DYING for some for about nine months now. Wednesday will be all kitchen time, and Thursday will be enjoying the fruits of my own labor and the labors of my family.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let's clear up some things about Chicago style pizza, folks....

Ok, rest of the country.... from 2009-2013, you're going to have to deal with a Chicago boy in the White House. So it's time to clear up some things about Chicago-style pizza.

Everyone always seems to think "deep dish" when they think of Chicago. While it did originate here, it's much more of a "special occasion" thing than your everyday take-out pizza. The first time I ever had deep dish was when I was 13 and I went with my friend Erin to the Printer's Roe Book Fair. Even though we were only 13, we were actually allowed to go downtown on the train and to the fair on our own, because Erin had been going to a charter school in the city for years (her parents kinda split time between the city and the 'burbs) so she knew where she was going and everything. For lunch, we had plans to go to Edwardo's. We got a deep dish/stuffed pizza (stuffed pizza is similar but it involves 2 crusts, a top and a bottom) with tomatoes and elephant garlic. It was wonderful.

Anyway... what the majority of corner pizza places serve is not deep dish. It's not like fluffy Pizza Hut pizza, either. Crispy, thin, breadstick-like crust.

We ordered a pizza from our new favorite place on Saturday, after the hubby put together my new elliptical. He didn't have any lunch, so he was hungry. Very hungry.

This is what it looked like when we were done eating....

Not too much left. But take a closer look at the thin, crispy crust....

Oh, that was a corner piece. Those corner pieces are prizes. Growing up, there were four of us in the house and four corner pieces to a pizza, and I would raise hell when I was somehow denied my corner piece.

See that? Thin thin thin thin thin crust. Good sauce, and then cheese and toppings. This was our usual "garbage pizza", which is sausage, pepperoni, onions, green pepper, and mushrooms. We still have yet to find a new place that does a good version of our "stinky pizza", which is sausage, shrimp and garlic.

So, for the next four years, if the president is ever in your hometown and you hear he's looking for some good pizza, you know what he likes. He and the family are apparently fans of this, the most typical of Chicago pizza. They're not looking for deep dish. They're looking for this.

For Claudia

I know WAY too many people dealing with cancer right now.

And sadly, last week, one of them lost the battle. Claudia was an amazing woman with a true love of cooking. She was actually "a name" you'd know if you entered cooking contests, which she enjoyed doing and had some pretty good success at. While the Black-Bottom Peanut Butter Pie sounds devine, it's not quite in-line with trying to get a little healthier. So, I opted to make another award-winning recipe of Claudia's Lemon Velvet Chicken Rice Soup.

Of course, I didn't follow the recipe exactly. Since it's a Sunday and there is no rush on time, I opted to poach my own bone-in chicken breasts in some homemade broth, and since I don't think they make the roasted-garlic flavored broth anymore, I just added some garlic confit to the mix.

Starting to simmer...

Uh, when I remembered to add some pepper and Penzey's Sandwich sprinkle (my prefered "salt blend")...

While that is poaching, deal with the rice. I am a huge fan of these frozen bags of rice that you throw in the microwave. I am not good at cooking rice, and these things are just great. Perfect, fluffly, non-sticky and non-hard rice.

Pulled the chicken breasts out of the broth to cool and shred, skimmed the broth a little and added one bag of rice to the chicken broth. Also had to put my hand blender back together, twice, since the glue that holds the, um, stick part, into the base part has apparently weakened. I consider myself lucky it didn't fall totally apart while I was doing the soup.

Oh look.... frothy!!

The recipe calls for cream, but I wanted to try some half & half. Again, less calories, and the rice/broth blend lends a little body on it's own. Added the other bag of rice and some half & half.

And then the shredded chicken joins the party....

I did want to use chives, but my garden is long gone. The produce mart was out of chives. At the regular grocery store.... well... if you watch Kitchen Nightmares on Fox, there was an episode this week with a downright scary Mexican food place, and one scary thing they found in the kitchen was some packaged chives that were like a month old. The chives at the grocery store looked a LOT like those icky chives. I wasn't going to spend four bucks on nasty chives. I sliced up two green onions.

This was supposed to be a glamour shot, until I noticed a clove of garlic that did not get mashed up...

That's better....

Notice what is missing? The lemon.

The hubby is not a fan of lemon, at all. I swear, when I add a drop of it to something he detects it. I learned from last week where he had a bowl of the soup I was making that he might serve himself up a bowl, so I left the lemon out of the main batch. I did add lemon zest and juice to mine.

Without the lemon is was very "meh", but I loved it with the lemon. It's not overwhelmingly lemony, to me at least, just a nice touch to the rest of the soup. It wasn't as thick as a chowder, which I actually liked. Made it seem pretty light. But very easy and fuss-free to do, and very tasty.

There is a reason this woman won prizes for her recipe. And I am very thankful that she shared her wonderful talents, and her wonderful friendship, with others. You will be missed, Claudia.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Wooo! I have an elliptical.

So... a few months back, my ultra-cheapo exercise bike died on me. It was time to replace it.

I was also thinking of going for a different piece of equipment, since the bike just obviously wasn't working too well for me this go-around.

I checked out Dick's Sporting Goods, and I wanted their $500 Fuel elliptical, but it was not in stock. They told me to call the next week. I called for three weeks straight, and they did not have it in stock.

After work today, I plugged the new Butch Walker album (awesomeness!) into the car stereo and headed out for some errands... mainly hitting Trader Joe's. And it so happens, I drive right past Dick's on the way home. So I stopped. The elliptical I wanted was not in stock, but they had one model left of the next cheapest one. Their last one in stock. The guy even mentioned that it took them 9 months to move the 6 units they got at the start of the year, and they had already sold the 9 latest they got in the past couple weeks. I whipped out the debit card. This one is also a smidge smaller, so it would fit in the back of the Escape. Score!!!

So they loaded it up, hubby unloaded it when he got home, and it's waiting to be put together, probably this weekend. I'm looking forward to it. I *really* need to get some more excercise in, and I'm even thinking about starting to get up in the morning as the same time as the hubby and forcing myself to get on the thing. With the upcoming furlough from work, I have NO excuses for not getting on the thing.

Attempted a Cook's County recipe for Chicken Vesuvio tonight... meh. Didn't do much for me. Although even two stock ice cubes worth of veal stock did wonders for the sauce, it still wasn't super fantastic. Oh well.

And while at Trader Joe's I was hoping they had something other than ulta-pasturized heavy cream so I could try some homemade creme fraiche. I think I've read enough where I am about 80% convinced that it will not result in some science experiment gone wrong that will take on a life of its own and be waiting to kill me in the kitchen when I get home. Or make me sick if I try to use it. Again... I am not one who suffers from food-squiemishness, but "at room temperature for 24 hours cream" goes against some of the few things I stick to (although... on a recent Cook's Country/America's Test Kitchen thing they said that when potato salad "goes bad" it's actually not the mayo that turns... it's the starchy potatoes... who knew???).

But, they only had ulta-pasterized cream, so no go.

And with all this obsession about creme fraiche, it's kinda obvious why I need the elliptical, no???

Monday, November 10, 2008

German Apple Pancake

So.... in my laziness yesterday, one of the things I blew off (like taking down/inside my Halloween decorations) was a trip to Trader Joe's. It was just too cold to leave the house yesterday.

One of the things I needed to pick up was chicken breasts. I've become a big fan of their pack-o-individual packed, no hormone chicken breasts. I can convince myself to ignore a lot of things about the food I eat, but all these Godzilla-sized chicken breasts that are showing up at grocery stores CANNOT be good for you. Seriously... a chicken breast should not be the same size as a turkey breast.

With the breasts that I did not pick up, I wanted to try a Chicken Vesuvio recipe in the free issues of Cook's Country that I got after signing up for the new PBS show. I didn't feel like going all the way to Trader Joe's, so I hit the neighborhood grocery store.

Ten dollars. For a package of chicken breasts.

That was either for two "hormone free" ones, or three "loaded with hormones" ones.

Um... no.

So, scrambling for a menu plan, I recalled that I had the apple on hand for, and have been wanting to try, a German Apple Pancake recipe. I figured that and some of the Canadian bacon I got at the deli counter would make a nice meal.

The hardest thing of it all was the timing... the batter is supposed to sit for a half hour. I usually get home about 6pm, and try to have dinner done by 7pm. That means I got home and immediately whipped up the batter, then cleaned up a couple things, then started the apples (left the peels on) and it was all in the oven by 6:30, so it could cook for the 25-30 minutes.

I did use real eggs. I don't usually keep Egg Beaters or anything on hand unless I'm planning on using them for my own weekday breakfasts, and I'm one of those types that is NOT going to believe there is anything wrong with the incredible edible egg.

I used my 12 inch cast iron skillet, so I only cooked it for it for 10 minutes at the lower temp. It came out perfect.

See? I told you.

I was so impressed, I spent 10 more minutes looking for my powdered sugar to give it a proper beauty treatment...

It tasted as good as it look. It's supposed to serve 6 (HA!) but they're small servings. I had two. The hubby had four.

I know I'm overly impressed with myself, but I usually do not have the best luck with stuff like this. I suppose it worked because it's far more eggy than your typical pancake... more like a french toast recipe.

Only change I would make... I'd up the amount of apples. I cut up 3 granny smith apples, but I could have gone for more apples.

I'll make this one again.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Alright economy, get better already!!

So, we had some layoffs a couple weeks ago at my workplace. It's happening everywhere, it was kinda a relief to find out it was over & done with at our place.

Last Friday, we arrived at work to find an email informing us of three weeks of furlough - basically Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. Use your personal time off or they'll be unpaid days. We do have a "use it by the end of the year or loose it" policy anyway, so I was going to take some time off. Part of me is actually kinda jazzed about it - three whole days to cook before Thanksgiving! And I'll have time to scrub the house before Christmas when we have the folks over!

But, I also can't help but be a little worried.... it looks like the company buyout is coming sooner rather than later, and I have to hope they don't come in looking to make more cuts right at the start. I have my fingers crossed that these measures will be enough to make them happy that we've taken measures. I'm more than happy to take some unpaid days if it means no more layoffs.

Get better already, economy!


So... cooking for today is Italian Sunday Gravy, Baked Clams Oreganata and some Fish Chowder. First up, the Fish Chowder.

Basic enough... cook some bacon, cook some potatoes, onion and carrot in the drippings. Poach the fish (I used a mix of pollack and lake trout that I pulled out of the freezer, I almost wish I had used all trout). I actually had some Kitchen Basics seafood stock, so I used that to poach, rather than water. Combine it all together and....

And I thought it needed a sprinkle of Old Bay....

Very tasty. I had a bowl, and even the non-fish eater hubby had a bowl. Although his opinion of his clean bowl was "It'd have been really good without the fish."


Next up was the Italian Gravy. It is something that has a place in my heart and I start to get cravings when the weather turns cold and we're headed toward the holidays. When I was a kid, Christmas Eve was always spent with my mom's side of the family. We'd go over to my aunt's house, and because her long-time partner was born & raised in Italy, she's become a pretty good Italian cook over the years. A couple times my mom and I headed over early (or she was running late, I don't remember) and I recall being in the kitchen helping out with the Italian canned tomatoes and various animal parts that made it up. I know my aunt used pork neck bones and also chicken necks. I know chicken necks, because I always got a bone in my serving. Always.

The recipe calls for making your own quick sauce, and I did have the intention of doing that, but laziness took over. I browned my sausages, cooked some onions, deglazed the pan with some wine, then toss the entire mess in the slow cooker with the sausages, steak, and pork ribs. I cooked it for 6 hours on high, but I bet it'd be better if you did the long cook on Low.


At about hour 4, it smelled AMAZING.

Here it is, with the meat all shredded and ready to top some pasta....

Very good. They aren't kidding with the amount of garlic they call for... since I was using pre-made sauce I only added half that amount, but I easily could have gone for more.

Although I'd have enjoyed it more if I hadn't forgotten about the bottle of Chianti that I opened for the recipe. I wanted to have a glass with dinner, but totally forgot about it until I was mopping up the last of the sauce with my garlic bread. Grrr.

For the clams, I was just kinda interested to see how well the recipe actually worked. It's kinda cool... it calls for you to put the clams in a HOT oven for a couple of minutes to get them to open, so they're then easier to get fully open. And, the stuffing calls for chicken stock (I had clam stock on hand, used that) to keep it moist.

It took longer than 2 minutes for my clams to open, it was more like 5....

But there they are! Opened and everything.

Trying to get them open with a butter knife was laughable, at best. I actually resorted to shoving my kitchen tongs in the opening and prying them open, and using kitchen shears to cut the thingmajoob that kinda holds them closed. Worked well enough.

At least they looked pretty coming out of the oven...

However, I totally overcooked them Total tire rubber under that tasty topping. Oooops. Go me? At least I can say it does help to put them in the oven to get them opened, and the moist topping is the way to go. I may try them again sometime in the future.

Still, a tasty day.

Now, just have a sink full of dishes to face, after I portion up the gravy leftovers for the freezer.